Decoding IT/OT Convergence: A Guide on Understanding IT and OT
As IoT grows synonymous with digital transformation & advancements in manufacturing, it has also led to a wave of change on the shop floor. This is a significant result of IT/OT Convergence, which led to faster decision-making, better collaboration, and a single source of truth across the organization.
But what does the IT/OT Convergence do with IoT, though? How are IoT, Information Technology (IT), and Operational Technology (OT) connected? For starters, they have the same three letters appearing in some sequence in all three abbreviations, but what more do these three have in common?
It’s essential to understand these terms before analyzing the IT/OT convergence.
What is Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT)?
Until IoT became a thing, there were two distinct worlds – traditional OT systems, which have machines, devices, and other industrial equipment, and more digital IT systems that handle everything related to computers, servers, storage, networking, and others. It’s been a while since the two worlds crossed over into one – IoT. To put this in simpler terms using an application of IoT, the smart devices in our homes today that are automated are a perfect example. These devices are part of a network that combines the prowess of both IT and OT systems to automate seemingly mundane human tasks like switching on and off lights. Now that we understand how IT/OT convergence happens, let’s look at IT/OT definitions with some jargon. As the name suggests, Information Technology (IT) includes computers, servers, and networking devices to create, process, store, and exchange all forms of electronic data in a secure manner. For a manufacturing environment, it can be hardware like laptops and servers and software for ERPs, inventory management, and other business-related tools.On the other hand, Operational technology focuses on managing and controlling physical devices operating globally. For manufacturing, it can include systems like MES, SCADA, PLCs, and CNCs that monitor & control the processes on the shop floor.
Here are some notable key benefits of switching to an IoT-enabled manufacturing environment.
- Real-time decision making:IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) allows manufacturers to collect all the data they would ever need and analyze it in real-time. Sensitive data can be analyzed directly at the source, which significantly reduces the bandwidth required, not to mention the increased levels of security.
- Predictive Maintenance: One of the most significant benefits of IIoT is the revolution of predictive maintenance. Unplanned downtime can cause manufacturing entities to lose a substantial amount of money, while the traditional preventive maintenance method proves to be highly costly. The IT/OT convergence makes it possible for manufacturers to predict when the machines need maintenance and plan accordingly without unnecessary downtime or repair costs.
- Increased Efficiency: Whether your manufacturing entity is looking to decrease annual energy costs, increase inventory turns, reduce the time to introduce a new PLC, decrease defect rates, or improve the overall effectiveness of the physical machinery involved – IT/OT convergence can help your business do it all.
Phases of IT/OT Convergence
- Process convergence – Deals with the intersection of workflows, ensuring that important projects and data are communicated to relevant stakeholders.
- Software and Data Convergence – Deals with procuring the necessary software and data from the front office for the IT/OT needs. This is a technology-based convergence that deals with the network architecture of the enterprise.
- Physical Convergence – Deals with the hardware – old hardware is either replaced or retrofitted with new sensors and actuators to accommodate the incorporation of IT into traditional OT.