Information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) are seemingly two very disparate disciplines. When you think of IT, you probably think of people who work at desks, on computers, with software to help do their jobs. When you think of OT, however, the image is a bit different — one of machines in the field and technology that powers smart decision making in manufacturing. While not as commonplace in the industrial business world but equally important in technology, operational tech is crucial for field service professionals to understand.
Until recently, the worlds of IT and OT have been quite separate — but that might be changing now. Sharing data across the dividing line can be very beneficial to generate greater efficiencies across the value chain of industrial companies. So how do these two schools of thought come together? Through a combination of field service management (FSM) and asset performance management (APM). The impact of these two will have a lasting effect on the industry as a whole.
Where FSM + APM = value
Let’s back up a second. We know that field service management is the way a manufacturer or an operator manages its equipment service in the field. This could be for any kind of company in any industry, because regardless of the company, the quality and efficiency of its service is what impacts the bottom line.
APM, a type of OT, on the other hand, is designed to actually monitor the health of equipment in the field. More than simply remotely monitoring the equipment, APM allows companies to compare monitored equipment data with different operating strategies and derive recommendations based on the data insight.
For example, let’s say you have a wind farm, and you’re installing a new turbine to generate more capacity. You’re torn between operating the turbine for the highest possible output and the lowest cost — but those are mutually exclusive. If only something would tell you how to best optimize the operations of the turbine for the desired outcome in the long run! That’s the idea behind APM. You can begin to look at data with an operating strategy in mind, and based on the results, adapt and enhance your plan for greater success.
From reactive to predictive service
Combining APM with FSM solutions helps shift today’s service model from reactive to predictive service, ultimately optimizing equipment maintenance and avoiding unnecessary downtime. Because in service, that’s the ultimate goal. But that gets tricky — you can’t very well send a technician out into the field every day as an insurance policy (and an unaffordable one at that). However, simply tracking data on your equipment leaves questions unanswered and doesn’t account for the strategies within your business.
That’s why the combination of monitoring, smart decisions, and efficient service delivery is a winner. It’s almost like changing the oil in a car. While you could simply follow the age-old advice of ‘every 5k miles’, that doesn’t account for the specifics of the machine (your car), your driving style, or the conditions in which you drive. On the other hand, APM combined with FSM takes into account the different types of roads, lengths of driving, tire pressure, and more — it becomes more specific, calculating an on-target date when and how your car should be serviced.
Bridging OT and IT
The thing about equipment in the field is that, if you don’t do anything, it will eventually break down. However, neither IT nor OT has enough power on its own to prevent that from happening.
As we look to the future of field service, the fusion of APM and FSM is one of the bridges between OT and IT’s capabilities, resulting in a data-driven strategy that our industry has been missing for some time.
Image credit - Wind turbine under repair © jcg_oida - Fotolia.com