IT/OT convergence may help overcome manufacturing shortages in semiconductor plants

IT-OT convergence may help overcome manufacturing shortages in semiconductor plants

Semiconductor plants can alleviate the effects of the ongoing global shortage of semiconductor manufacturing by optimizing their factory’s front- and back-end strategies, using effective convergence of information technology and operational technology (IT/OT) systems to drive productivity, according to a Schneider Electric executive.

IT/OT convergence is a clear way forward for semiconductor plants and their manufacturers that are in pursuit of improved data processing, automation, and reduced energy consumption,” Vincenzo Salmeri, Schneider Electric’s vice president for commercial and industrial secure power division, wrote in a LinkedIn post on Tuesday. “Industrial transformation is progressing at lightning pace, and hence, automation through the convergence of IT and OT will support industry players on this journey and provide them with the agility and competitive edge that they need,” he added. 

The ongoing shortage of semiconductors has led a crisis across verticals, from the chip-reliant automotive industry’s production headed towards a slowdown or complete halt, to graphic cards meant for computers and consoles ending up being scalped, as companies compete with cryptocurrency miners trying to cash in on the asset’s recent meteoric rise in value. 

Semiconductor plants are factories, where devices such as Integrated Circuits (IC) are manufactured. These chips are embedded in modern electronic devices and technologies, used in a range of applications from electronic products and IT hardware to defense technology, industrial electronics, medical electronics, automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“Operational performance will see an improvement as production uptime and sustainability is maximised with applied analytics, accurate process modelling, and real-time decision support,” according to Salmeri. “Industrial automation is progressing at lightning speed, and businesses will require automation systems that can keep up with the current rate of advancement, while at the same time fight to stay agile. The key to achieving this is to have and leverage business data in operation decisions as well as operational data in business decisions,” he added.

Cisco and Schneider Electric have earlier worked together to develop an OT/IT Industrial Automation Reference Architecture that enables a converged and secure OT/IT production ecosystem. The architecture helps customers securely combine business and process data to yield insights, which guide the way to new levels of industrial performance.

Salmeri said that the IT/OT Industrial Automation Reference Architecture can be used to improve operational performance, as well as maximize production uptime and sustainability using applied analytics, accurate process modeling, and real-time decision support.

“Another advantage of combining IT and OT is the assurance of production integrity and safety by embedding cyber security within the OT environment. This reduces the cyber-attack surface, so the cybersecurity team can more rapidly respond to threats while complying with industry regulations,” he added.

Having IT and OT operate together, rather than in their respective silos, also makes it easier to implement edge computing, which has in recent times become a powerhouse tool of processing and storage power necessary for Industrial Edge automation.

Industry 4.0 delivers a modern, smarter production model that merges real and virtual worlds and is based on cyber-physical systems (CPS) and cyber-physical production systems (CPPS). This helps to increase business agility, enable cost-effective production of customized products, lower overall production costs, enhance product quality and increase production efficiency, in addition to delivering newer levels of automation and automated decision making that will mean faster responses to production needs and much greater efficiency. 

“Industrial Edge can aid manufacturers to properly measure asset performance, rapidly identify problem areas, and make changes in real-time to improve operations and deliver the shortest possible ROI,” Salmeri wrote. “This speed is possible due to how Edge Computing overcomes the issues of centralised computing, including high latency and the bandwidth bottleneck, by bringing processing closer to the data’s source: to the manufacturing plant itself, instead of a data centre across the world,” he added.

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