Large manufacturing enterprises have an enormous divide in the IT organization. Not just the gap between application and infrastructure, but really the difference between manufacturing IT and corporate IT.
We live in a world of increasing connectivity. Divisions of business that used to operate in isolation must now be integrated with the rest of the enterprise. As an example, business leaders expect to see real-time production information direct from the plant floor to evaluate operations and make business decisions. Data collection and presentation drives business decisions; protecting intellectual property, overseeing network access and assessing vulnerabilities must now be ongoing priorities for all facets of the business.
In this setting, isolation of plant floor automation is no longer feasible. Isolated systems did not require the updates and ongoing evaluations that IT has dealt with for many years; process control can learn from IT here. The idea of “continuous operation” has a different working definition for plant floor automation systems than it does for IT. Network downtime that stops production could represent a financial catastrophe, whereas not being able to access a network printer is a mere annoyance. Both situations affect network users, but with varied degrees of impact. Collaboration and ongoing conversation are no longer optional, but required.