In the power industry, like the rest of the critical infrastructure landscape, the future is meeting the present head on, as a wave of digitalization crashes over industrial control systems that are, in many cases, decades old. Operational excellence for these companies increasingly depends on how efficiently their IT (information technology) interacts with their OT (operational technology). It is important that these two functions aren’t excessively “siloed” – IT/OT convergence is happening and organizational association is the key to its success. In large power companies, this kind of inter-departmental alignment is difficult enough. However there are also external factors that make it even harder.
OT is ubiquitous throughout energy, utilities and manufacturing, however the power industry in particular is one that represents a huge opportunity to foster operational excellence through the alignment of IT and OT functions. It is, after all, an asset-heavy industry on a vast scale with monitors and sensors that track and control both generation and delivery to the end-user.
As the use of smart meters and IoT devices is adopted widely, power companies are increasingly looking to employ analytics and digital mapping in order to allocate resources to the right place at the right time. All these initiatives must demonstrably link to increasing plant efficiency and operational excellence since they are seeking to lower their cost per megawatts or at least keep it the same. Analytics for maintenance is a key tool in improving efficiency and keeping costs down – utilities can increasingly predict what’s going to fail and react to it quickly so capacity isn’t lost. They can also plan for outages and make their turnaround much more efficient.
The importance of IT/OT convergence is really in how it enables monitoring and control of sensors and connected systems on a huge scale. It also makes analyzing the data that these complex systems produce much easier, and can be done anywhere in the world, particularly by harnessing cloud technology. However, it’s not solely about converging the technologies themselves. Businesses also need to ensure that the departments and processes are as integrated as possible.