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August 23, 2021

Why Infrastructure Matters

Aug 23, 2021, 11:21 AM by Josh Abebe | Director Industrial Sales – Kirby Risk Electrical Supply

Graphic of Aacatech 4.0 Maturity Index

If you are an Industrial End User, an OEM, or engaged in manufacturing of any kind, digital initiatives have taken a revolutionary step up in corporate priorities becoming a staple in the post pandemic timeline.  Expectations to be digitally enabled have fueled Industry 4.0 acceleration and required organizations to do self-assessments. Are we ready for what’s next?  Where are we, and where do we need to be, in say…a year? The importance of an intentional infrastructure design and strategy, supporting digital initiatives are crucial to success. Why does the infrastructure matter?   

Benefits of an intentional design can typically see reduced costs in deployment, optimization of capital and operational investments, and improved performance and safety.

A snapshot of industrial manufacturing and our partner ecosystems tells us that we must understand what/where our organizations’ capabilities are today vs. where they need to be in one to two years. The five-year strategies have been compressed and have had to be accelerated. Now, corporate strategies and initiatives must align this short to long strategy. Equally important are the financial allocations needed to support the execution of these strategies. If you’re wondering where to start, I would recommend doing some light reading from consultants and manufacturers (PTC, Rockwell, NTT and Accenture — please see links in reference section at end of this post) that have roadmaps and maturity indices to help you in the journey.    

Preliminary steps will include: 

  • Auditing/Self-Assessment of the company’s digital maturity  

  • Understand where you are in a digital maturity model 

  • What steps/timeline/money the company needs to progress through stages or milestones of the maturity model 

  • When do you need to get there (tomorrow, right…?)? 

Additionally, Panduit (https://www.panduit.com/en/solutions/markets/warehouse-automation.html, reference “Resources”) provides an understanding of additional elements of infrastructure that are often overlooked, including designing and implementing building block physical layer solutions with partner enabled services to support the information data driven intelligence required in this transformation. As Mike Berg from Panduit cites in his video Digital Transformation on the Plant Floor, “Digital Transformation has to be built on a foundation of digital connectivity.” 

These foundational solutions are required as the “backbone” to support the new technologies and initiatives of your Digital Transformation strategy by delivering real-time data back to the enterprise to support your acceleration. Support is intentional to design since around 80 percent of network issues are caused by the physical layer of the infrastructure. These subsequent steps should include a Logical Network Design as well as a Physical Network Design. 

Each of the consultant companies outlined earlier look at organizations in several stages of maturity, often starting with a compute layer then building through the early transformation stages up to the never-ending final stages being able to leverage automated intelligence or machine learning into your organization, which is ultimately a moving goalpost.   

Many digital initiatives stall when IT (information technologies) is not in alignment with OT (operational technologies). When an organization aligns on its current state, it can then put a scaled, time bound plan in place with intentional considerations for design of the infrastructure within the office space, manufacturing facilities and warehouses. Standards based network designs will provide a network that supports the vast demands of information transfer from the various industrial applications and their respective environments on the plant floor. If your goal is to get movement upwards in the maturity model with an upgrade, there is a roadmap for this. If your goal is to begin to use data and data science in your plant operations, you can go and develop the roadmap alone and use tools the larger companies provide. If your goals and objectives are to continue your digital revolution and be able to turn data science into predictive and adaptive environments, these can be supported as well. (All of these options can be supported through your partner ecosystem and your distributor/Kirby Risk and their partners.)   

There are tools and resources that can help with the functional and department requirements ranging from supporting modernization activities, expansions and greenfield applications, to tactical execution level wireless communications, supporting control panel optimization, and newer technologies like single pair ethernet. Many of these tools and resources can be found with consultants in the partner ecosystem or from manufacturers like Rockwell, Panduit, Hoffman and others. 

Large to small, simple to complex, strategic to actionable — as a manufacturer you must identify the information that is critical to your operations and prioritize this information. Furthermore, you must be able to be intentional in your designs for greenfield, brownfield or migration investments. Any stage of the manufacturing maturity index can be impacted positively or negatively by infrastructure.  Standards based approaches with intentional design can be supported by the ecosystems supporting both IT and OT. 

References

PTC — Our technology helps industrial companies to create value for themselves, their customers, and the world. From hospital equipment with increased uptime and a spacesuit that is just as durable at half the weight, to more sustainable buildings and more efficient manufacturing—each improvement our technology helps to create, makes our world a better place. 

Rockwell Automation — We are the largest company in the world that is dedicated to industrial automation and information. Across the globe, our flagship Allen‑Bradley® and FactoryTalk® product brands are recognized for excellence.   

Our keen focus on technology innovation, domain expertise, and integrity and corporate responsibility fuels our success. 

NTT Data — At NTT DATA Services, we drive outcomes that keep our clients a step ahead in this digitally dynamic world. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, our team of more than 50,000 professionals worldwide works with you to address today’s challenges, and tomorrow’s — whether it’s to help jump-start your cloud migration, reinvent the customer experience, streamline business processes or upgrade aging infrastructure. 

Panduit — Physical infrastructure is a strategic foundation that can help future proof your business. Panduit’s industrial electrical and network infrastructure ensures smart, scalable, and efficient connectivity solutions across the enterprise to help you compete and succeed in a constantly evolving global marketplace.