Manufacturing’s Digital Revolution | Travis Hessman | Industry Week

GE's Jamie Miller

GE’s Jamie Miller

“The once distant and isolated worlds of OT and IT – of physical production and the software that drives it – has been on a steady, inevitable collision course for over a decade.  Today, with the help of sensors, powerful analytics, and the Internet of Things, those two sides of the manufacturing world are finally ready to merge. The result will be nothing short of a full-scale manufacturing revolution.”


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Michel Baudin‘s comments:

“OT,” as an acronym, is new to me. In this context, it stands for Operational Technology, and it differs from IT in that, instead of putting out words and pictures on screens for humans to read, it issues instructions to physical devices, like automatic machines, robots, or Automatic Guided Vehicles (AGVs). “OT” in this sense is so recent that,  google doesn’t know it, and spells it out as Occupational Therapy.

In her keynote presentation at the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Conference and Expo in Rosemont, IL, on May 4, GE’s Jamie Miller asserted that the OT/IT merger and the data-rich world of the Industrial Internet were the key drivers of changes in manufacturing for the next few years. But the obstacles to this merger, or even convergence, have been non-technical for decades. While the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) may be a real breakthrough, its absence was not the reason OT and IT have remained apart.

The idea that all the data from a factory should be at the finger tips of top executives, and that they should be able to drill down from a discrepancy in high-level metrics to the exact source was touted as a benefit of Computer-Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) in the 1980s, but it didn’t happen.

Corporate systems doing what was then called “MRP-II” usually ran on IBM hardware; shop-floor systems that supervised embedded equipment controllers usually ran on DEC equipment. And everyone “knew” that these systems could not exchange data. It wasn’t true: they were perfectly able to exchange data, if the organization only had the will to do it.

The data could have traveled on a cable between the two systems in both directions, but it didn’t. A clerk, in a room, read data from the screen of one of the systems and typed it into the other one.  For the production people, making all their detailed data accessible to the brass was not a high priority, and the brass didn’t have the background to make sense of it anyway.

Developments like the IIoT provides OT with more and better data. New developments in data science have the potential to make OT and IT more useful. But how do you make OT and IT merge as Jamie Miller is calling for? Technology was not the issue 30 years ago, and it’s not the issue now.

#operationaltechnology, #manufacturingIT,

One comment on “Manufacturing’s Digital Revolution | Travis Hessman | Industry Week

  1. Thanks for sharing the story, and your thoughts Michel. Sounds very much like that “eine neue Sau durch’s Dorf getrieben wird” (or new hype is born through “inventing” a new word, OT ;-)). Of course there might be an explanation behind it. You couldn’t possibly say the “old” stuff of lean in the context of exponential technologies (e.g. robotics, sensors, AI, etc.) emerging in the production industry domain. To sell scarce resources of knowledge (that of an expert), you have to have reinvent the wheel (over and over again). Otherwise, and that seems in the current mental model how business is running generally the norm, the price for your service (talk) is falling.

    Reminds me of the words of one of my former professors when in my first job in the late 90s I asked him about the research at the university, and it practical application in the work world I did see, around lean. His surprising answer was, “Oh, that is old stuff. We are already off to the next big thing.” Just three years later, I had recently moved to work for BMW, he told me, “Mr. Lippold, you were quite right with your question. Now all the big players like BOSCH, BMW, Daimler, etc. are bombarding us with requests for master thesis with lean topics.”

    Experts come and go. Fundamental truths stay. Humans create technology. Humans will use technology. And in between stand human ingenuity to either use or not use these technologies. It will take time, pretty much the same as a baby needs time to walk or to talk 😉

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