IT/OT Convergence Moving Digital Manufacturing Forward


Until the last decade, the information technology and operational technology departments in manufacturing companies could function independently. With the manufacturing world evolving the matrix of IT and OT relationships are also transforming.

Experts suggest that all companies established and startups are equally anxious about deploying new business models and technologies that will negatively affect their position in the market. The forward-thinking companies are not just focused on surviving these changes, but also lead them by enhancing operational efficiency, gaining a competitive advantage, and maximizing profitability. This significant shift in mindset, targets, and operational strategies of manufacturing firms has brought new and challenging projects which require IT and operations convergence.

Operation heads and leaders across the industry have recognized that the piles of operational data they use for real-time decision-making could create additional value for the company. However, for deriving such insights digitally, they need tech support from IT departments. IT and OT convergence will help firms to better align all decisions with ongoing business systems using ERP tools or manufacturing execution systems. At the same time, IT teams look up to OT to unveil the potential of a connected factory —improving the supply chain to minimize downtime by driving innovation. The forced IT  and OT interactions are characterized by security and Ethernet, enabling real-time decision making through fog computing, predictive maintenance techniques, deploying wireless technology on the factory floor, ensuring cybersecurity.

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Studies highlight fog marketing as the best example of IT/OT convergence, where both are equally dependent on this technology. Fog computing helps IT to gain a veritable data triage aiding quick analysis of time-sensitive data that is analyzed on the closest fog node. The systematic transfer of less critical data to an intermediary node keeps up the operational pace. This approach conserves bandwidth, refining the data based on criticality to maintain load on the data center resources. Such an alliance between IT and OT creates more scalability, making room for a flood of new digitized devices with higher complexity on the factory floor. The fog based apps run the network infrastructure in the factory to transform the sensor data and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The IT/OT convergence is creating a paradigm shift in the factory maintenance and manufacturing processes. With the new IT/OT partnership getting stronger, manufacturers shift their focus to track their condition, to maintain a database of its assets  and rely on manufacturers’ and customers recommendation.

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IT joining hands with OT will manage preventive maintenance reducing unwanted and unplanned downtimes or wastages. Manufacturers admit that the profit margins are already slim and unplanned downtimes increase the production loses and wastages massively. In addition, predictive maintenance technologies aid manufacturers to collect real-time data from the affected machines, monitoring any potential equipment failure. The on-time repair of machines extends its useful life by dramatically reducing repair costs. IT and operations are working in alliance to successfully deploy wireless on the factory floor, as wireless is up to 10 times less expensive than cable with added flexibility, mobile benefits, and reduced maintenance and troubleshooting.

IT and OT convergence has transformed the manufacturing industry in ways that neither function could have imagined, ensuring enhanced efficiency of both the entities. Researchers suggest that this alliance has decreased the defect rate to 48.9%, with a reduction in unplanned downtime up to 47.8%. The energy costs dropped down by 17.5%, with a 34.8% increase in inventory turns. The impressive growth in original equipment effectiveness by 16.2% and 23.1% decrease in new product introduction cycle time has grabbed the attention of all small, mid-sized, or large enterprises. As these two departments work more closely together, they are unlocking new opportunities for manufacturing. Although they have different backgrounds, approaches, and key performance indicators (KPIs), both are heavily invested in achieving their companies’ overarching goals together.

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Debjani Chaudhury works as an Associate Editor with OnDot Media. In this capacity, she contributes editorial articles for two platforms, focusing on the latest global technology and trends. Debjani is a seasoned Content Developer who comes with 3 years of experience with Fashion, IT, and International Marketing industries. She has represented India in International trade forums like Hannover Messe, Germany.