As IoT technologies transform, the industries most prone to disruption are leading the way. Recent decades have seen increased investment and previously unimaginable changes in key industries. The manufacturing, oil & gas, and transportation industries offer prime examples of successful IT/OT convergence.
In the manufacturing industry, data availability is rapidly changing operations on the factory floor. IT/OT convergence is transforming manufacturing plants by making existing practices more efficient and cost-effective. In traditional manufacturing environments, IT and OT are split into production and demand cycles. OT systems gather data from the production floor to guide product cycles and inventory management. IT systems handle market changes and customer conversion rates, deriving predictive analytics for future demand.
IT/OT convergence now enables companies to integrate the two processes. OT departments can strategize to meet changes in demand in real-time, and IT can draw on inventory updates used to guide price changes. Additionally, all industries can benefit from the increased cybersecurity that IT departments can provide to OT. While the closed nature of most OT systems has led many to believe that they are protected against cyberattacks, this generally only serves to provide a false sense of security. In reality, unconnected systems may actually be more vulnerable due to a lack of authentication or encryption. Bringing IT knowledge into the OT space can help make organizations across industries more secure overall.
Oil and Gas
Natural resource industries like oil & gas are becoming increasingly reliant on digital networks to oversee processing and distribution. Traditionally, geographical separation and complex equipment meant unified organizational functionality was impractical. OT infrastructure is distributed across continents, which previously meant that local teams had to assume manual responsibility for operations, maintenance, and upgrades. However, advances in IT have enabled OT teams to access operational data remotely, optimizing how they perform equipment inspections, damage assessment, and inventory monitoring.
The energy sector has made significant investments in recent decades in IT/OT convergence. For energy companies, collaboration between IT and OT can help ensure regulatory compliance and protect a company’s reputation. IT systems also help track energy distribution and streamline maintenance schedules. Maintaining electrical systems can be costly and time-consuming, and in our 24/7 economy, equipment failure and unplanned downtime can have serious monetary consequences. Access to machinery data enables engineering teams to plan preventative maintenance, mitigating risk and minimizing downtime.
Finally, IT/OT convergence is also improving operations in the transportation industry. In a recent survey of railway operators, roughly 88% of responders identified asset management as a priority. Integrating IT and OT applications can help rail organizations, as well as bus and metro operators, gain greater visibility into the condition and usage of assets. This can guide both short-term repairs and long-term planning for asset replacement and increased safety.
This convergence is becoming even more critical in the transportation industry as we begin to see the rise of e-mobility devices such as electric bikes, scooters, and buses. A Navigant Research report estimates that global e-mobility device revenue is expected to grow to $62.2 billion by 2025, a 243% increase from 2016. Experts believe that coordinating these physical assets in the intersection of IT and OT will allow for better decision-making, streamlined maintenance, and safer, more reliable devices.
Enabling IT/OT Convergence in Organizations
For industry leaders, IT/OT convergence can enable a revolutionary form of process optimization. The digital transformation of operational technology greatly improves the speed at which companies can optimize their processes. This agility is what will keep businesses ahead of the competition in today’s digital economy.
But leveraging IT/OT convergence in your organization depends on a clear strategic vision and open channels of communication. Supporting collaboration between IT and OT teams requires that leadership provide both departments with a common operational picture. When working within a well-defined collaborative environment, IT and OT teams can co-identify inefficiencies and optimize operations overall.
When approaching IT/OT convergence, adopting the right software makes all the difference. Coolfire offers collaborative operations software — across all verticals. Coolfire enables IT and OT teams to share data from integrated sources and respond to events as they happen. By combining your existing data and workflows into a single interface, Coolfire streamlines communication and helps companies achieve industry-leading process optimization.