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Critical Lessons Learned when Connecting the Enterprise

Rockwell Automation has lived The Connected Enterprise Maturity Model. We developed and validated this approach for integrating information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT). In doing so, we reached unprecedented levels of collaboration across Rockwell Automation and with suppliers and customers — linking processes and facilities in new ways, and reaping benefits in unexpected ways. Most importantly, we learned critical lessons that we can share with you:

1. Assessment — This stage of The Connected Enterprise Maturity Model is really about change management. Are people willing to innovate the processes that have led them to success? Can they envision what it will mean to leverage accurate, real-time information?

Even we were surprised by the challenges of connecting industrial automation and operations technology with legacy information technologies. The process also opened our eyes to just how many workarounds our legacy IT required (lots). The assessment stage showed what we needed to change, where our network required upgrades, how we would need to change practices and workflows, and identified potential risks. We then relied on established change management procedures to implement a strategy that could securely integrate our people, processes and technologies. Still, every change encounters resistance — so be prepared.

2. Secure and upgraded network and controls — Rockwell Automation is a global business with operations on every continent, so we expected to upgrade some controls, sensors, and infrastructures, and you should as well. You might be surprised at what your assessment uncovers, and that's a good thing — you need to find a problem before you fix a problem. We also quickly learned that we could not change everything at once; we had to prioritize upgrades by balancing short-term risks and long-term objectives. This approach allows you to fix pressing issues and still consider facility expansions and new technologies — strategically evolving a flexible IT/OT backbone that will deliver adaptable connectivity well into the future.

Another lesson we learned at this stage was how important it is to define the roles and authority of IT and OT engineers in a Connected Enterprise.

3. Defined and organized working data capital (WDC) — Get ready to be inundated with a wave of data. John Nesi, vice president market development, Rockwell Automation, likes to refer to this stage as a “famine-to-feast information evolution.” We went from having acceptable, usable OT data to an overabundance.

We developed processes that efficiently filter insights from the “nice-to-know” data that likely would not impact day-to-day operations. We also learned that new information requires new workflows, schedules, and responsibilities.

4. Analytics: During the Analytics stage, we found many ways to leverage our new IT/OT network capabilities. We also learned that we had to stop ourselves from running too many analyses. We ultimately selected persistent problems based on key performance indicators (KPIs) by location, and then connected the information to authorized recipients with authority to act. We also set up standard action protocols for our workforce that this new information would set in motion, ,minimizing the need for executive oversight and maximizing response.

Despite our best efforts, though, we still encountered “data disbelief” — individuals who insisted the data could not possibly be correct. We learned to convince naysayers by linking information, process capabilities, and KPIs — i.e., “This process is driving this outcome, and here's the data to prove it.” Most importantly, the information highlighted lead metrics that could prevent negative lag measures from occurring.

5. Collaboration: The biggest lesson we learned in the final stage was that our work — and investments — in the first four stages were more than worth it. Each step more than paid for itself. During this stage we used our experiences to assist and encourage customers and suppliers in moving forward with their own Connected Enterprises.

Collaboration allows our supply chain to collectively see and react to emerging market conditions, driving operational excellence and cost savings across the board. Our supply-chain partners are mostly supportive of our efforts. Here the lesson is patience — every collaborative endeavor takes time, especially one of this magnitude and one in which you are asking for as well as sharing proprietary information.

The other big lesson in this stage is that everyone in the IT/OT data stream — whether business units or supply-chain partners — must adhere to strict security standards. Incorporating a “defense-in-depth” approach, which adds both physical and electronic layers of enhanced security to the IT/OT infrastructure, improves the likelihood that any threats or unauthorized accesses are detected and prevented. Establishing clear scope for these protections will give others the confidence to join you, leverage domain experts across the supply chain, and share best practices.

These are lessons we learned in building our Connected Enterprise. Isn't it time you started learning some lessons of your own?


Beth Parkinson
Beth Parkinson
Market Development Director, Connected Enterprise, Rockwell Automation
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