What is the logic behind IT 1

This is how IT and OT differ

As before, industrial companies in Germany view digital platforms in their operations as critical - this is a core result of a survey by the industry association Bitkoms among 502 German companies with more than 20 employees in April 2020. IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things) could be used by German industry help to improve their lead in global markets. In the Bitkom study, however, 41 percent of those questioned stated that they "see digital platforms as a risk for their own business". This contrasts with 37 percent who see it as an opportunity. However, they are not so critical of digitization per se. 96 percent of the participants in the study rated this as an opportunity, only 3 percent consider it a risk.

Motivation for a changed situation

The increasing digitization of production, starting with MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems), through "intelligent" machines and systems to smart products and the often discussed digital twin, leads to a change in the tasks for all production-related areas. At the beginning of the digital revolution, classic IT took on these new tasks. However, due to increased digitization, it is reaching its limits.

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On the other hand, the tasks in the production planning and control departments (PPS) are changing dramatically. For a long time, the scope was determined by layout and value stream design. In many cases, the selection of machine suppliers came to an end. Of course, the processes in the digital factory have been planned for some time. This was done more or less intensively in the past.

This type of activity is not a thing of the past, but a digital rethink must start. The "Smart Factory" also requires activities and qualifications that go beyond this, as well as a changed understanding of the roles of all those involved, including the IT department.

Definition of information technology

The term IT (information technology, information technology) has been established for decades. There are correspondingly recognized definitions for this, which are always somewhat different in detail, but which essentially describe the entire spectrum and thus all technologies for data processing using software. Hardware and the associated communication technology are of course also part of this. Embedded systems, however, are deliberately excluded.

This definition is now to be expanded somewhat in the context of a "Smart Factory" and its challenges. The starting point is the ISA95 model, see Figure 1:

The model has already been declared dead several times. However, it is more than helpful and sufficient for determining one's position and thus for orientation. An expansion of the ISA95 model is necessary due to the new topics relating to the smart factory.

The role of IT in companies

The above definition and the ISA95 model also give rise to their role in the company. IT is responsible for all core systems in the company and their control, such as ERP and PLM - i.e. for levels 5 and 4 in the ISA95 model, see Figure 2:

Communication topics such as WLAN or 5G fall into the domain of IT due to the general nature of the topic and the many experiences already gained there, the same applies to the topic of cyber security. This is not a new topic either. However, due to increasing networking and vertical integration, it is becoming more explosive.

This brings us to the subject of the cloud. In the smart factory, every CPS (Cyber ​​Physical System) or AGV (driverless transport vehicle) as well as smart machines and systems, but also sensitive robots, can communicate with the company's own cloud or with the cloud of the respective manufacturer. To what extent this is wanted and useful, everyone should decide for themselves. Regardless of whether it makes sense, IT is responsible for secure and high-performance connectivity at the end of the day.

Things get difficult with the digital twin. First of all, it is necessary to determine which twin it is. In the case of the production twin (often also referred to as the performance twin), all data that arise in the course of the production of an individual product is subsumed. Owing to the heterogeneity of the data, they are often stored in a big data system. Thus, the twin falls into the domain of IT (level 4).

It is easier with the topic of the digital factory. It is on level 4. This is also where the simulation of the production processes is located.

Information technology threats and security

The dangers of cyber attacks and, at the same time, the demands on information technology (IT) and IT security are increasing. In the meantime, the relevance of the topic is also reaching the boardrooms of the companies.

Not only the mobile end devices and, if necessary, their private use, but also the increasing networking of "everything with everyone" in combination with increasingly sophisticated attack strategies do not make life easy for cyber defense specialists. It is therefore not surprising that "upgrading" is taking place here too.

Machine learning helps, for example, to quickly detect attacks. In addition, it is important to make access to the company's own cloud and external cloud environments secure. Company data needs to be secured and encrypted. Machines must be uniquely authenticated in the company network. As a result, the range of IT tasks is growing enormously.

Definition of operation technology

In contrast to the terminology used in IT, OT (Operation Technology) is a very new term. Gartner put it this way: "OT is hardware and software that detects or causes change through the direct monitoring and / or control of physical devices, processes and events in the company."

An alternative definition to Gartner and much more practice-oriented: OT includes the production-related control of all operational processes of CPS (Cyber ​​Physical Systems) in the Smart Factory.

Thus, according to the expanded ISA95 model, the OT is responsible for levels 3, 2 and 1. In the context of a smart factory, CPS are added here as "new" elements.

The role of OT in companies

According to the above definition, the OT is clearly located in the specialist area, or more precisely: in the area of ​​production planning and control (PPS). Increasing digitization and its challenges also result in new topics for both the planning departments and the operational helmsmen

The hardware-related devices and products in the form of CPS are of central importance for the smart factory. They provide the data that form the starting point for the corresponding optimization of production processes, but also for new business models. Connectivity plays a central role here. This connectivity is at the same time a challenge for the central IT department, because the "smart devices" generate vast amounts of data, often in the terabyte range. In addition, it is important to secure the communication - mostly M2M (machine to machine) and via OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) between the individual CPS in real time. New controls, such as those from Siemens, can easily connect to their own cloud-based IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) platform.

Edge computing also falls under the domain of OT. This also includes the machine-level evaluation of the data using AI (artificial intelligence). So we have reached the gray area of ​​IT. IT is responsible for the big data systems.

Hazards and Safety Operation Technology

In industrial systems, the risk potential is structured completely differently than in classic corporate IT. The failure of machines and systems (e.g. in the event of a power failure) can cause considerable damage. Milliseconds are often enough here. In addition, unlike corporate IT systems, people can be at risk from system failure or malfunction.

And that is still not the "end of the flagpole". In many cases, outdated systems still exist in the production environment. Windows 98 or Windows XP can be encountered there, with the associated security problems. Thus, the risk potential is extremely diverse. Classical approaches only have a very limited effect, regardless of the age of the systems. Real-time requirements prevail in production - not just for communication. In addition, the systems must be available around the clock (24/7). This means that there are no service times available for updates.

With the use of CPS (Cyber ​​Physical Systems), the risk potential increases even further in the production-related environment. Hacking SCADA systems (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is almost a good thing in the relevant scene. The increasing networking of individual machines and systems and with new business models (example: service instead of buying machines, systems or driverless transport systems) creates a new level of transparency. Fired on by the tough real-time requirements and topics such as digital twin, a conflict of goals arises that is becoming increasingly difficult to resolve. Conventional mechanisms known from corporate IT for defending against cyber attacks have long ceased to work in the hard real-time world of production.

Due to the increasing practice of vertical integration, holistic approaches are required to ensure effective protection against cyber attacks in companies. This closes the circle between IT and OT. Just as IT cannot cope with production-related challenges, OT can cope with security requirements on its own.

Both combined in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

Both areas, IT and OT, have to work hand in hand, and this need to work together is becoming more and more important in the course of increasing digitalization. This does not only apply to cyber security. Another overlap is Advanced Analytics (AA for short) and thus Big Data, as already briefly mentioned. Machine and system data from the CPS form the basis for AA applications. CPS are the responsibility of OT, while big data and AA are clearly part of IT. The OT thus provides the data for optimizing the production processes in IT. Another aspect is added by the simulation of the production planning. This is an integral part of an MES (Manufacturing Execution System), or it should be. In many cases, however, it forms an independent IT system and thus falls into the field of classic IT.

Automated guided vehicle systems (AGVs) and the associated automated guided vehicles (AGVs) also represent a gray area. The decisive factor here is how they are controlled; centralized or decentralized? In the case of decentralized control, the control logic is located in the AGV (i.e. the responsibility of the OT).

In the logistical area in particular, however, it is controlled centrally. In addition, AGVs are a central component of modular production systems - so-called CPPS (Cyber ​​Physical Production Systems). Since production systems are clearly the responsibility of the specialist department (i.e. production), at first glance it appears that the AGVS and CPPS required are assigned to the OT and thus to level 3 in the above illustration.

On closer inspection, however, a different picture emerges. So far, the operational control of production has been carried out by an MES and is therefore located on level 4. AGVs are CPS (Cyber ​​Physical Systems), i.e. hardware-related systems. These are clearly the responsibility of the OT and thus on level 2.

The higher-level control system in the form of the AGV is part of level 4. One could see the MES and the machines controlled by it as an analogy. Control of the AGV is therefore the responsibility of IT. Due to the very complex control algorithms, this assignment makes perfect sense. These algorithms are comparable to those from planning tools.

The production system is also mapped in an MES - as far as it makes sense in terms of software. In practice, however, AGVs are often assigned to OT. This results from the already mentioned strong relation to the production system. With the decentralized control approaches already mentioned, things get a little more difficult. According to our logic, they are on level 2 and therefore belong to the OT. To what extent this makes sense needs to be discussed.

A similar picture emerges with IIOT platforms (Industrial Internet of Things). These are operated by the company's IT. The CPS (from the OT) are also connected to such platforms. The boundaries between OT and IT are becoming more and more blurred here.


More important than the discussion about demarcation or responsibilities are the consequences that result from the increasing digitization of production. Job profiles are changing dramatically, new job profiles are emerging. This mainly applies to production planning and control (PPS). Whether a Bachelor graduate will be able to monitor and operate modular production in the future is up to the reader's imagination.

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Such tasks will definitely be much more demanding in the future. The fact is that production planning will have to build up more and more know-how in the field of smart technologies in the future - regardless of "what name you give the child". It has to redefine itself, at least in the medium term.

Instead of hardware in the form of machines and systems, more and more investments will be made in software in the future. Such approaches also influence the production system (keyword: modular production). It is important not only to introduce all the new techniques, but also to use them in order to raise the desired potential.

This brings us to production control. Here, too, it is important to build up massive know-how. Otherwise, production controllers will permanently intervene in the new control algorithms, although this is not necessary (or vice versa). The new hardware-based systems (CPS) must also be maintained. This also ensures that the maintenance of the systems never gets boring - not even on the know-how side.

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The use of smart technologies also has a serious impact on the functionality of an MES. The more intelligence there is on levels 3, 2 and 1 in the expanded ISA95 model, the less functionality is left on the MES level. This leads to a simplified introduction of MES, but unfortunately also to an increasingly complex introduction of the levels below. Alternatively, CPPS (Cyber ​​Physical Production Systems) will be introduced.

Value stream kinematics

A comparatively new trend is the value stream kinematics. It was developed by the Karlsruhe Institute of Kinematics (KIT) to make production in the smart factory even more flexible. Standardized robots, the so-called kinematics, are used to resolve the conflict between "rigid production lines with high productivity or flexible production with low efficiency". KIT works with Siemens in the field of control technology and the machine tool manufacturer GROB as a hardware developer and integrator to improve the kinematics.

“Production technologies have to meet the changing conditions of the market and the constantly increasing technological requirements. Our goal is to identify and develop innovative solutions for new processes and requirements, ”explains Professor Jürgen Fleischer, head of the wbk Institute for Production Technology and initiator of value stream kinematics.


In the smart factory, the integration of IT in OT is increasing. Nonetheless, the two areas can still be clearly demarcated from one another. Of course, you can always discuss the assignment of specific individual topics to IT or OT. But regardless of the assignment: economic potentials only arise when they work together, and that's ultimately what digital transformation is all about.

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