Survey: IT/OT collaboration a priority for manufacturers

July 24, 2020
Plant process management deemed critical for plant safety and optimization, according to 451 Research.

Global software developer eschbach in July announced new research findings for process industry manufacturers that shows IT and OT collaboration using plant process management solutions (PPM) has become an investment priority.

The survey, which was sponsored by Eschbach — a provider of digital manufacturing solutions in the pharmaceutical, chemical and food and beverage manufacturing sectors — was conducted by 451 Research.

According to a July 21 news release from eschbach, the top-ranked priorities cited by survey respondents for a PPM investment were:

  • Capturing and sharing best practices for worker safety
  • A platform to record real-time incidents for reporting and corrective action
  • Broader collaboration and communication among production teams and managers
  • Platform to provide interactive production loss accounting

“In the drive toward the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) over the past few years, the greatest focus has been on instrumenting machinery,” eschbach CEO Andreas Eschbach said in the news release.  “Due to IIoT ignoring human factors, now comes a realization that collaboration between humans and machines must become a priority, particularly in shift management. Industrial enterprises need to equip the people tasked with using and managing machinery in the overall process so that they optimize plant operations and ensure worker safety.”

Since the process industry has been slow in its digital transformation, it is not surprising that 42% of respondents said they were somewhat to very interested in a packaged PPM solution.   With worker safety and process optimization cited as key issues, as supported by 86% of respondents relaying that one or more safety incidents are caused by a communications breakdown, it makes sense why PPM would become such a high priority. 

In addition, more than half of the respondents noted that process optimization using shift data makes a big difference. Almost 60% of industry decision makers prefer centralized software-as-a-service (SaaS) model with varying degrees of customization, which also supports the use of PPM. In fact, PPM is seen as an important data source for artificial intelligence (AI), according to  56% of survey respondents, who also indicated they are using or planning to use PPM data as an input to AI. 

“Our survey found clear disconnects between IT and OT, with nearly half of OT respondents indicating that they rarely work together with their IT counterparts. Meanwhile, less than 20% of IT leaders believe they cooperate closely with OT. These groups have different perspectives on the core challenge in shift management. IT views the inability to consume or share captured data as the main issue, while OT cites the inability to reconcile shift data with machine logs,” Ian Hughes, Senior Analyst for the Internet of Things practice at 451 Research, said in the news release.

The survey revealed that with shift handovers communication is critical as to what data (if any) is captured to aid in the handover as well as how it is distributed to operational stakeholders.  Shift handovers have become particularly vital due to social distancing as well as COVID-19, often requiring IT/OT staff to work remotely while essential employees remain in the plant. 

There is a lot of opportunity for process improvements with only about 40% of survey respondents citing they use software or automation to capture and share shift data. The remainder surveyed confided they routinely capture data manually, sometimes driven by certain events or shift-by-shift.  While 38% indicated a manual but ad hoc capturing of data, either event-by-event or shift-by-shift.  

Survey Methodology

eschbach commissioned 451 Research to conduct an independent survey designed to provide current insights into the state of play, gaps, expectations and awareness of PPM, as well as future needs for it in the marketplace. The survey gathered responses from 300 decision-makers in the process industry, across a split of IT and OT roles, with the majority representing companies based in the US and with over $1bn in revenue. Surveyed organizations range in size from 500 to over 100,000 employees and operate in various vertical markets.

About eschbach

Based in Germany, with U.S. operations in Boston, eschbach develops software for interactive management, transparent communication and documentation. Our solutions provide a new level of networking in manufacturing operations. The company’s award-winning Shiftconnector solution is used worldwide by leading production and supply companies such as Bayer and DuPont. For more information about eschbach, visit

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