For a good 15 years, control engineers and the IT staff have battled it out on the playground of plant networks. The operations technology (OT) folks -- plant control managers -- have been at odds with the information technology (IT) team. The conflict stems from a cultural mismatch of priorities -- control wants uptime at all costs; IT wants to restart the plant computers to run updates. The problem hit a high point when the plant started connecting out to the enterprise and was no longer in a safe silo.
Design News has run countless articles over the past decade and a half explaining various way companies have struggled to resolve the conflict. The most recent peace effort is coming from Rockwell Automation and Cisco Systems as they jointly launch certification training in Ethernet/IP architectures. The training is directed at fillings skills gaps in deploying the Internet of Things (IoT), but the training also serves to mashup the priorities of OT and IT.
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The five-day, hands-on training developed by Rockwell and Cisco includes the Managing Industrial Networks for Manufacturing with Cisco Technologies (IMINS2) course and a CCNA Industrial certification exam. The course offers analysis of EtherNet/IP architectures with industrial protocols, wireless and security technologies implementation, and advanced troubleshooting. The CCNA Industrial certification was designed to ensure that OT and IT professionals have the skillset needed to design, manage, and operate converged industrial networks.
One of the primary purposes of the training is to bring plant employees fully into Industry 4.0, a fully digitized, fully connected plant environment. "We are moving from the information age to the digital age. Industry and manufacturing are getting digitized. The shift offers productivity gains and business efficiency, and it can only be realized if you have people with the right skills," Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, senior manager of product management at Cisco, told Design News. "We designed a curriculum with Rockwell to addresses the skills gap. We brought together people from industry, control, and IT to find out how they are challenged and how we might help them."
The OT/IT Mashup
The key factor is the inclusion of control and IT in joint training. Putting both groups through the same training is designed to help align the interests of both groups. "There is a true mix of OT and IT. We're seeing a mix of 70% OT and 30% IT, and we expect a 50/50 mix in the future," Glenn Goldney, global business manager of training services at Rockwell, told us. "We want to make sure people have the skills to make their company a differentiator in their marketplace. We want to teach them how to troubleshoot and how to take ownership of the technology."
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As plants become more technologically sophisticated and more connected, the ability for OT and IT to pull in the same direction becomes critical. "The network engineers may have the experience in enterprise work, but not in the environment of the plant," said Krishnamurthi. "If you're coming from an OT background you get the skills in IT, and the IT folks can get the skills in OT. The training gets into design architecture extending into the future."
The training brings employees up to speed on connectivity issues such as IoT, and it also helps creates an environment where control and IT share the same priorities. "What's going on is a mash-up environment where the two disciplines come together. There has been a difference in the culture of those disciplines. So, this training is more than just a certification," said Goldney. "We had to figure out the cultural aspects of these two groups and find harmony in the convergence process. This is real to us and real to our customers."
Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 15 years, 12 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years he was owner and publisher of the food magazine, Chile Pepper.
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