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Why it should consider the convergence between IT and IT systems

Monitoring and control of industrial plants, along with other tasks and / or active field, such as transport or infrastructure management, are becoming more intensive time in information technology, using this as one of the means to ensure their competitiveness . These systems are called (Operational Technology) OT systems. In addition, the data generated are increasingly relevant to the business time. In this article we present how the efficient management of these OT systems, you can benefit from a progressive convergence towards management practices and technologies of business support systems (IT).

Comprehensive and real-time information generated by business teams and field and / or plant operation is increasingly important for companies once.
Computing has traditionally been applied in the corporate world through two separate branches strongly until only a few years ago:

Information technology as support business processes (IT), which allows you to structure and automate the tasks of purchasing and procurement, sales management and customer accounts, billing, order management, payroll management, accounting, among many other processes. This branch, has been generally dominated by large and well-known actors of information technology, from industry to industry enterprise applications infrastructure servers, database software and communications. It is valid and standard character for a lot of industries while solutions, offering packages that enable vertical adjustment.

The software embedded in devices as well as monitoring and process control and / or assets. In this area there are also a lot of actors, specialized in many cases in an industry or niche it. Sometimes it comes to small businesses offering tailored solutions to large manufacturing or infrastructure companies, which rarely happens in the case of information technology to support business processes. Within this branch there is a significant dispersion of operating systems and hardware on which they run, and non-standard in most cases owner. In this category PLCs, controllers, monitoring and control systems (SCADA), as well as any other application that collects or transmits information to any manufacturing process or logistics field they are included.

In a diffuse situation are still some years the IT solutions used in laboratory management, assets, fleet, real-time inventory mobility, among others.
Different agencies and authors have agreed to use a pyramid sorting systems a company as their response times: business or IT (eg ERP), MES and plant (eg quality, maintenance, production planning, resource allocation instructions) and automation and control of machines (eg SPC, SCADA, HMI, data acquisition).

There are several factors that have contributed to the increasingly blurred boundaries between these levels of the pyramid, at the level of technology and management. Among them we have identified:

The increasing digitization of production processes in the factory, not just business. This allows to extract a lot of useful for planning operations by plant personnel / field and office data. Similarly, it enables the automated and remote control based on such information. In this regard, it warns that has increased the dependence of the plant / field regarding computing operations.
Virtualization and private or public cloud, which can be also used in a large number of plant systems and field successfully.

The performance of communications networks for connecting the ancient islands plant information / Standard field and more efficiently with business systems (considering the relevant safety requirements).
Higher capacities of IT systems for real-time operation (increased power).
The mobility capabilities of these systems, given their reduced consumption, size and weight.

The growing importance of analyzing large amounts of data from different areas of the organization (client, field, production line, transportation, shopping, etc.) as an element to boost productivity in a hypercompetitive world.
Social Media, which require greater knowledge and transparency of what happens in field / plant.

Regulation and sustainability requirements increasingly demanding.
The convenience of exchanging and sharing information from different processes, both in the office and field / plant, to improve the development of their products and services.

The technology alone, without an organization that manages, is not enough.
There are many technological challenges related to the growing importance of digital technology at field level or floor as well as the integration of IT and OT. However, it also noted that there are organizational challenges. These challenges relate to the establishment of the organizational structure, processes, tools, resources and knowledge necessary to manage these technologies efficiently and effectively and to exploit synergies, considering the particularities that have both. To what extent and how they interact IT and OT worlds are issues that arise regularly.

IT have usually been some development processes and application management, deployment and management, which were traditionally planned following a life cycle software or hardware. Instead, in OT, systems are mostly made by Engineering as a minor part of a larger infrastructure, low structured manner without coordination with IT. This prevents effective and efficient support and maintenance, increasing costs in the long run. Usually, managing incidents and requests in OT tends to be hardly consistent, there is no inventory or configuration management and usual lack of a strategy and supplier management OT.

At the organizational level, IT has been characterized by enjoying a “centralized” management by a CIO or CTO, with a service-oriented to internal customers (rather than simply offer technology) structure, and with attention to structured user systematic. Instead, it characterized OT (at general level) for lacking a consistent service desk of analysts to develop and test specification and implement projects, as well as other important roles, such as configuration managers and administrators. Regularly, these matters are delegated to providers or in small manufacturing companies that originate ad hoc developments.

IT has long struggled to rapid technological evolution, looking for the latest developments. This leads to rapid learning of their computer profiles. On the contrary, this situation is new to OT, finding cases in which profiles is managed by maintenance or electrical, with lack of knowledge of technology and information management.

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