Monitoring systems can support IT-OT merge in manufacturing

Strategically located six hours away from every Southeast Asian country, Singapore serves as a major hub for business growth and trade in the region. The nation’s steady economic growth and trade connections make it an attractive place for companies to set up shop here.

In 2021,  Singapore achieved an annual GDP growth rate of 7.2%, amounting to a total GDP of US$396.99 billion. The country’s stable economy, combined with its available infrastructure, expertise and government funding creates immense potential for its manufacturing sector.

Leveraging the power of technology

To accelerate the transformation of manufacturing in the country, the government is working towards the development of the new Jurong Innovation District. It aims to help Singapore remain competitive by implementing the latest Industry 4.0 automation technologies.

This government initiative hopes to integrate educational institutions, R&D firms, technology providers, and factories into a single hub to enable easier access to manpower and resources to power the future of Singapore’s manufacturing sector.

To stay relevant in the highly competitive industry, Singaporean manufacturers should leverage digital technologies for data collection and analysis to make more informed decisions on optimising their manufacturing processes.

IT-OT convergence: driving digital transformation

As organisations scale in size, there will be an increase in the number of IT and OT devices operating simultaneously to keep manufacturing processes going. Converging IT and OT devices will not only enable firms to keep track of their growing number of remote IT and OT devices, but will also provide a consolidated view of data collected from these devices, thus simplifying data analysis and benefitting the decision-making process.

The idea of IT-OT convergence dates all the way back to 2011. However, in the present day, more organisations are starting to realise the importance of IT personnel coordinating IT software with OT hardware on factory grounds.

Both the IT and OT teams’ roles in organisations have grown, as they now have to ensure that all devices from the industrial Ethernet all the way down to the OT infrastructures on factory floors are well-maintained, and that data collected from these devices are streamlined. The challenge then arises in making collaboration between the IT and OT teams — two teams with differing expertise and priorities — smooth and effective.

However, the convergence of IT and OT creates more “blind spots” or system vulnerabilities that may cause system downtime. Hence, while manufacturers direct their manpower toward ensuring the smooth convergence of IT and OT, they may look into employing technology to monitor the health status of all their devices by:

  1. Monitoring OT and industrial infrastructure. Gain a greater insight into factory processes through observing and monitoring specialised devices within OT. For example:
    • Industrial Ethernet devices, like routers, switches, and firewalls.
    • Industrial enclosures, where devices and other hardware are stored.
    • Industrial gateways, the bridge between different areas that translates protocols, aggregates data, and transfers it to various endpoints.
  1. Ensuring controllers and execution systems are running. Monitoring the factory systems (like SCADA and MES) and ensuring that they are running are vital for industrial architecture, as system downtime will incur hefty costs.
  1. Bringing OT data into the monitoring concept. Minimise blind spots in the infrastructure by consolidating all the data into one tool, allowing for an overview of the health status of all IT and OT components.

To enjoy the positive outcomes of IT-OT convergence, it is crucial to be able to monitor the entire digital supply network, including devices that reside in the cloud or on factory grounds.

An IT monitoring solution understands the pivotal role that data plays in the industry. In order to stay relevant in the market, manufacturers in Singapore will have to adapt to make data-driven decisions more efficiently.

Advanced monitoring systems will play a critical role in this by aiding manufacturers and businesses in overseeing the convergence of IT and OT, not only enabling seamless digital transformation, but also enabling them to better monitor their data, whether they are on-premises or in remote locations.