Connected Systems - Integrating Operational Technology with Enterprise Technology

Operational Technology is a broad term that defines the interfaces, controllers and systems that monitors, manages and controls the industrial assets and processes.  Though the concept of SCADA, PLCs are old, Operational Technology (OT) is relatively new and used as an umbrella term that encompasses a broader range of technologies and control systems. 

Sensors, Internet of Things (IoT), Programmable  Logic Controllers (PLCs), Remote Terminal Units (RTU),  Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) Systems, Automation Systems, Decision Control Systems (DCS), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Building Information Management (BIM) Systems, Energy Monitoring Systems (EMS), Human Machine Interface (HMI), Machine2Machine (M2M)  etc. fall under this category. 

Internet of Things describes the network of intelligent things, wherein assets and other objects have embedded sensors to monitor critical parameters and ability to communicate with a central controller or server via internet.  Internet of Things have enabled machines to become intelligent machines, that can self-monitor performance and diagnose themselves. 

Traditionally each technology or system is self contained with its own logic, data storage, monitoring and supervisory controls and worked independently and effectively at the plant level.  Since they were designed as specific limited purpose systems, by and large they were not integrated with other systems.  Limitations of that era in real time communications, storage and high volume data analysis restricted their reach outside the individual plants and they were left alone as independent silos.

Recent advances in communications and networking enabled real time communication of these systems outside their silos.  Integration services helped connect these systems with other disparate systems to provide an unified view.  Big data systems helped in processing the volume, variety and velocity of data generated and derive higher order business intelligence.

Artificial learning and machine intelligence has helped identify hidden patterns and generate predictive analytics.

Digitalization created a lot many new businesses and as well changed many existing ones.  Information pure play businesses like music, photography, data services etc. were disrupted.  Business that were built on inefficient information or gatekeepers of information like ticketing, hotel room booking etc. had their business models upended.  Uberization led to the transformation of an existing service-based industry like cab hailing, food delivery etc.

When a billion people connected over the Internet, the way businesses communicate their brands, sell their wares, manage delivery channels, process payments, listen to customer feedback and offer additional services changed digitally.   Imagine the impact and transformation that can be brought in the industrial landscape when  trillions of devices get connected to the Internet. 

Digitalization has transformed the shop floor.  Machines that consisted only of mechanical and electrical components earlier, sport an array of sensors, actuators,  microcontrollers, data storage, I/O ports, applications etc. making them intelligent machines.  In effect, the earlier siloed machine is now connected with its operating environment, integrated with the  larger machine pool and is viewed as a production system.

Smart machines and connected systems provide newer functionalities, improve equipment and line reliability, streamlines production processes, enables higher resource utilization and provide lot of opportunities for optimization.  Industrial Internet of Things has the potential to extend beyond the Enterprise firewalls with supply chains and customer organizations.  Real time information exchange across the value chain can optimize many inefficiencies and improve agile response to changing business needs.

Many of the machinery manufacturers have a built in technology stack.  Using this, they can even remotely monitor assets at customer premises to view their current status, performance, health, utilization, failures etc.  Smart technology is transforming business from product sales to performance based contracts and as-a-service delivery.  For example a boiler OEM’s business mix that was product led (new boiler sale + some fixed annual maintenance services) is changing to services led (performance contracts for ensuring 99% availability) and to newer “as a service” business models (Steam-as-a-service wherein entire capex and opex is assumed by the OEM and steam produced is sold at predefined rates and quantity).

Earlier intervention of information technology digitized paperwork, automated existing business processes and supported with business applications.  Core products and services largely remained in tact.  Industry 4.0 with its converged technologies is changing the fundamental business tenet.  Business models are getting altered, competition is coming from new age upstarts and industry structure is getting altered. 

Industry 4.0 technologies thus has the potential to be the biggest transformation driving growth and innovation, productivity and efficiency, cost and value, utilization and reliability, personalization and mass production and many other business drivers.  Enterprises need to embrace, adopt and adapt to the new technology led changes. 

How can MaintWiz help you?

Data and technology have become the new factors of production.

  1. Connecting the disparate systems to a common platform thus bridging the gap between Operating Technology and Enterprise Technology. Data can be exchanged between systems and other enterprise applications with out friction and on an automated fashion.
  2. 360 degree view of the Production System. Provides a unified view of the line with individual equipment along with their upstream and downstream equipment, their operating environment, production and maintenance schedules, utilization, performance, failures etc. 
  3. Remote Monitoring of critical parameters from offsite. Helps in monitoring similar assets from a central control room and leveraging the central team’s expertise for troubleshooting at remote sites.
  4. Condition Monitoring of critical parameters to trigger pre-defined downstream actions upon breach of control limits. With connected systems, condition monitoring need not be depedent on individual equipment parameters but based on the system.  (eg. Leakage detected in pipeline can trigger upstream valve closure)
  5. Utilities Monitoring and tracking their specific consumption (power, water, fuel, nitrogen etc.) against production output.
  6. Business Intelligence and insights derived out of the information to support strategic business goals. Information captured can help in unlocking many inefficiencies like latent invisible information (residual life of spare parts), optimization (inventory) optimization, planning (production or maintenance planning), equipment performance, warranty services and budgeting.
  7. Improve people productivity by providing them relevant information in demand, alert them on potential problems before they happen, provide decision support and feed performance metrics.
  8. Connected Products – Extending beyond the enterprise to monitor equipment available at customer premises, analyze their data to come up with superior design changes or shift to “as a service” business models