Is a middle layer the key to IT/OT integration?


Moving data between IT and OT systems is a key element of digital integration, but far from straightforward for most manufacturers. Is a middle layer the key to IT/OT integration between the plant floor and the enterprise systems?

Christian Nomine, of Mitsubishi Electric Europe explains how providing a middle layer between the two gives manufacturers the tools they need.

The goal is to improve productivity, product quality, asset availability and plant utilisation. Moreover, it makes the production better able to meet the real-time demand requirements of customers. It builds on growing networks of advance IIoT devices gathering data from machines and sensors across the plant’s operations.

Why does this need a middle layer?

The answer lies in the way IT and OT platforms have evolved to deal with different types of data and processing requirements. The OT world operates in real-time with high processing speeds. In contrast, the IT world operates at much greater sampling times, from minutes to hours or longer.

Furthermore, neither is set up to translate and interpret the data received from the other in a way that can have a direct impact on the plant floor operations in real-time. Rather than delivering high volumes of unfiltered data, the IT system needs the relevant information to drive operational improvements.

Is Cloud the answer?

Protocols like OPC UA can provide a direct link from the shop floor, through the higher-level systems and on to the Cloud. It is also possible to aggregate, manipulate and store large data volumes in the Cloud. But it is not the right platform to turn knowledge into action for the production operations. This needs real-time aggregation and analytics that close to the plant at the OT/IT bridge.

IT/OT integration

A better solution for OT/IT integration is a processor designed for bridging this gap. One that forms an intermediate layer between the shop floor and the higher-level business systems. Their data analysis capability provides a simple interface between the IT and OT worlds

Mitsubishi Electric’s MELIPC edge processor offers this functionality combined with OPC UA compatibility. It supports data aggregation and pre-processing to create valuable information for the systems that need it. And it connects the shop floor with higher-level IT systems such as MES and ERP platforms.

It performs real-time data analysis using AI algorithms, and machine learning for more effective data handling. The MELIPC also improves production efficiencies by only transferring the information needed. It incorporates a suite of analytical tools, Statistical Process Control as well as AI functionality

The MELIPC provides a real time data logging and processing environment in a ruggedised industrial form factor. By using real-time information flow, it can drive the production systems’ decisions. By delivering IT/OT integration and bridging the IT and OT layers, it enables the event-driven architecture that defines smart manufacturing.