Historically, the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT/operations) departments within an industrial manufacturing company could function independently. Operations kept the plant running smoothly, and IT managed business applications from the front office. The two teams occasionally collaborated on successful projects, such as implementing printers on the factory floor or servicing industrial PCs. Unfortunately, those opportunities were rare. Too often, it was a problem, not an opportunity, which brought IT and operations together. Whether it was a security incident, a system failure, or unplanned downtime, those encounters did little to breed trust and collaboration between the two teams. But the world of manufacturing is changing. To keep up, IT/operations relationships must change with it.
The research suggests that executives are equally worried about established companies and startups, both within and outside their industry, deploying new technology and business models that will negatively affect their position in the market. To outpace that potential disruption, manufacturing companies are working to adapt their processes, technologies, and business models. The most forward-thinking companies aren’t just trying to survive the changes. They’re working to be the ones that lead it—gaining a competitive advantage, improving operational efficiency, and maximizing profitability. They are leading digital business transformation in manufacturing. Clearly, this shift is bringing new and challenging projects to the IT and operations professionals working within the industry. And the savviest IT and operations leaders also know that success in this new climate means working more closely together.
Visionary operations leaders recognize that the reams of operational data they use to support real-time decision making could create additional value for the company. But they need the support of their IT colleagues to make the data meaningful and accessible for use across the organization. Their IT colleagues can also help them better align with business systems, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools and manufacturing execution systems (MES).
At the same time, IT teams want to achieve the vision and potential of a connected factory—from improving the supply chain to driving innovation and minimizing downtime. However, to get there they need the knowledge and support of the operations professionals who understand and control the equipment.
Both groups have seen glimpses of how their efforts might enhance the future of their companies and industries, but to take full advantage of this opportunity they must work together.
That’s why the forced IT/OT interactions that often characterized security and Ethernet projects of the past are being replaced with more powerful, collaborative alliances. Together, IT and operations teams go beyond merely responding to problems. Instead, they’re playing a key role in their companies’ transformations, helping to seize new business opportunities that make them more competitive, more efficient, and more secure.