Over the years, we have expanded our service offerings from electrical construction and engineering to instrumentation and plant floor automation. Our goal is to continue working with customers to better understand their needs and how we can add the most value.
Each one of these service offerings has continued to evolve over time in an effort to stay current, gain efficiency, and take advantage of new technology. One area that has changed significantly over the past several years is the infrastructure required on the plant floor. Initially, when automation was put in place, many called it a relay replacer. The plant floor “network” was just wires running amongst the devices on the plant floor to a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), which, in turn, controlled those devices. The status of the equipment was then graphically represented on a rudimentary computer in a control room. And, basically, that is where it stopped. Fast-forward to today; think about the amount of data that is captured on the plant floor – some through a PLC, but much of it not. That data is accumulated, represented in multiple ways, and shared with people all over the world.
The industry has changed significantly in just a few years. In the early stages of this change, Interstates created a group called Manufacturing IT (MIT). The main emphasis of that group was to help create the infrastructure needed on the plant floor to support all of the data collection. An increasing need for cyber security followed, as did the ability to analyze vast amounts of data for customers. While some of the tools used in the commercial space (think banks, insurance, retail, and healthcare) can be used in the industrial space, they cannot be applied the same way, and the risks are significantly higher. Because of those differences, what was once considered “IT” on the plant floor is now referenced as Operational Technology, or “OT.” While there are similarities between IT and OT, there are some important differences as well. For instance, one misapplied Microsoft update could take down an entire operating facility.
To acknowledge this expansion and change in needs, we have decided it is time to better identify the additional services we provide. Our group handling what was traditionally basic MIT is now called Operational Technology Infrastructure and Security. They have expanded their services to provide design, installation, security, and support for the hardware and software systems that control and monitor equipment and processes used in industrial facilities and plants. The challenges unique to these environments require solutions focused on keeping systems running securely and ensuring production up-time.
Adapting this service and its name to recognize vital changes in the industry exemplifies how Interstates continues to live out our three why’s: providing opportunities for our people, pursuing a better way, and making a difference with our clients.