Recent News

The industry 4.0 journey – aligning IT and OT goals


The past few years have seen enterprises accelerate their digital transformation, but as plans progress, many encounter challenges. The early stages tend to rely on steps such as the rollout of collaboration technology which can often be easily achieved, but next steps require a focus on use cases that access and consume enterprise operational data. While achieving this last 25-50% of a digital transformation can be the most challenging, it will also deliver the best long-term rewards, says Carlijn Williams, head of enterprise solutions marketing at Nokia.

Investments in information technology (IT) aren’t enough on their own to achieve enterprise digitalisation goals, something that has been borne out by a recent study conducted by ABI Research. However, putting money too early in IT before operational technology (OT) for Industry 4.0 is ready, will impact enterprises’ long-term investments, operational excellence and business performance. 

It is critical to align IT and OT at every stage of the digital transformation for enterprises to experience success. This applies irrespective of industries or their goals whether they want to gain agility to adapt to rapidly changing market demand or to overcome supply chain volatility, to reduce power consumption to support sustainability goals, to improve asset utilisation and health for operational efficiency, to improve workforce safety or for any other reason.

Evolving connectivity infrastructure for Industry 4.0 implementation

So how can an enterprise manage this in real terms? From an organisational perspective, it means aligning IT and OT teams, facilitating collaboration and communication of evolving plans to ensure IT infrastructure deployments are made when they are needed to support OT investments. There’s no set timetable for this; enterprises must make intelligent investments defined by their appetite for growth, external pressures and other factors.

One example of this is in the manufacturing industry, where enterprises may have started their digitalisation journey with a focus on increasing operational efficiency.

Those who have already implemented autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) to transport materials around the floor using cabled networks will understand the pain and cost of reworking them to support new factory layouts as market demands change. To introduce greater flexibility in movement many have introduced Wi-Fi, turning AGVs into autonomous mobile robots (AMRs) and consequently were also able to connect teams using ruggedised smartphones and tablets to eliminate paper-based operations.

As regulatory and environmental pressures have increased, manufacturers may have started connecting more assets to gather operational data and understand where power consumption savings can be made or to monitor asset health to implement predictive maintenance capabilities.

As they do this, they’ll connect more IoT sensors and introduce capabilities such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems for monitoring, which can quickly result in congested Wi-Fi. With no way of prioritising traffic, there’s also no way to guarantee the quality for those mission-critical services that support workforce safety or productivity.

So, as manufacturers and other enterprises begin to scale OT use case deployment for digital transformation, it’s clear they also need to make further investments in IT to upgrade network connectivity. This next wave of investment should be made in industrial-grade private wireless networks using 4G/LTE and 5G technology. In doing so enterprises can benefit from secure, robust, low latency and high-capacity network connectivity that can scale as their Industry 4.0 use case needs grow.

Private wireless and industrial edge for Industry 4.0 transformation

5G private wireless networks, for example, can support the connectivity needs of an astounding 1 million connected devices per square kilometer. But these networks don’t only overcome the congestion challenges posed by Wi-Fi, they also enable opportunities for enterprises to reduce costs and power.

Because 4G/LTE and 5G radios serve a larger area than Wi-Fi, fewer radios are required, resulting in up to 90% reduction in power consumption. Enterprises can also experience an up to 10 times reduction in costs, not just through lower power consumption, but in the ability to support all legacy and new applications, including private mobile radio (PMR), widespread CCTV and industrial IoT applications on one platform, cutting the cost and time of maintaining legacy systems.

Using private wireless enterprises can leverage greater coverage and capacity benefits to increase the performance and predictability of their connected assets and further enhance operations, safety, sustainability and efficiency.

Private wireless signals aren’t, for example, susceptible to interference from metal structures in the way that Wi-Fi signals are, meaning AMRs remain connected and, leveraging the lower latency capabilities of private wireless, can more safely navigate other automated robots and vehicles as well as people around a busy factory or warehouse floor. Mission-critical services can be prioritised too, to ensure quality of service where it’s needed most.

By implementing industrial edge cloud capabilities, manufacturers and other enterprises can further transform operations. With data retained on premises, applications can be processed in real time and consumed by compelling new Industry 4.0 use cases. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), digital twins can be enabled, allowing enterprises to harness the capabilities of the metaverse, to create a digital representation of their network for enhanced predictive maintenance and planning.

AMRs can be managed centrally too, giving businesses new agility in meeting changing market demands. ML and AI come into play here too, using applications to support remote monitoring of production lines for zero-fault manufacturing, or to enable AMRs to ‘recognise’ objects and move them to where they are needed. This could mean a mix of products assembled on the same production line, for further cost and power savings.

Supporting the evolving sustainability, cost, operational and safety needs of industries

Private wireless offers opportunities to support enterprise digital transformation across industries.

Mining operations, for example, can be enhanced using ruggedised user equipment to connect and automate legacy drills, trucks, loading vehicles, haulage trucks and diggers reliably over private wireless for productivity gains as well as to support emission reduction.

Carlijn Williams

Ports too can benefit from automation to manage shipping volume fluctuation more effectively and to better monitor and track freight and other assets. Additionally, chemical manufacturers and energy providers can use drones connected over private wireless for remote monitoring to reduce the need for site visits or to inspect hazardous areas for better protection of the workforce.

By working with a provider that offers private wireless-as-a-service, incorporating industrial-grade private wireless connectivity and Wi-Fi, certified industrial devices, industrial edge and a wide range of ecosystem-neutral applications, enterprises will be able to take the guesswork of how and when to make investments to achieve their goals.

In doing so, they can evolve IT infrastructure at their own pace, as OT use case needs dictate and ensure IT and OT are always synchronised for a successful digital transformation.

The author is Carlijn Williams, head of enterprise solutions marketing at Nokia.

About the author

Carlijn Williams currently holds the role of head of marketing for Nokia’s enterprise campus edge business. She talks about how new technology including (5G) private wireless networks and solutions like a mission-critical Edge, Industrial devices and applications continue to change vertical industries. She gives insight in how industries can succeed in their digital transformation by using low latency, high bandwidth mission-critical communication networks. She believes topics like worker collaboration, worker safety, sustainability and productivity can be improved by making new technology work as one with people and legacy machines. For these high levels of automation, security and AI-driven applications are vital to accelerate Industry 4.0. Dutch born, Carlijn holds a degree in Economics and Communications and lives in the UK.

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow_OR @jcIoTnow

This UrIoTNews article is syndicated fromIoT-Now

About Post Author