Smarter, connected networks add complexity
A smart, connected enterprise can embrace the digital transformation in the coming Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) world by collecting data that could result in new levels of collaboration, operational excellence, agility, and profitability.
But the reality is that total adoption of IIoT is a ways off, and users today need to start the digital transformation for their enterprise to reap benefits before the total technological integration. In many ways, and contrary to what the old guard thinks, the way things used to be are just not the "good old days" anymore.
In a move to enhance productivity and to remain more competitive in an emerging global landscape, companies need to apply smarter and more connected technology. While that can add complexity to solutions, nothing—not even the plant floor—can be an island anymore.
Living in a more "connected" world is why being able to understand and monitor what is occurring on the network gives operators needed visibility into what is happening in the complex world they oversee. With the advance toward digitization, users will need increased data granularity, as well as a near real-time measurement of how applications are running with key performance indicators (KPI’s) that provide insight on overall performance.
Manufacturers will adopt technologies that will transform operating models and allow for digital connections of processes, events, actions, internal workers, and external partners. This transformation will allow manufacturers greater agility and flexibility for regional or global production. On top of that, information about product usage, production capabilities, customer requirements, and market requirements will allow for greater information intake so it can end up analyzed and shared faster than ever before. Becoming a stronger and more utilized digital enterprise could mean worker productivity increases, but that knowledge can spread across the enterprise, which will be a vital manufacturing strategy advancing any manufacturer’s footprint.
From an IT perspective, digitization has been happening for years. In the IT space, everything needs to drive data into the cloud. If it can’t end up in the cloud, then it needs to integrate into another set of tools. If it can’t do that, then why have the technology?
A user needs to be able to monitor and effectively manage a solution. People are scrutinizing their processes more these days than they have in the past because the driver from the business says "we need to be more efficient, we need to save money." That means no one can implement a technology that is dead in the water. Rather, a user needs something that is scalable, will improve the business, will communicate with everything, and will save money. In terms of process improvement, these capabilities have been in the IT space for years. With automation, such a huge drive in OT, linking the two is now a big push.
Traditionally, all companies have an IT infrastructure, any manufacturer will have that as well, but add the aging, but evolving OT technology foundation on top of that and executives know the potential for huge gains in productivity and profitability is through the roof. So, the big driver right now is to ensure IT and OT can mix and match.
Time is now
While the digital evolution of the $10 trillion global manufacturing sector will take time, manufacturers need to reap benefits today, according to a McKinsey & Company report. A few cases from the report show:
- Manufacturers are starting to use data analytics to optimize factory operations, boosting equipment utilization and product quality while reducing energy consumption. With new supply-network management tools, factory managers have a clearer view of raw materials and manufactured parts flowing through a manufacturing network, which can help them schedule factory operations and product deliveries to cut costs and improve efficiency. One major metal plant used digital tools to make step-change improvements. Real-time performance visualization for operators combined with daily problem solving led to a 50% increase in production rate in one of its lines. By mining data, engineers are gaining new insights into the failure characteristics of major equipment modes and making continuous improvements in reliability.
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers cultivate their deeper understanding of end-to-end processes to develop continuous manufacturing suites with footprints less than half the size of conventional factories. Some have even developed portable factories that can go in 40-foot trailers. They are also using the digital thread to improve quality control: Continuously monitoring conditions within mixing vessels, tablet presses, lyophilizers, and other critical equipment.
- The aerospace-and-defense industry is using digital tools to integrate a complex supply network. A modern jet turbine engine has hundreds of individual parts, some of which the engine manufacturer makes in-house and others it sources from a network of dozens of vendors. The complexity of sourcing can multiply quickly, since making one design modification can impact the manufacturing of other components. Cloud computing-based tools allow suppliers to collaborate faster and more efficiently. This type of information sharing and transparency reduces the labor required to manage design changes, reduces risk for the engine maker and suppliers, and speeds changes across the supply network.
Those cases all point toward extreme networking and making sure everyone from the operators to the engineers to the C-suite know what is going on at all times.
On top of that, for manufacturing it is all about uptime and resilience, which are vital metrics that ensure everything runs smoothly and stops the dreaded and costly unplanned downtime. Manufacturers need a more robust process that remains secure to make sure things are rock solid. After all, isn’t that what manufacturing is all about—keeping the system up and running at all times?
That ends up being the discrepancy between OT and IT. When you look at the IT space, things are more flaky. Devices fail. Servers fail. When IT and OT sit together, OT says "my environment is more reliable than yours. Now you want to integrate into my environment?" OT feels quite nervous about integrating with one another.
Data is king
The driver really is the data you can get from the OT—the data analytics—helping to try and improve the efficiency of the business. The amount of data in the OT space is immense, and it has key points that can improve the business. What are people doing with the data? Where are they storing it? How are people analyzing it?
All good questions, and all need an answer, but, in reality, right now that important data is going into an abyss. If that is the case, no one can make an informed business decision because they don’t have visibility into the data. By moving the data into the IT environment, because IT has mature applications, the executive suite can see and understand what is truly occurring across the enterprise. On top of that, operators can understand trends and capitalize on that knowledge to improve the process.
It appears manufacturing executives in a study appearing in a McKinsey report understand the importance of the digital transformation:
- 80% said digital operations are a critical driver of every organization’s manufacturing competitiveness
- 61% said digital is a senior leadership priority
- 37% said their organization has a strategy for how digital manufacturing will enable competition
- 13% said their organization has digital manufacturing capability today.
Knowing how important going digital is to the C-suite, it only makes sense to use battle tested, but effective, tools. IT data analytics and monitoring products are best of breed. Having access to the OT space means they can add an extreme amount of value to the business because they can now pull their data into the IT platforms and get real-time visibility, metrics, data analytics, real-time reporting, real-time alerting, and thresholding.
The OT space does have platforms that alert them, but to make good business decisions, there needs to be historical data to see trends. Understanding what happened before, so operations can make a clear decision on what potentially will happen in the future. Forecasting, analytics, and anomaly detection are extremely important now. IT has the maturity, where little brother OT does not–yet.
That means the movement now is to glue the two together to create the best of both worlds. The hardware and the systems in place are robust in the OT space. That can be coupled with the ability make clearer decisions by taking the data stored on a server and starting to analyze it and build a trend to learn new areas for efficiencies or potentially seeing OT issues cropping up. The user can see in real time if something is happening. Learning what the trend is and then being able to see it starting to develop, is where IT can help OT. By storing the historical data and analyzing it, the user can actually visualize the trend.
Use what already works
One OT-based company that requested anonymity said they wanted to get more visibility, and they asked what did they have to do? They wanted more analytics, more automation and just wanted to become more proactive. They wanted to do that because their customers were demanding more information so they were getting push back from management for improvement. They need to be more efficient and save money at the same time.
In the end, OT looked at IT and decided they should leverage the IT maturity and implement an IT monitoring solution on the OT side. Not so long ago, that thought would never cross the mind of anyone in the OT environment, but today, there is a shift where the mindset is changing. That has been driven not by manufacturers in OT, but by the customer base. Remember there is an IT shop and OT shop. Why not use what IT has been doing for years and use it in OT. It is a way forward for OT.
Because of IT-OT convergence, it makes sense to take advantage of the IT monitoring tools because they are efficient, battle tested and can withstand the rigors of the OT environment. The ability to have technology pull information from the monitoring database can be a game changer. On top of that, these monitoring-type tools are non-intrusive, but fast and light on the network.
That one anonymous user decided on a monitoring technology that gives them dashboard where they can see real-time analytics, notifications, events, and emails. They needed something that was efficient and fast, cost effective and light weight. The benefits they were able to glean were almost immeasurable as they were able to pick up on trends and pass pertinent data along to their customers.
That convergence, mindset change, or paradigm shift is occurring incrementally in manufacturing facilities across the globe. At issue is the idea that change will have to come in small pieces. No one in the OT sector wants dramatic change because they are as skittish as a deer walking through a meadow. Is it going to upset networks? Will it affect service level agreements (SLA’s)? Affect production? OT is definitely slower compared to the IT world because they are used to being the rock-solid system, they don’t like implementing things as quickly as IT does.
There is quite a bit of the old guard in the OT space, but with newer engineers coming in, and with them accepting technology as being a given, there will be a more accepting nature to work within the IT-OT milieus. Instead of working with the existing program, they will be asking how can we be doing things better? How can we improve things? How can the company make more money? It is the new digital mindset. That will all add up to a smart, connected enterprise that will embrace and profit from the digital transformation.
Gregory Hale is editor and founder at ISSSource. He has over 25 years in the publishing industry. This article originally appeared on ISSSource.com. ISSSource is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Carly Marchal, content specialist, CFE Media, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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