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,