classic | mobile


SA Instrumentation & Control Buyers' Guide

Technews Industry Guide - IIoT 2018

Technews Industry Guide - Maintenance, Reliability & Asset Optimisation


OT-IT convergence in a legacy world
August 2018, IT in Manufacturing

The increasing convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) across industry and infrastructure was a recurring theme at the recent ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Florida. ARC Advisory Group vice president Craig Resnick led a well-attended session that focused on the ramifications of OT-IT convergence in today’s industrial plants.

The challenges and benefits of convergence

Resnick opened this session by providing a brief overview of the benefits and challenges involved, including the need to integrate the new approaches with the large installed base of legacy automation assets. Several interesting case history presentations followed. Dale Malony from Honda of America, discussed how the process of digitisation to drive machine reliability forces OT-IT integration. Chris Hemric from R.J. Reynolds, discussed that company’s journey to operational excellence through digital transformation. John Davenport from EnovaPremier discussed how the promise of OT-IT convergence for that company is to enable it to figure out how to get all its systems to work together, and then easily implement new features as needed. Finally, Melanie Bladow from Tern Consulting discussed the critical human side of the equation and how to make this work to an organisation’s advantage.

As Resnick pointed out in his introductory presentation, the increasing convergence between OT and IT in today’s industrial plants has led to a rapid learning curve for both groups. In general, IT groups are just starting to learn what ‘real-time’ means, and OT groups are starting to learn how they can best leverage IT-enabled technologies in operations. Also, while IT groups have traditionally focused on preserving data integrity and data flows, OT groups are typically more concerned about non-stop system availability to help ensure 24/7 plant operations and plant and employee safety.

OT-IT convergence requires both groups to work together to figure out how to connect the large installed base of legacy OT assets (control systems, instrumentation, etc.) with today’s powerful IT-enabled solutions to improve business performance without compromising system availability. “The reality is that we still have 30-year-old legacy assets in our plants and we simply cannot afford to do a wholesale ‘rip and replace’,” explained Resnick. “This makes it necessary to figure out how to connect our legacy control systems to an IIoT world.”

Furthermore, he pointed out, as automation systems become more complex, the probability of human-influenced errors increases: “Anything that can be done to reduce complexity should be considered and implemented, as this will help minimise the probability of human error.”

One of the major challenges involves the dramatically different lifecycles between OT and IT. While process control systems and field networks typically remain in service for 20 to 30 years or more, most IT is updated or replaced every several years to avoid technological obsolescence in this rapidly evolving space.

Another significant challenge that has emerged in recent years involves ownership and responsibility. As Resnick explained, “In this case, the convergence of real-time operations technology with transactional information technology, is just one element of change to which organisations must adapt. To prevent declining performance, it is critical for an organisation to assess both its maturity and its ability to evolve and change. Whatever the cause (technology, economics, geopolitical, etc.), organisations need to refresh their thinking periodically and modify their organisational design to adapt and survive.”


As the needs of OT and IT are beginning to converge, so does the obvious focus on cybersecurity. OT’s focus on non-stop operations and eliminating unscheduled downtime is raising the cybersecurity issue on the IT side, and increased data from IT is raising the same issue on the OT side.

“Each organisation’s behaviour is driven by what they value, how they think, and how they are rewarded. OT professionals prioritise availability over everything else. This includes system-wide integrity and security. Unless the few-and-far-between upgrades are going on, system access is generally limited and the environment is stable,” Resnick explained. “IT thinks differently. Their priorities are characterised by access security – ensuring that only the right people have access to the right systems, and that malicious actors cannot gain access.” IT systems typically require frequent – often daily – software patches and updates, which can be more difficult to accommodate in a non-stop, 24/7 production environment, especially if OT system downtime is required to perform the patch or update.

Despite these and other challenges, OT-IT convergence offers significant potential benefits. Many that are already well-proven in industrial plants and factories around the world include:

• Reduced process variability and energy consumption.

• Improved product quality.

• Improved asset health and reliability.

• Improved incident prediction to avoid upsets.

• Improved responsiveness to customers.

• Streamlined work processes.

• Better ability to take advantage of emerging technologies.

• Improved ability to attract a modern workforce.

Whither the IIoT

While many in the industry have assumed that the IIoT will play a key role in digital transformation and OT-IT convergence, it is interesting to note that while Big Data, analytics and Internet technologies played an important role in each of the three end user case studies, none appeared to highlight the use of IIoT-connected smart devices.

One likely explanation for this is that all three are examples of discrete manufacturing operations (auto assembly, cigarette manufacturing, and auto component assembly, respectively) that do not involve geographically dispersed assets, such as those that would be found in oil and gas production, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission and distribution, etc. The other likely explanation is that, while they certainly have not shied away from taking advantage of IT, these manufacturers already get adequate asset data through their industrial networks, lessening the value and potential risk that would be associated with implementing non-industrial, IIoT-connected devices. In other words, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

For more information contact Paul Miller, ARC Advisory Group, +1 781 471 1141,,

Share via email     Share via LinkedIn   Print this page

Further reading:

  • New performance management ­solutions for intelligent valves and pumps
    January 2019, IT in Manufacturing
    While digital transformation has been getting its fair share of hype in recent years, end-users in the heavy process industries actually began digitising their plants decades ago with the introduction ...
  • Rockwell Automation drives digital transformation
    January 2019, Rockwell Automation, IT in Manufacturing
    New FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, accelerates digital transformation strategies.
  • Flexible standardisation for data centres
    January 2019, Schneider Electric South Africa, IT in Manufacturing
    Schneider Electric has created flexible standardisation for data centre operators that allows the company to support the different sized deployments its customers require, while eliminating inconsistencies ...
  • Personalised, portable content with SKF Shelf app
    January 2019, SKF South Africa, IT in Manufacturing
    Digitalisation is changing industries and opening up new possibilities. We now have a wealth of information from a multitude of sources at our fingertips. But is it reliable? Having fast access to a trustworthy ...
  • Key digital transformation IT concepts for operations
    December 2018, IT in Manufacturing
    Rather than focus on the digital transformation IT concepts through a technical lens, this article looks at them in terms of their implication on industrial operations.
  • Data centre management as a service
    December 2018, IT in Manufacturing
    DMaaS aggregates and analyses large sets of anonymised customer data that can be enhanced with machine learning.
  • Operator guided solutions
    December 2018, Adroit Technologies, IT in Manufacturing
    At parts assembly production sites, where parts are picked from stock, it is almost inevitable that picking mistakes will occur. As parts become more complex and their component types increase, the problem ...
  • Software for low voltage distribution planning
    November 2018, ElectroMechanica, IT in Manufacturing
    New software from Hager facilitates planning and configuration of low voltage switchgear.
  • SKF ups the digital ante at ­Göteborg plant
    November 2018, SKF South Africa, IT in Manufacturing
    Swedish group, SKF, has been implementing digital transformation since 2015, investing close to €19 million to carry out its digital revolution at the Göteborg plant which has, for over a century, been ...
  • 3D software eliminates ­programming
    November 2018, ASSTech Process Electronics + Instrumentation, IT in Manufacturing
    More and more industrial users are discovering the potential of three dimensional software-aided object measurement. With the VisionApp 360 software, Wenglor now offers a smart tool that makes 3D object ...
  • Advanced data management from Siemens
    November 2018, Siemens Digital Factory & Process Indust. & Drives, IT in Manufacturing
    Siemens is innovating its data management software for process analytical technology (PAT) with Simatic Sipat version 5.1, which allows users to monitor and control the quality of their products in real-time ...
  • The 5 stages of cybersecurity awareness
    October 2018, IT in Manufacturing
    Before any of these recommendations can be implemented, managers must first understand and accept the risks they face and the potential consequences. An understanding of human behaviour can help. The ...

Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd
1st Floor, Stabilitas House
265 Kent Ave, Randburg, 2194
South Africa
Publications by Technews
Dataweek Electronics & Communications Technology
Electronic Buyers Guide (EBG)

Hi-Tech Security Solutions
Hi-Tech Security Business Directory

Motion Control in Southern Africa
Motion Control Buyers’ Guide (MCBG)

South African Instrumentation & Control
South African Instrumentation & Control Buyers’ Guide (IBG)
Terms & conditions of use, including privacy policy
PAIA Manual


    classic | mobile

Copyright © Technews Publishing (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved.