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Bridging the OT-IT divide in manufacturing

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Russ Sagert
Russ Sagert

Smart technologies and IoT devices have transformed the manufacturing industry into something that even forward-thinking minds like Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie could never have imagined. Although Industry 4.0 has made automation and digitization the norm for manufacturers, that’s only half the equation. The real revolution is yet to come.

It’s all about data

Manufacturing success is powered by data. It’s data that enables innovation, production, and even distribution. When building smart factories, it’s data-driven IoT sensors and interoperable systems that empower production machinery to anticipate its own needs, resulting in greater efficiency, improved productivity, and safer plant floors. But that’s just the start.

For truly smart manufacturing, you need to integrate those operational technology (OT) systems with your information technology (IT) systems—also known as OT-IT convergence. Connecting OT with IT promotes even greater efficiencies that enable you to maintain or expand your competitive edge. For example:

  • You can maximize efficiency and productivity by comparing data for multiple plants and then developing operational best practices for standardization across all factory floors.
  • You can keep your production lines running by resolving issues in real time. If something is going wrong with a piece of equipment, you can share your real-time operational data with the vendor so that they can instantly troubleshoot, look for spare parts, and check the availability of service technicians. This level of synchronization can shave days off problem resolution.
  • You can optimize your supply chain with real-time visibility into availability of supplies from your partners so you know how to plan and when you need to look to other sources.
  • You can get better products to market faster with test-development environments that enable what-if scenario testing and practice before deployment.

However, despite its far-reaching benefits, OT-IT convergence is still a work in progress for most manufacturers. In fact, a recent report (commissioned by NetApp and researched and produced by The Manufacturer) shows that only 6% of manufacturers have fully integrated OT and IT systems, and only 25% of manufacturers have achieved more than a basic level of OT-IT convergence.

To get where you’re going, you need to let go

Manufacturers today are harvesting more useful data than ever before, but they struggle to manage and analyze these unprecedented volumes. Without effective data management, they can't reap the benefits of OT-IT convergence. For most manufacturers, siloed data is the key obstacle that prevents them from making effective progress on their convergence journey.

How do you overcome that hurdle? You have to let go of your data. The cloud is where your data needs to be. But since most manufacturers build airtight data centers to make sure that their data can’t get out, letting it go may be easier said than done.

Take the journey with a partner you can trust

The cloud isn’t new for manufacturers. In fact, many manufacturers use the cloud for disaster recovery. Putting data in the cloud for use cases beyond disaster recovery may seem like taking a leap of faith. It’s your data that gives you a competitive edge. And now, to keep your business moving forward, you have to let go of it. With the right partner to guide you, the process may be easier and less risky than you think. When it comes to managing data in or out of the cloud, NetApp is that partner.

NetApp makes getting to the cloud easy and secure. All of the major cloud providers—Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and IBM Cloud—have the NetApp® ONTAP® data management software embedded into their storage solutions. That means getting your data from on-premises storage into whatever cloud provider you choose is quick and easy. It also means that you can easily move your data from one cloud to another or from any cloud back on premises. Only NetApp helps you create a data fabric that removes data silos and breaks down communication barriers, enabling seamless data access and mobility across multicloud environments. And if you’re concerned about data security, don’t be. NetApp is the storage and data security provider for most of the U.S. military departments and for the world’s largest aerospace companies. Your data is safe with NetApp.

With cloud data solutions built on NetApp, your data is where you need it, when you need it, and shareable across your entire enterprise, partner, and vendor landscape. Data gathered from IoT devices at the edge can immediately get uploaded to the cloud for real-time analytics. You can always be directly connected to your suppliers to keep your supply chain flowing. You can instantly replicate data from a production machine and share it with the vendor for faster resolution of issues. The possibilities are endless—and that’s just on the production side. On the business side, the cloud offers these additional benefits:

  • Provides a viable alternative to owned infrastructure, reducing capex and management time and costs.
  • Takes the burden off already-stressed IT teams by reducing the data volumes they need to manage.
  • Enables better decision making by sharing operational insights at the enterprise level.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions from your on-premises infrastructure and lowers your carbon tax footprint.

The bottom line? OT-IT convergence is vital to reach deeper insights and greater operational agility. See how NetApp is helping Inductive Automation achieve OT-IT convergence and learn how NetApp solutions for manufacturing can help your business.

Russ Sagert

Russ Sagert is the NetApp Business Development Director for Energy and Manufacturing. Russ specializes in developing and bringing digital transformation solutions for industrial manufacturing plant operators to market. He cultivates strategic partnerships to bring to market value-added solutions that enable organizations to improve operational efficiency, drive down costs, maximize top-line revenue, and improve product quality and site safety. As a result, organizations can justify and prioritize deploying technology where it makes the greatest difference.

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