Are IT and OT the new super duo for plants?

Tom and Jerry, Batman and Robin, Mario and Luigi; some of the world’s favourite duos. Many people wouldn’t add information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) to their list of favourite duos, but the convergence of the two has revolutionised the modern factory. Here, Adrian Swindells, director of industrial computing specialist Distec, looks at how plant managers can implement IT and OT together, without any drawbacks.

Most people in industry have heard of the convergence of IT and OT. IT, which includes computers, storage and networking devices, is used to monitor electronic data. OT, which is traditionally used in industrial environments, covers industrial control systems such as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems. Plant managers are increasingly blurring the line between the two technologies, with equipment traditionally found in offices being used to monitor data in factories.

This increased data allows both plant operatives and plant managers to more closely monitor production lines, both in terms of throughput and maintenance. For example, industrial PCs can be programmed to pop up a message if a piece of equipment, such as a pump, has been constantly running for a set period of time. This gives engineers chance to check the machine for signs of wear or imminent breakdown. This preventative maintenance approach is much more cost effective than reactive maintenance, when materials or labour may either not be available or may come at a premium.

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For plant managers, IT systems allow them to export factory data to their office and use it to make strategic decisions. For example, they can view data that allows them to predict if they are on track to meet production targets or to meet shipping deadlines for an order. If this is not the case, plant managers can then view more detailed data to determine why.

Despite all the advantages of the convergence of IT and OT, plant managers need to take into account that much of the equipment used in IT applications was not originally designed for use in the industrial environment.

PCs, for example, must be industrial grade to protect them against dirt, grease and washdown. This means that plant managers will need to specify a device with sufficient ingress protection, such as the IP65 rated Nexcom industrial PCs offered by Distec, to ensure reliable performance. The IP65 rating of these PCs means the front panel protects the PC against dust and low pressure water jets.

While enterprise PCs often use the latest operating systems, most industrial PCs are still using the Windows 7 operating system. To maintain regularity across a plant, companies need to work with Microsoft-partnered industrial PC suppliers who can continue to sell the legacy systems that may no longer be available on commercial PCs.

Personnel can also be an issue in the convergence of IT and OT. Often, IT buyers may not be sensitive to the requirements of plant operatives and may not consider the practicalities of use, but plant operatives may similarly fail to engage with new IT systems in plants. It is important to have a strong consultative process with both parties when bringing in new equipment. Companies should purchase from computing specialists with industrial experience, like Distec, who can help companies choose equipment that works for everyone.

While plant managers and operatives can reap the benefits of the convergence of IT and OT, they may not be aware of some issues that are presented by using systems in factories that were previously not intended for such use. By consulting with an industrial PC specialist, companies can make IT and OT their new favourite duo.

About Distec: Distec offers a range of specialist industrial, medical and digital signage products, as well as extensive technical support. The company offers demonstrations, evaluations and loans to ensure the customer chooses the right product for their application. Distec services many different markets, including industrial, POI, medical, retail, education, kiosk and commercial. The company’s products include touch screen monitors, operator interfaces, industrial PC's, SCADA software, medical computers, digital signage and mounting solutions.


Global Political and Economic Uncertainty Create a New Breed of Digital Innovators, Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey Finds

Despite two-thirds (64 percent) of organizations adapting their technology strategy because of unprecedented global political and economic uncertainty, 89 percent are maintaining or ramping up investment in innovation, including in digital labour.

More than half (52 percent) are investing in more nimble technology platforms to help their organization innovate and adapt.

2017 05 24 100746This is according to the 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey, the world's largest survey of IT leadership. While economic uncertainty is making business planning difficult for many organizations, it is clear digital strategies have infiltrated businesses across the globe at an entirely new level. The proportion of organizations surveyed that have enterprise-wide digital strategies increased 52 percent in just two years, and those organizations with a Chief Digital Officer have increased 39 percent over last year. To help deliver these complex digital strategies, organizations also report a huge demand for Enterprise Architects - the fastest growing technology skill this year, up 26 percent compared to 2016.

Cyber security vulnerability is at an all-time high, with a third of IT leaders (32 percent) reporting their organization had been subject to a major cyber-attack in the past 24 months - a 45 percent increase from 2013. Only one in five (21 percent) say they are "very well" prepared to respond to these attacks, down from 29 percent in 2014. Despite very visible headline-grabbing attacks such as the recent WannaCry ransomware attack, the biggest jump in threats comes from insider attacks, increasing from 40 percent to 47 percent over last year.

"Making a success of technology has always been challenging, and this year's Survey says that it has just got harder still," said Albert Ellis, CEO, Harvey Nash Group. "Layered on top of astonishing advances in technology is a political and economic landscape that is dynamic and changing fast, sometimes in surprising ways. However, what is very clear is that many technology executives are turning this uncertainty into opportunity, driving their organization to become more nimble and digital. CIOs are becoming increasingly influential as CEOs and boards turn to them for help in navigating through the complexity, and the threat and opportunity, which a digital world presents."

"Organizations have moved on from a world of strategizing and talking about digital, to one in which they are actually making it happen, and we are now seeing widespread and active implementation," said Lisa Heneghan, KPMG's Global Head of Technology, Management Consulting. "The businesses we see as Digital Leaders are taking a pragmatic approach, applying technology and automation across their business, including in back office functions, to create a platform for broader transformation".

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Now in its 19th year, the Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world. Additional findings from the survey include:

Digital leadership has changed
- Almost one in five CIOs (18 percent) report their organizations have 'very effective' digital strategies.
- CIOs at these digitally-enabled organizations are almost twice as likely to be leading innovation across the business (41 percent versus 23 percent), and are investing at four times the rate of non-leaders in cognitive automation (25 percent versus 7 percent).
- Overall, the survey found almost two-thirds (61 percent) of CIOs from larger organizations are already investing or planning to invest in digital labour.

CIOs love their jobs, and are more likely to be involved at the Board level
- CIOs who are "very fulfilled" in their role is at a three-year high - rising from 33 percent in 2015 to 39 percent this year.
- For the first time in a decade, more than seven in ten CIOs (71 percent) believe the CIO role is becoming more strategic.
- 92 percent of CIOs joined a Board meeting in the past 12 months.
- However, the CIO life span is just five years or less (59 percent), although many want to stay longer.

Female CIOs receive salary boost
- In a striking development, female CIOs are far more likely to have received a salary increase than male CIOs in the past year (42 percent and 32 percent, respectively), but still, the number of women in IT leadership remains extraordinarily low at 9 percent, the same as last year.

Big data/analytics remains the most in-demand skill
- While the fastest growing demand for a technology skill this year was enterprise architecture, big data/analytics remained the most in-demand skill at 42 percent, up 8 percent over last year.

Complex IT projects - increase risk of failure monumentally
- Two thirds (61 percent) of CIOs say IT projects are more complex than they were five years ago, and weak ownership (46 percent), an overly optimistic approach (40 percent), and unclear objectives (40 percent) are the main reasons IT projects fail.
- Over a quarter (27 percent) of CIOs say that a lack of project talent is the cause of project failure, but project management skills are absent from the CIOs top list of technology skills needed in 2017, dropping a staggering 19 percent in one year.

About the Survey
The 2017 Harvey Nash/KPMG CIO Survey is the largest IT leadership survey in the world in terms of number of respondents. The survey of 4,498 CIOs and technology leaders was conducted between December 19, 2016 and April 3, 2017, across 86 countries.

About Harvey Nash
Harvey Nash has helped over half the world's leading companies recruit, source and manage the highly skilled talent they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive, global and technology driven world. With over 8,000 experts in more than 40 offices across Europe, Asia and the USA, we have the reach and resources of a global organization, whilst fostering a culture of innovation and agility that empowers our people across the world to respond to constantly changing client needs. In the Nordics we work within private and public sectors to deliver a portfolio of services including; recruitment of management and specialists, interim, assessments och IT talent solutions through NashTech and their team in Vietnam. We have offices in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Together with our sister companies Alumni and Impact Executives we are the Nordic's leading provider of complementary recruitment and leadership services, helping organisations develop their leadership and talents.

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About KPMG International
KPMG is a global network of professional services firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 152 countries and have 189,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

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For more information about the survey and to request a full copy of the results, please visit


Iptor announces new voice-activated Order Management Solution

Technology developed as part of on-going collaboration with HARMAN

Iptor Supply Chain Systems, a leader in supply chain management, planning and logistics software today announced a new technology solution, developed with HARMAN, which enables its customers to benefit from cognitive applications and voice recognition technologies.

The technology is currently being showcased at Iptor’s global series of “Connect” events and follows the recent announcement of the launch and worldwide general availability of Iptor DC1 Version 10, their flagship ERP solution, which is focused on connectivity, usability and mobility. The voice-activated order management solution - so far only available on DC1 Version 10 - is a result of a global hackathon between the two companies and is powered by HARMAN’s voice-assisted BOT framework based on the Microsoft stack using the new Iptor aperīo Open API framework. The collaboration represents the first steps in exposing different business process within Iptor solutions to the benefits of cognitive technologies.

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“This  new  solution  gives  us  the  power  to  elevate  our  customer  experience  with  voice-assisted interaction,” said Christopher Catterfeld, Iptor’s chief marketing and product officer, “Bringing these types of consumer technologies to the enterprise space is essential to help businesses compete in a highly competitive, fast moving market. It will enable customers to access the rich functionality of DC1 Version 10 using voice commands to place orders and track deliveries, ensuring they fully benefit from the solution and its connected ecosystem.”

“We’re delighted that Iptor, a leader in Supply Chain Management, leveraged our technology for this new solution,” said Sandeep Kalra, SVP and GM, HARMAN. “At HARMAN, we pride ourselves on simplifying enterprise business processes with conversational and cognitive technologies.  Our voice-assisted BOT framework, integrates cognitive interfaces with existing digital platforms making them a truly conversational enterprise.”

Iptor Supply Chain Systems, formerly International Business Systems (IBS), is a global leader in supply chain management, planning and logistics software and services. Iptor helps distribution-focused organizations solve their most complex order management and fulfilment challenges within fast-moving, multi-channel and global supply chains.

Serving 1,250 customers with 4,000 installations in more than 40 countries, Iptor Supply Chain Systems provides fully integrated enterprise solutions, with highly adaptable and robust software backed by world class support from supply chain experts. Available on-premise or as a fully managed cloud service, Iptor Supply Chain Systems offers compelling value to customers across distribution, 3PL and publishing sectors.

For more information, visit:

HARMAN ( ) designs and engineers connected products and solutions for automakers, consumers, and enterprises worldwide, including connected car systems, audio and visual products, enterprise automation solutions; and services supporting the Internet of Things.  With leading brands including AKG®, Harman Kardon®, Infinity®, JBL®, Lexicon®, Mark Levinson® and Revel®, HARMAN is admired by audiophiles, musicians and the entertainment venues where they perform around the world. More than 50 million automobiles on the road today are equipped with HARMAN audio and connected car systems. Our software services power billions of mobile devices and systems that are connected, integrated and secure across all platforms, from work and home to car and mobile. HARMAN has a workforce of approximately 30,000 people across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In March 2017, HARMAN became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.


Mobile air conditioner to wear

Functional cooling textiles of core sports and occupational safety brands use a special superabsorber fleece from BASF
Humans are born runners. Evolution once gave us the ability to overcome the distance of many kilometers through the hot savannas of Africa. In addition to the upright posture of the body and head and the optimized mechanics of legs and feet, cooling by millions of sweat glands plays a key role. Under extreme stress, they can release about one liter of sweat per hour and cool down the body by evaporation.

But as often seen in nature, this specialization comes at a price. To keep its core temperature stable, the body has to expend much energy to protect itself from over­heating. About 75 percent of the energetic processes in physical exertion are used for thermoregulation and therefore only 25 percent of the energy can be used for muscular processes such as sports or work performance.

This limits our performance even at moderate outdoor temperatures. Athletes as well as workers and many other people worldwide who are exposed to high temperatures are therefore now using active functional cooling clothing. Thanks to innovative materials, this pro­vides evaporative cooling which is individually dosable and lasts for hours. The functional cooling textiles of the E.COOLINE and IDENIXX brands, incorporating the spe­cially developed superabsorbent nonwoven fabric from BASF, offer a mobile air conditioning system to wear which effectively supports the cooling system of the human body.

Cooling vests, for example, are easy to use and can be worn like any other item of clothing once being activated by “charging” with water. The water enters the active layer – the Luquafleece® from BASF – after being rapidly absorbed and distributed through a bacteriostatic textile fabric. “The fibers of this nonwoven fabric are coated with superabsorbent polymers (SAP) through a special technology. They absorb the water in a few seconds and retain it,” explains the expert Norbert Heidinger of BASF New Business GmbH, who markets the material.

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Like a fishing net, the polymer network of the superab­sorber traps increasing numbers of water particles until its elastic restoring forces compensate the osmotic forces of the prevailing concentration gradient. In this way Luquafleece® can absorb ten times its weight in water and retain it so firmly, that the functional textiles are dry on the surface.

With higher outdoor temperatures or increasing skin temperature during sports or work activity, the water molecules firmly bound inside the functional cooling clothing absorb the thermal energy, evaporate from the large surface of the three-dimensional nonwoven structure and thereby cool down the wearer. The body sweats less and thereby saves energy that would usually be needed for thermoregulation. External cooling can therefore provide an increase in performance of up to ten percent in hot conditions. Moreover, important body parameters – such as heart rate – are improved which protects people´s health.

Athletes who work out want to have fun, while promoting their health and also testing their own limits. These limits are only reached through the interplay of mind and body, explains a prominent triathlon champion, who calls it a relationship of trust. If the head wants to increase perfor­mance, it has to learn how to interpret the body's signals correctly. You must not stop your efforts too early, nei­ther exceed your own capabilities.

Relief of circulatory and metabolic stress to protect health for hours
The functional clothing only cools the body to the extent required by the prevailing situation. The intensity of evaporative cooling adapts to the surrounding tempera­ture and exertion. Thus no negative cooling effects can occur. “After a while, you even don't notice the cooling anymore because the body is air-conditioned,” is how Gabriele Renner CEO of the manufacturing company “pervormance international GmbH”, from Ulm (Ger­many), describes the benefits. “You sweat less and thereby relieve the load on the cardiovascular system, metabolism and energy balance.” Depending on the out­door and body temperature, the cooling effect persists for up to 20 hours – and any other clothing stays dry.

Since the World Football Championship in 2014 in Brazil, functional cooling textiles have been used at many inter­national sporting events worldwide. For example, the national football teams from Switzerland, Ireland and the USA nowadays use these cooling vests and headgear to improve their recovery during the half-time interval or before energy-intensive extra time.

But not only top athletes are improving their health and performance with active functional cooling clothing. Many companies also use it to protect their employees from the hazards connected with overheating and overexertion.

With the E.COOLINE and IDENIXX brands, the idea of mobile, simple and effective cooling has therefore been successfully implemented and marketed. Apart from innovative materials, the environmentally friendly because bionic system only requires water and the heat the user wants to get rid of anyway. “We compensate the CO2 volume generated over the entire production chain by financing climate projects on the same scale,” says Gabriele Renner, indicating that she has not only the individual body climate in mind, but also the world climate while operating a future-oriented, climate-neutral company.

“Cooling vests improve the health and safety of employees”
Interview with Gabriele Renner, CEO of the company “pervormance international GmbH” from Ulm (Germany)

What advantages offers the BASF product Luquafleece® for you?
In this joint project, it was particularly important for us to obtain a washable cooling product which is also hard-wearing and hygienic. The three-dimensional nonwoven fabric with its special fiber structure also offers an enormously large surface area capa­ble of delivering 600 watts per liter of cooling energy through the evaporating water. Through our “cool to go” principle, the material generates a rapid and perceptible cooling effect even in extreme environmental conditions.

What areas of application of the cooling system are particularly important?
At present the main application is in the field of occupational health and safety, because many people worldwide have to work at high environmental temperatures, partly also because of climate change. The resulting cardiovascular strain, concentration problems and states of exhaustion impair health and safety at work. Studies have also shown that the productivity of companies is thereby reduced. Both can be improved by using our functional cooling textiles.

Where do you see further potential for air conditioning functional clothing in future?
Medicine is definitely another field of application in the future. Here we have already shown that we can significantly improve quality of life of people affected by multiple sclerosis with our cooling vests. There are also other valuable uses such as treating menopausal complaints like hot flushes or reducing fever with our calf coolers, to mention only two. We also have projects under development in the fields of orthopedics and even beauty medicine.

Luquafleece® as problem solver for wound healing and moisture management
Innovation for wound healing: BASF together with OSNovative Systems, Inc. have developed an innovative universal wound dressing which is suitable for all types of wounds and creates ideal conditions for wound heal­ing. The wound dressings are marketed under the name Enluxtra® in the USA. This disruptive technology based on the superabsorber nonwoven material Luquafleece® provided by BASF accelerates the wound healing process of most wounds and thereby reduces medical treatment costs.

Passive seat temperature control:
In the lightweight comfort seat of the concept vehicle “smart forvision” from the Recaro company, as well as in office chairs of the Vitra company, the BASF nonwoven fabric Luquafleece® reduces moisture in the seat and on its surface. In this way, prolonged sitting remains pleasant even on stressful workdays and during long car journeys. This moisture management also plays an important role in electronics, which represents another future application for this innovative material. Moreover, intelligent ventilation elements for shoes, offered by the Hamburg company IQTEX, are already based on the moisture-absorbent fleece. Depending on the weather conditions, these elements are either breathable or watertight.


Standard HMIs used to reconfigure safety control functions

Using ABB’s safety PLC, standard HMIs such as control panels and mobile devices can be used to alter functional safety control functions in industrial applications.

ABB has developed a method of using standard human machine interface (HMI) products such as control panels, industrial PCs and mobile devices to reconfigure safety control functions.

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Using ABB’s AC500-S safety programmable logic controller (PLC), operators of equipment such as harbor and factory cranes, hoists, elevators, airport passenger bridges, automatic guided vehicles (AGVs), robots, mining and pulp & paper machinery can select, modify and amend their safety control functions. This allows them to achieve high functional safety standard requirements while benefiting from the convenience and low costs of using standard HMIs.

Operators of these industrial applications need to reconfigure their safety control functions to adapt to changed application conditions and to optimize machine productivity. These reconfigurations, known as safety actions, are often performed using mechanical or electro-mechanical mode selector switches connected to the digital safety inputs of a safety PLC.

This method suffers from limited user-friendliness, inability to make modifications to switch layout and function, limited number of selection options and relatively high costs for the mode selector switches and digital safety input channels.

ABB solves these challenges by allowing standard HMIs, such as control panels, industrial PCs and mobile devices to interface with an ABB AC500-S safety PLC to carry out these safety actions.

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Standard HMIs that support at least two different Ethernet based communication protocols can be used. ABB recommends Modbus©/TCP and ABB ETH. A mean time between failures (MTBF) greater than 22.5 years is required for standard HMIs to satisfy PL d (ISO 13849-1) requirements. HMIs with lower MTBFs may only satisfy PL c (ISO 13849-1) requirements.

Benefits of using standard HMIs include cost savings on safety I/O channels and mode selector switches. The ability to select from a wide range of HMI products offers the user independence from any one vendor, a larger range of input options and greater flexibility to adapt the connections and layout of the HMIs.

The method allows connecting to high and low level safety systems remotely. One example is in the selection of a crane, allowing it to be controlled remotely using the emergency stop located on the operator desk. A network links the AC500-S safety PLC in the control room with the safety PLCs at the cranes. The user in the control room can select, using standard HMI equipment, which of the cranes will stop if the emergency stop button is activated on the remote operator control station. Pressing the remote emergency stop button on the operator’s desk will therefore stop the selected crane only. Independent of the remote emergency stop function, all cranes still have their own local emergency stop controls.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a pioneering technology leader in electrification products, robotics and motion, industrial automation and power grids, serving customers in utilities, industry and transport & infrastructure globally. Continuing more than a 125-year history of innovation, ABB today is writing the future of industrial digitalization and driving the Energy and Fourth Industrial Revolutions. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 132,000 employees.