IT/OT convergence: Manufacturing Sector

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Trends: IT/OT Convergence

Five trends in IT/OT convergence within the manufacturing sector are increasing adoption of industrial connectivity, consolidation in the industrial connectivity vendors market, the emergence of new edge-to-cloud architectures, rising adoption of the hybrid data center model, and increasing use of digital twins.

Increasing Adoption of Industrial Connectivity

  • More manufacturers are including industrial connectivity to their assets to achieve IT/OT convergence. It is projected by IoT Analytics that by 2020, around 50% of manufacturers' industrial assets will be connected to some kind of data collection system either remotely or within their premises.
  • The industrial connectivity market is worth $38.2 billion and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 5% until 2024. A key driver of that growth is the continuous rise in the number of connected assets.
  • Industrial connectivity hardware remains the segment with the largest market share in the industrial connectivity market. However, the services and software segments are growing at a faster rate as more manufacturing is carried out using data centers and industrial computers rather than gateways and programmable logic controllers (PLCs).
  • The solutions segment is also expected to grow faster as more manufacturers adopt data collection systems through which data is sent to the cloud directly, bypassing the conventional automation pyramid.
  • A survey conducted by IIoT World in 2017 showed that 77% of manufacturers already had an industrial internet of things (IIoT) solution and 20% were planning to deploy an IIoT solution within the next year. IIoT solutions are used for connecting critical assets, retrieving data, and enhancing factory operations.

The Emergence of New Edge-to-cloud Architectures

  • In order to implement "direct edge-to-cloud connectivity" for IT/OT convergence while consolidating and moving the conventional automation pyramid to the cloud, new architectures in industrial connectivity are being introduced.
  • Technological innovations in software, hardware, and connectivity have led to the emergence of connectivity architectures that can bypass conventional automation and achieve "direct edge-to-cloud connectivity".
  • Manufacturers are creating products to run software applications and implement edge-to-cloud connectivity using inexpensive edge computing technology.

Software-Driven Competition in the Industrial Automation Vendors Market

  • Small and medium-sized (SME) industrial automation companies providing IT/OT convergence solutions are better positioned to compete with larger established companies as a result of more robust edge processing, the rising use of Linux solutions, and emerging virtualization technologies.
  • Industrial connectivity hardware is now becoming Linux-based and can run several 3rd party industrial connectivity software.
  • Many manufacturers are now using Linux-based solutions because they can prevent "hardware vendor lock-in and enable more scalable and future-proof architectures".
  • Therefore, manufacturers can now perform industrial connectivity operations like cloud connectivity, protocol conversion, and process control on one Linux-based hardware through the use of 3rd party software.
  • These capabilities are mostly provided by smaller industrial automation companies.

Rising Adoption of the Hybrid Data Center Model

  • As more manufacturers implement cloud-based operations for IT/OT convergence, they are expected to adopt hybrid data centers that would devote on-premises legacy equipment to data collection and storage operations with less customization and a greater level of security and control.
  • This would allow those aspects of their operations that involve continuous adaptation to be migrated to the cloud.
  • This model would lead to a decrease in IT-related costs and enable them to keep using their legacy systems.

Increasing Use of Digital Twins

  • The speedy adoption of machines that are IoT-enabled and their integration with OT environments will enable manufacturers to use “digital twins” which are capable of simulating a machine's physical performance using data that manufacturers can use for managing, monitoring and servicing their machines.
  • It is projected by Gartner that by 2020, 25% of manufacturers' spending will be diverted from "procure and maintain" contracts to "dynamic service models," which involves the payment of a recurrent maintenance fee to suppliers to improve up-time in the manufacturing plant.
  • The use of digital twins, coupled with advanced analytics will lead to less uncertainty and guaranteed results, which will enable manufacturers to focus on other areas to enhance productivity.