Preparing your workforce: IIoT requires IT/OT talent convergence
Nov. 1, 2016 - The adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has manufacturers buzzing over improved connectivity and information sharing. But when a network issue arises, the last thing you want is to have your information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) departments confused about where the responsibility lies to fix the problem.
Historically, OT and IT maintained separate network architectures in industrial operations. When an enterprise system went down or systems on the plant floor erred, it was easy to identify who to call to get you back up and running. IT personnel worked on the business side and were focused on keeping networks safe and secure; OT personnel worked in industrial environments and were focused on plant or jobsite productivity.
Today, the IIoT has blurred the lines of these traditional job roles. As organizations converge their once disparate enterprise and plant-floor systems into a common, secure network infrastructure, strong collaboration is needed between the two job roles. For example, an IT department’s preference for centralized routing may not make sense in a manufacturing environment where a distributed routing approach can have performance and maintenance benefits.
The IT and OT personnel who previously designed and maintained separate systems now face important questions about who will be responsible for building and maintaining plant-based networks and information-enabled production assets. Acknowledging and addressing IT/OT alignment through workforce talent convergence early in the IIoT implementation process can help avoid or minimize any confusion.
One key solution
Organizations must ensure IT and OT teams have the skills and knowledge needed to design, implement and sustain the newly converged enterprise and plant-floor infrastructures. This requires collaboration, and more importantly, workforce training to help employees understand each other’s goals, and how they overlap as their traditional, siloed technologies come together.
Many organizations are responding to this knowledge evolution and adjusting their training programs to meet the needs of both groups, as their functions become increasingly intertwined. Manufacturers and industrial producers can expect to see more blended and consumable training options to help create a continuous culture of learning across the plant floor and enterprise-level roles.
Collaboration is also critical for the long term as manufacturers struggle to replace experienced workers who are ready to retire with less experienced workers. Cisco estimates an anticipated 220,000 new IT and OT engineers will be required to enter the workforce every year to help solidify the IIoT.
Training and certifications — a foundation for success
As more new employees enter the workforce and technology continues to evolve, training is a crucial way to get IT and OT professionals working together. Various training courses and opportunities are available today that cover key IIoT technologies — everything from basic, foundational knowledge to more specific product and technology training.
In addition, traditional IT-focused companies, such as Cisco, are partnering with automation vendors like Rockwell Automation to support IIoT. These partnerships provide more advanced training courses and certifications focused on equipping IT and OT workers with a shared skillset needed to manage, administer and troubleshoot industrial network systems. In addition to training programs and certifications, companies can offer employees resources to accompany formal training.
With the growing number of connected devices, IT and OT need to develop and hone new skills to design and maintain a structured, converged industrial network with optimum security. The IIoT will continue to evolve as best practices, technologies and security requirements change, and manufacturing workforces will need to evolve with them through ongoing collaboration and education.
Paul Brooks is the business development manager at Rockwell Automation on behalf of Industrial IP Advantage. Brian Fortney is the global business lead, workforce and training services at Rockwell Automation. Visit www.industrial-ip.org/en/training/courses to learn more about the e-learning courses offered by Industrial IP Advantage.
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