Exploring the Foundation of Your Digital Transformation Journey

From consumer packaged goods to specialty chemicals, digital transformation is gaining ground across a wide range of industries. Yet while there is tremendous benefit to using smart devices, connectivity solutions and data analytics to transform manufacturing operations, getting started — i.e., building a foundation to support your accessibility, reliability, maintainability, scalability, security and business goals —  is hardly a simple process.

The crux of digital transformation is the convergence of information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) — two worlds that have traditionally functioned independently of each other. Rethinking the IT and OT relationship, along with the technologies that make this convergence possible, can go a long way toward helping businesses be more competitive, efficient, productive and secure.

However, there are still many challenges in the way of effective IT/OT convergence. What is the best way to contextualize OT data for higher-level IT systems? How do we get the data off the programmable logic controller (PLC)? How do we address the fact that legacy OT systems are not very cloud friendly?

Fortunately, these questions have answers. To explore this topic further, we’re kicking off a series of blog posts that will delve into the enabling technologies behind the digital transformation phenomenon — including the IT/OT convergence. Here’s a quick preview of what topics to expect:

Built-for-purpose digital transformation for the Rockwell ecosystem

One fundamental challenge associated with digital transformation involves moving data off the plant floor and then transferring it to higher-level systems. This is where transaction managers — such as tManager — come into play. This PLC in-chassis module is a foundational connector that taps trapped data at the plant floor level and securely and easily connects to enterprise business systems, unlocking the potential for your digital transformation journey.

Accessing Siemens, ABB, Honeywell and non-Rockwell PLCs

In plants with older controllers — and in some cases, even old OS1 fiber — accessing PLC and process data can be very difficult. Phoenix Digital modules address the challenge of networking using old fiber, while dataFEED OPC Suite Extended provides secure, reliable access to the PLCs of many leading manufacturers. This complete software package is ideal for OPC and OPC UA communications and IIoT cloud connectivity, and it also makes data available to the enterprise using standardized interfaces, such as OPC UA, MQTT and REST.

How to reduce complexity with middleware

As the number of OT/IT applications increases, so too does network complexity. Having an abstraction interface — which simplifies management between the OT and IT domains based on the OPC UA standard — can go a long way toward reducing this complexity. The Secure Integration Server (SIS) provides this necessary interface, enabling you to handle changes or extensions within one domain (OT or IT) without having to modify the other.

How to choose the right architecture

With all the different enabling technologies to help you kickstart your digital transformation journey, how do you know which one is right for you? This final blog post in our series will summarize the range of solutions for industrial communication and digitalization, enabling you to select the best ones for your application. These solutions include:

  • Docker software modules to connect to IIoT applications.
  • OPC UA-based middleware for simplifying OT/IT management.
  • Gateways for control, plant asset management and configuration tasks.
  • Built-for-purpose, in-chassis PLC module for bi-directional data flow between the plant floor and higher-level systems — and built-for-purpose redundant fiber Ethernet switches for PLCs and remote I/O.

Learn More in Our Upcoming Blog Posts

The seamless exchange of data between IT and OT systems is critical for competitiveness and success and should be the foundation of your digital transformation journey. From in-chassis PLC modules to abstraction interfaces, the technologies that make the IT/OT convergence possible, enabling you to improve the efficiency and performance of your application.

Discover our blog posts in this digital transformation series:

  1. Get To Know dataFEED OPC Suite and Elevate Your Business With Convenient IT/OT Integration
  2.  Containerized Software Packages Simplify Connectivity for Legacy Machines

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