It’s time to rethink IT/OT convergence.
Take a closer look at the ongoing supply chain challenges, chip shortage and the impact on the auto industry. Over the past two years, the entire industry has struggled with shortages cropping up across various components and subsystems. Sometimes there is a missing chip, sometimes a plastic connector. Companies have had to assess what to produce, when to produce, and how many unfinished cars should pile up in parking lots. There has been an acknowledgement that demand allocation, supply chain, and operational planning need to come together in an integrated dashboard to make optimal decisions in a world with massive imbalances between supply and demand.
IT/OT convergence is valuable, but to truly maximize its potential, modernization is essential. Airlines need smart airports. Manufacturers need intelligent assembly lines or process plants. Energy needs to be more efficiently generated, stored, and distributed. The next level of enterprise productivity and capability requires a new level of communication that is architected at an “operating theater” level.
The intelligent industry’s most important math equation isn’t IT+OT. It’s IT+OT+NT (network technology). All three legs of the stool are required – all working collaboratively – to capitalize on the benefits of physical and digital convergence.
For organizations progressing along this journey, here’s how to get it right:
Listen to the smart tech
To collect information on plane performance in the air, an airline can put intelligent systems in place that gather data, aggregate it at the airport, then rationalize it with AI to identify trends. Are parts failing? Are processes operating slower? The intelligent systems can indicate if proactive measures need to be taken, and then recommend decisions on how to correct these issues. They can also communicate directly with supply chain systems alerting them of equipment needs or delays without any human intervention.
This level of modernization and data rationalization is happening in the cloud and at the edge as communication between devices pulls information in. 5G is enabling this scenario to happen and promoting more efficient movement of intel in a more cost-effective way. Through NT, smart technology can communicate necessary information across the OT and IT landscape that can make a major impact.
Shut down the siloes
Typically, IT-focused entities don’t do much with networks. Beyond just 5G private networks, most also neglect what’s required beyond communications, such as robotics systems, drones, and automated technology and headsets that create an immersive experience in an operating environment.
To enable these use cases, there needs to be a communications solution connecting back to the enterprise, combined with a talent pool that understands how to modernize the scenarios. This process is often complex, and therefore, siloed. Those who understand operations don’t always understand network communications, and those who understand IT don’t often understand operations. Creating a collaborative environment where the people of various expertise areas can come together and share their knowledge is crucial to achieving the full capabilities of IT+OT+NT. Agile development and testing processes are key to ensuring that use cases and business processes solve the real problem.
The real game changers along this progression are agility and maturity. The application of digital technologies must be done end-to-end across the entire industrial value chain: design, research, engineering, operations, and support. With digital twins, IoT, and predictive maintenance, the products are smarter – and therefore, the resources are smarter, too – with optimized supply chains, delivery stock, and customer satisfaction. For all of this to come together, digital transformation needs to be cohesive and consistent. The convergence of IT and OT can only be possible if the underlying infrastructure and NT exists as part of the math equation.
While we can’t predict the future, we can aim for incremental wins. Companies that focus on digital progression and gather the right people and technology, identify the use cases, and strive for gradual improvements will ultimately achieve their long-term goals of a lasting transformation. The more an enterprise matures along the way, the more use cases of NT connecting IT and OT will emerge.
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