2. Operational Technology (OT)

OT connects own set of various technologies to create highly reliable and stable machines

OT is the hardware and software to manage, monitor and control industrial operations. Its tasks range from monitoring critical assets to controlling robots on the shop floor. It basically keeps machines and factories running and producing the required product. OT overview

As you can see, OT has a wide array of topics to handle: from process monitoring and control, over safety and implementation concerns, to automation and maintenance.

Typical responsibilities:

  • Monitoring processes to ensure the best product quality
  • Controlling machine parameters
  • Automation of mechanical and controlling processes
  • Connecting machines and sensors for communication
  • Maintenance of machines and assets
  • Certifying machines for safety and compliance
  • Retrofitting assets to increase functionality
  • And many moreā€¦

Typical vendors for Operational Technology:

What is important in OT?

Nobody wants to build a nuclear reactor using agile “move fast, break things” principles

As promised, this is similar to what we’ve seen earlier in the Information Technology chapter

High importance

CategoryDescription
Reliability & SafetyMalfunction can result in extreme damages to human and property
Maintainability & standardsMachines typically run between 20-30 years, sometimes even 50+ years
CertificationsLegally required certifications for safety and optional certificates for reliability

Of lesser importance:

CategoryDescription
User experienceOT programmer are usually not specifically trained to supply a quality UX
Quick development cycles, e.g., agileCan result in missing out important safety elements and damage workers or machines
IT SecuritySince machines can run decades unchanged, IT security needs to be addressed outside on a network-level

What next?

Take a look at the following chapters and if you know these topics (as they will become relevant in chapter 3: Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)).


2.1 Automation pyramid

One of the central frameworks in the world of OT, is the automation pyramid, international standards ISA-95 or IEC62264. This framework will be briefly explained in this section.

2.2 Process control

How to control production machines? Programmable Logic Controller, PID controls and more

2.3 Operations Management (MES, ERP, PLM)

As referred in the chapter Automation pyramid, on the layer 3 the software system defined is MES and on layer 4 ERP and PLM. These software systems will be explained in the current section in detail.

2.4 Lean Management

Lean Management optimises processes by reducing time spent on non-value-added tasks (unnecessary operations or transport, waiting, overproduction, etc.), causes of poor quality and complications

2.5 Retrofitting

Retrofitting is the strategy used to enhance capabilities of machine. By adding sensors, the team can generate insights of a machine or a production process in an indirect manner, improving their initial capabilities.

2.6 Data Historian

Data Historians are time series databases specifically for OT purposes

Last modified October 5, 2022: Historian article (#107) (5f30dc0)