Bridging the IT/OT skills gap
For some time, industrial manufacturing companies have been looking for ways to bring together the seemingly divergent needs of enterprise networking systems and the real-time requirements of plant floor communications systems. While it’s hard enough to bridge these technologies from an engineering standpoint, finding the people with the crossover training and expertise to understand the needs of these two areas of networking is even more difficult. With the convergence of enterprise and industrial networking systems taking on an ever-increasing role in today’s “Internet of Things” (IOT), the demand for this technology has been growing faster than the supply of people technically qualified to design, build and maintain these integrated networking systems.
Last year, Rockwell Automation and Cisco Systems combined their resources to create an educational program called “Managing Industrial Networks with Cisco Networking Technologies,” along with a Cisco Industrial Networking Specialist (IMINS) certification. The entry-level course provides the foundational skills needed to manage and administer networked, industrial control systems.
To continue the educational path, Rockwell Automation and Cisco recently announced a five-day, hands-on “Managing Industrial Networks for Manufacturing with Cisco Technologies” (IMINS2) course and a CCNA (Cisco-certified Network Associate) Industrial certification exam. The course provides analysis of EtherNet/IP architecture with CIP (Common Industrial Protocols), ProfiNet knowledge and configuration, wireless and security technologies implementation and advanced troubleshooting. The CCNA Industrial certification represents the second level of achievement on Cisco’s educational pyramid and ensures operations technology (OT) and IT professionals have the skill sets to design, manage and operate converged industrial networks. Cisco’s pyramid has five layers, starting with entry on the bottom and building up to associate, professional, expert and architect.
“The skills gaps are increasing because the skills are not evolving as rapidly as the technology,” says Sudarshan Krishnamurthi, senior manager, product management & marketing, Cisco Services. “We partnered with Rockwell Automation, which has expertise in OT and control systems, and brought in subject matter experts from Rockwell’s staff as well as from their customers. Then, we conducted a job impact analysis where we went through the roles of the control engineer and how they have evolved over the years—especially with the IP and networking getting onto the plant floor.”
When the analysis was finished, the group came up with a blueprint of all the tasks and skills control engineers need to deploy IP-based devices on the plant floor. “This certification curriculum includes lab-based training, as well as an assessment to evaluate the engineers’ skills after they go through the training,” adds Krishnamurthi. “Individuals with this certification are ready to take on the IT/OT convergence challenge we are seeing on the manufacturing plant floor.”
Last year’s entry-level course (or Phase 1 as Krishnamurthi calls it) was attended by a number of early adopters. The food and beverage industry represented 27 percent of the total numbers from all manufacturing fields. Individuals with a wide variety of job titles took the course—from control engineers and maintenance supervisors to several from corporate IT. “The reason we’re seeing this [diversity], I think, is that organizations are still grappling with who is responsible for taking ownership and managing the industrial network,” explains Krishnamurthi. Some processors may be lucky enough to have one or more employees who are well versed in both IT and OT, but is this usually the case? “No, it’s not, and we do see organizations adopting this strategy as leading edge,” answers Glenn Goldney, global business manager, training services, Rockwell Automation. Goldney recalls one organization in the food and beverage industry that has created a new position called a manufacturing information technologist (MIT), which he describes as a true representation of convergence, which the new course addresses.
“The courses are not company or technology specific,” says Goldney. “We are looking at the job role, and we recognize the diversity of installed-base technology on the plant floors. We provide individuals responsible for owning and managing their industrial networks with the skill sets to do that.”
“Managing Industrial Networks for Manufacturing with Cisco Technologies” (200-601) includes IP networking coverage (QoS, IP addressing, NAT, VLANs, multicast and more), CIP-based networks (e.g., EtherNet/IP and Rockwell proprietary networks), Siemens ProfiNET (ProfiSAFE, SIMATIC STEP 7, alarms, etc.), security, wireless devices and troubleshooting.
For more information, call 414-382-2000.