Is IT/OT Convergence Just a Buzz Term?

What Is IT/OT Convergence?

Some time ago, we saw the start of automation in manufacturing. Automated equipment was designed to perform a specific function that needed to be performed at a speed or power level that humans couldn’t achieve. But when the automated equipment failed, the controls engineer would need to get into the system to determine what went wrong. This required going into the registers of the PLC systems to look for clues of the failure. This was the start of operational technology (OT) data usage.

How Can IT/OT Convergence Be Used?

The interfacing of OT data to IT systems now encountered a new problem.

An Example Scenario

To monitor the process of a production unit going through a curing oven, the MES system would take note of the time the unit entered and exited the oven. During this time, the PLC system (using a smart sensor) would create a constant stream of temperature sensor data that would be stored in a local historian database in the sensing device. When the production unit exited the oven, the MES would make a request to the device for an aggregate of the temperature data during that defined time period. Even with limited computing power available at the device level, the device could take hundreds (or even thousands) of data points and provide a set of aggregated data back to the MES-instead of providing a single instance of the sensor data, as is typical, or trying to process the entire data stream.

  • Mean: 90.0
  • Median: would be very close to 90.0
  • Mode: approximately 90.0 degrees as well
  • +/- 3 Sigma distribution: 87.0, 93.0 (to be verified with UCL and LCL)

Summary

The previous examples of data aggregation only reflect a specific scenario, but they are meant to provide a view into the reasons for the convergence of OT and IT data as well as the potential value of this convergence. In each production scenario, the correct method of data aggregation would need to be evaluated, and the programming of smart devices would need to make this functionality available. Or, as an alternative, edge computing systems would be programmed to replace the functionality described for the smart devices.

About the Author

Grant Vokey has co-authored the book “ MES: An Operations Management Approach,” released by ISA Publishing in March 2020. He brings more than 20 years of diverse manufacturing operations experience, with more than 15 years integrating IT systems into the manufacturing environment. With 10 years as a certified operations manager (CPIM), Grant has a strong understanding of manufacturing operations management and the information and technology needed to operate at world-class levels.

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International Society of Automation - ISA Official

International Society of Automation - ISA Official

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The International Society of Automation (isa.org) is a non-profit professional association founded in 1945 to create a better world through automation.