The inward-looking plant control system is giving way to a wider and flatter network architecture, which requires a different cybersecurity focus. Operations technology (OT) is undergoing a sea change in goals, structure, and management—as is information technology (IT) with the integration of the plant control system with the business systems. This is making it necessary to manage enormous data flows inside the plant.
The physical plant continues to be important, but it is complemented and managed by the virtual plant, a concept that makes possible a “digital twin” of the actual plant. Management and operations can use the digital twin to experiment and improve operational efficiency. In addition, new tools and process controls are becoming available. Robots and virtual reality can be used in hazardous areas to improve operator safety, and simpler, easier-to-operate advanced process control systems are becoming common.
Outside the plant, the cloud and related applications have made the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) practical and useful. A big part of any IIoT implementation is a proliferation of new sensors installed inside and outside the plant for improving plant performance.
Open process automation (OPA) initiatives—intended to produce a common platform so controllers, sensors, and software can work together without vendor compatibility issues (Figure 1)—have been added to the mix.