In IoT, one of the biggest challenges that Industry 4.0 companies have to overcome is the successful integration of IT (Information Technology) and OT (Operational Technology) under a common structure and leadership.
IT and OT – two different worlds, one solution
IT (information technology) unites information and data processing by means of technical functions and software. IT is therefore the interface between electrical engineering and computer science. Global growth is largely based on IT technology, which helps to transfer, store and calculate and evaluate information within seconds.
OT (Operational Technology) is a more recent term and refers to hardware and software used to detect errors in physical processes, e.g. by monitoring and controlling physical devices. OT is therefore the operational side that takes care of keeping the production functional. Traditionally, relatively little IT has been used in OT, but this is changing significantly in the wake of Industry 4.0. In the case of OT systems, the reaction in real time is decisive, since they are predominantly industrial applications where high availability is to be guaranteed.
OT is vertically, while IT is horizontally positioned
Traditionally, IT is established as a complete organizational unit in companies, while OT only handles technology and monitoring of critical manufacturing processes. This usually takes place with individual and strongly adapted insular solutions and is not integrated in the corporate IT and in most cases not even connected to the Internet. In this respect, the effort is high to maintain and expand these insular solutions.
The convergence of the two businesses promises cost savings and better integration with existing systems. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in manufacturing processes, which is why IoT projects involve IT departments by default.
For a successful merger of IT and OT, it is crucial to make manufacturing data usable at company level in order to be able to make decisions about production processes on this data basis. For this, data from both areas must be correctly interpreted, bundled and stored.
Who is responsible?
While IT is familiar with Internet technologies and a broad range of solutions, OT focuses on production and industrial plants, which are usually set up as closed systems. Due to the more holistic approach, IT has the best opportunities to integrate into OT systems and to implement them in existing systems. Ultimately, of course, a change from the highest level of IT or production managers or directly from the management must be driven.
As early as 2011, Gartner pointed out that manufacturers increasingly need to specialize in the collaboration and integration of IT and OT environments. Only this close integration will allow manufacturers to take full advantage of IoT’s benefits in terms of cost savings, better availability and higher reliability of equipment, and an expanded ability to leverage data for business-critical decisions.