The Manufacturing IT/OT Convergence: Uniting Operational and Informational Technology to Realize Industry 4.0
By Bill Dykas
April 16, 2021
By Bill Dykas
April 16, 2021
There’s an industrial edge and an enterprise edge — the gap between them often prevents efficient communication.
Manufacturing plants have an operational technology (OT) side and information technology (IT) side. OT denotes systems that monitor and govern physical equipment, including plant equipment, pumps, machinery, and devices, while IT encompasses digital information, including hardware, software, network infrastructure, storage, and cloud computing.
Quite often, there’s a communication gap between IT and OT teams. Their languages, processes and priorities differ vastly from one another. Your manufacturing facility needs a way to bridge the data divide between OT and IT to create a fully integrated smart factory.
Before you seek a solution, it’s essential to understand the challenge. Manufacturing facilities vary widely in size, equipment and infrastructure, but those interested in the benefits of IIoT are all seeking these outcomes:
All machinery must link to the system — even legacy machines that weren’t initially designed for or can’t be economically upgraded to support current generation connectivity.
Beyond connecting legacy equipment, factories must see and use the collected data in real time to guide decision-making.
Factories need to take the collected edge data and apply logic, set alerts and run data transformation to feed data lakes and upstream processes in the stack’s upper levels.
To gain the most value from edge data, it needs to have a clear path to the IT domain and cloud solutions that can provide analytical insights.
Intelligent edge solutions need to solve complex problems while not being complex to implement — even for remote locations.
Data security is another essential component. A viable solution needs to have multiple security layers in place and provide flexibility for hardened remote management.
IIoT solutions need to anticipate where manufacturing companies will need actionable data in the future and provide a clear path to it.
Where is the edge? It depends on your perspective. Cloud companies tend to view anything not in the cloud as part of the edge, while a PLC or a line operator might see the edge as the sensors or other connected equipment on the factory floor.
One way to define the industrial edge is by looking at it as a layered stack — working from the top-level (cloud) to the bottom (the factory floor):
Cloud computing, data analytics, AI and other cloud-based software.
Includes business and logistics management systems.
Production management systems.
Supervisory control and data acquisition.
Control systems, PLCs, CNCs, robots, etc.
Connected things on the factory floor, including sensors and actuators.
Figure 1: Layers 0-5 of the industrial edge.
The ability to interconnect all these levels is essential. A factory tends to be an integrated set of networks managed by one organization. In many cases, factories have levels 0-4 under their control and on their premise, as seen in Figure 1. In the case of connected machines at remote sites, the industrial edge only encompasses levels 0-2 (the industrial edge or controls layer). From there, data is sent offsite, back to a headquarters or service layer environment that is centralized (the enterprise edge).
As a result, the connected machine or site model infrastructure introduces a greater disconnect between OT and IT operations. This gap is typically bridged with networking technologies, including wireless and cellular, that can connect unique networks.
Telit deviceWISE, a data orchestration platform that helps all your factory devices and applications “talk” to one another, is crucial. As you can see in Figure 2, this platform allows IIoT leaders to quickly connect enterprise and IoT applications without custom code.
The software is designed so layers can be arranged to run on the edge or in the stack, depending on how you want to manage your architecture. This tool combination makes it easy to connect, extract and translate data from the factory floor — even data flowing from legacy machinery through older protocols.
The Telit solution has three layers:
Device access is where software drivers abstract hardware and make it possible to connect to real-world machines: PCLs, elevator controllers and HVAC systems. Telit deviceWISE includes hundreds of drivers to connect existing equipment and pull data into the system.
As data flows from the device access layer to the edge logic layer, IIoT managers can create triggers for alarms or events using the solution’s platform-agnostic toolbox.
Finally, the solution provides an avenue for data to flow to and from the systems of record, whether it’s an SAP, Oracle, Microsoft or IBM system. It also includes the capability to bridge to cloud solutions.
Most manufacturing facilities must take a hybrid cloud approach: some data can go to the cloud, and some can stay on site. With Telit’s IIoT solution, you can easily extract data at the edge, transform it, and manage and control where it goes. Data can flow up and down the stack as required.
Telit has made it simple to connect IIoT devices at the edge and send data anywhere it needs to go.
Get your manufacturing plant ready for industrial IoT. Request your 60-day deviceWISE for Factory trial today.