The IT/OT Executive Series introduces IT/OT topics that define the high-level key areas that should be considered and discussed with your IT/OT team or service provider as part of any industrial and/or infrastructure automation system today. This series is intended for executives, directors and managers who are embarking on initiatives or projects involving Information & Operational Technology (IT/OT) and want to understand the underlying terminologies, technologies and major considerations for implementing these complex systems.
IT – Information Technology – combines all necessary technologies for information processing
OT – Operational Technologies – supports physical value creation and/or manufacturing processes
IT/OT – Combination of IT and OT for the purposes of providing automated manufacturing and/or infrastructure facilities
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
This often used saying holds particularly true when it comes to instrumentation. Instrumentation is the term for describing any device used to measure, monitor or control some process. At the very fundamental level of any advanced IT/OT system is instrumentation. Well-defined, reliable and repeatable instrumentation is critical to measuring and controlling systems safely, reliably and efficiently.
So many projects overlook the holistic importance of properly instrumenting systems as they typically focus on the measurement that is used to control the system and neglect other measurements needed to maintain, optimize and manage performance. Some key things to consider with your IT/OT team or service provider as part of the broader set of instrumentation requirements are:
- What level of Control/Monitoring is required? (This will determine how much instrumentation is required and the type of instrumentation.)
- What type of System Health Monitoring is required? (How do you know if your systems are working correctly and how do you quickly and accurately diagnose problems?)
- What type of Production measurement and monitoring is required? (How do you measure and accurately track Operational Benchmarking?)
- What type of Quality measurement and monitoring is required? (Are there instruments in place to measure the quality of product or level of service?)
- What type of Availability measurement and monitoring is required? (How do you know that a system is working or available to perform its function?)
- What type of WAGES measurement and monitoring is required? (WAGES –Water, Air, Gas, Electricity, Steam measuring)
Although most of the above questions typically pertain to OT functions, IT plays a role in this discussion too as they generally provide the underlying system infrastructure that will need to be instrumented so it can be properly monitored for performance and reliability (e.g. servers, networks).
The instrumentation technologies available today go well beyond this article and there are many organizations and associations dedicated to manufacturing, specifying and standardizing these technologies (e.g. the International Society of Automation). However, some of the high-level technology considerations to discuss from an IT/OT perspective are:
- Is there a safety function related to the instrumentation?
- What level of reliability is required? Is diversity or redundancy required in the measurement?
- Is there a requirement for wireless instrumentation? If so, will the infrastructure reliably support this initiative?
- What protocols and communication standards does the instrumentation support? Does it integrate with and follow your standards?
- What data does the instrument provide? How is data managed from these instruments?
- What standardized tools are available to manage these instruments?
The above information should serve as a quick checklist of things to consider and discuss with your IT/OT team or services provider and other stakeholders when embarking on initiatives or projects with respect to instrumentation. Remember – if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.