Thoughts on Converged OT/IT Infrastructures for Food & Beverage Manufacturers

Food & beverage manufacturers today face a number of key manufacturing operational challenges. Among others, these include ensuring consistent brand and product quality, taste, and safety from batch to batch day after day, year after year…while simultaneously lowering the costs of production and packaging to compensate for rising ingredient and regulatory costs. Food & beverage plants also operate in a complex regulatory environment relative to food safety, traceability, nutrition and health, and sustainability. Supply chain challenges can also be daunting,

New solutions enabled by digital technologies and a converged OT/IT infrastructure can help. Many of the industry’s manufacturing challenges are a result of shifting market demands. With a rapidly growing population in emerging economies that is both more affluent and urban, new approaches, methods, and processes are needed. Plants must be ready to embrace a digital, traceable supply chain and enable a factory and  solutions that provide real-time visibility of performance, the ability to predict future demand and equipment failures, and the ability to measure the impact of current decisions on future operation results.

Smart Manufacturing focuses on getting information from the supply chain, such as production forecast, as well as having full traceability of operations. As a result, plants must be able to attract a modern workforce capable of deploying the latest Smart Manufacturing technologies and provide these technologies to its workers. Currently, many of these processes are operated by experienced baby boomers who make up about 50 percent of a total workforce, but are approaching retirement age. To compensate for this, food & beverage manufacturers will need to capture and manage knowledge and incorporate new workflow processes. A new workforce, mostly consisting of millennials, needs new tools and workflows to meet the challenges of flexible, agile production.

Digital transformation enables a host of technologies that can help food & beverage manufacturers enhance safety and quality. Simulation technology can be used to help design, control and operate complex processes. Companies can use simulation technology to efficiently model complex processes, validate design performance, and train operators. The result is reduced product variability, improved performance, and reduced production risks and downtime.

Supply chain complexity is one of the key concerns of food & beverage companies. The high-volume, transaction-intensive and perishable nature of the supply chain presents significant challenges. This is an area where digital technologies play a role in improving operations by providing an integrated solution for planning and scheduling. Digital technologies can bring together, for example, feedstock data management, planning, scheduling and envelope optimization activities. This can reduce operational risk and shrink the gap between plan and actual results. The result is increased end-to-end throughput and reduced logistics costs.

For key operations that are usually not well managed, such as clean in place, digital technologies enable effective monitoring and optimization. Digital technologies enables plants to collect information needed to document evidence of proper cleaning and detect causes of waste in water, chemical products or energy, as well as production lost opportunities. The result is increased plant productivity, reduced water, energy and chemical products waste; and the ability to document evidence of proper cleaning operations.

This all requires a converged operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) architecture –often leading to some “friction” between and a rapid learning curve for both IT and OT groups. Within food & beverage plants, OT/IT convergence has meant that IT personnel often have to learn what terms such as “real time,” “non-stop,” and “deterministic” mean in the operations context; and OT personnel are rapidly discovering the advantages of leveraging the latest IT-based approaches.

This OT/IT convergence trend increases the need for tighter integration and more information and analytics from all manufacturing assets, including legacy automation systems. It also contributes to the adoption of cloud computing and Big Data applications, which in turn drive the need for high-availability systems to help eliminate unscheduled downtime.

OT/IT convergence is one of the enablers of edge control, a converged control architecture that can provide the critical capability to manage manufacturing assets on premise as well as from the Cloud, depending on the plant’s needs. This includes connected control platforms with remote access, advanced automation, and operator override capabilities. Local control and firewall protection for cybersecurity are also available to maximize the benefits, especially for mission-critical applications.

Food & beverage manufacturers deploying a simplified OT/IT infrastructure can reduce both technical and business risks by providing solutions that are readily maintainable by plant operations and maintenance personnel. OT/IT infrastructure enables a very reliable integration of disparate equipment and system information for end-to-end production visibility and traceability, along with automated data collection for efficiency and analysis. A flexible and robust OT/IT infrastructure is often the easiest path to address both existing application needs, as well as achieving digital transformation initiatives. In summary, a modern OT/IT infrastructure can help food & beverage companies address their manufacturing challenges and make a positive impact to their productivity and profitability.

For more insights into this topic, you might want to register for a related ARC/Stratus webcast later this week. Here’s the link to register:

“Reprinted with permission, original blog was posted here”. You may also visit here for more such insights on the digital transformation of industry.

 About ARC Advisory Group ( Founded in 1986, ARC Advisory Group is a Boston based leading technology research and advisory firm for industry and infrastructure.

For further information or to provide feedback on this article, please


About the Author:

Craig Resnick 

Vice President, Consulting
Craig is the primary analyst for many of ARC’s automation supplier and financial services clients. Craig’s focus areas include production management, OEE, HMI software, automation platforms, and embedded systems.

Share This Post

Leave a Reply