By: Beth Parkinson, Market Development Director, Connected Enterprise. This article was originally published on the Rockwell Automation blog.
The Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications evoke images of automation, artificial intelligence, and lights-out manufacturing. These are exciting visions of the future — but we won’t achieve them with technology alone.
When Rockwell Automation began building its own Connected Enterprise — integrating information technology (IT) with operations technology (OT) to improve business performance and minimize risks — we knew that we would need to balance people, processes, and technologies.
Why? Because overemphasizing any one of these will create bottlenecks and delay progress though the five stages of our Connected Enterprise Execution Model:
Stage 1 — Assessment: Evaluating your IT/OT readiness is not just about information architectures; it also examines the processes for how information moves from machine to machine and across the enterprise. This reflects not just technology, but the culture in your organization and your staff’s willingness to adapt to new processes and the connected environment. As processes change — and new devices and technologies are implemented — your people must be on board with the initiative to effectively leverage new capabilities.
Stage 2 — Secure and upgraded network and controls: This is where the intersection of people, processes, and technology often gets challenging. You need a process that prioritizes where to upgrade devices and the network (i.e., technology), and you needpeople to buy into that approach — some will lobby for immediate improvements, while others may resist any change. Stage 2 also forces the discussion of role assignments between IT and OT in support of The Connected Enterprise, including how IT and OT engineers will jointly develop a roadmap for migration and collaborate going forward.
Stage 3 — Defined and organized working data capital: Data and information take center stage in Stage 3. An unprecedented depth and breadth of real-time, contextualized data is delivered to the right people, at the right time. That’s great news for decision-makers, at least at first; unfortunately, they often find themselves drowning in a flood of new data. This requires a process to scope which data the new technology pulls, so that those responsible get only the information they need, when and how they need it.
Stage 4 — Analytics: By this stage, a manufacturer is reaching higher levels of productivity, quality, capital-avoidance, and cost-efficiency. That’s because a changed culture within the company recognizes the ability of the IT/OT network to surface problems and opportunities in real-time; processes are in place to react to these issues; and decisions are made with the right information by the right individuals.
Stage 5 — Collaboration: Extending the IT/OT infrastructure to business units and divisions and out to suppliers and customers — and to their people, processes, and technologies — requires the same level of coordination that occurred internally, and possibly more.
You’re working with people over whom you have little or no authority (even if they’re technically part of your company or a supplier), with processes that may differ dramatically from your own (for better or worse), and with technologies that may be incompatible with yours.
Overemphasizing any one element among people, processes, and technologies can create the same bottlenecks your organization encountered during earlier stages of execution. Helping your business partners build a well-balanced approach creates new opportunities for all, such as sharing resources across the supply chain, and rapid, remote access to experts throughout the supply chain.
Like any large organizational improvement effort, following The Connected Enterprise Execution Model requires changes to people, processes, and technologies. Are you ready to change for the better?