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All the ways Eli Lilly benefits from its IT/OT integration

By Keith Higgins VP of Digital Transformation, Rockwell Automation
Keith Higgins

Data is critical for making real-time, informed decisions. Data silos make it impossible for users and systems to access the critical data needed to make those decisions. While early digital transformation efforts focused on eliminating data silos, organizations must expand to eliminate organizational silos to execute successful digital transformation initiatives.

The historical divide between the teams responsible for information technologies (IT) and operational technologies (OT) is a prime example, and one that life sciences leader Eli Lilly took steps to unify longer than 10 years ago.

At Eli Lilly, IT and OT began as separate and isolated domains, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s their boundaries began to overlap, causing the organization to experience several challenges. For example, IT solutions expanded from its roots in financial and data processing to address transaction management requirements on the manufacturing floor. Process automation expanded from proprietary, stand-alone digital controllers to become integrated networks running on commodity IT hardware. These overlaps led directly to production stoppages, product losses and cost-overruns for solution deployments.

To overcome these challenges, the company focused its efforts on better defining areas of responsibility and establishing shared governance of important activities, realizing that who an individual reports to is not nearly as important as how the person behaves.

For example, engineering leaders became members of the IT lead team, and IT senior directors were aligned with engineering senior directors. Today, Eli Lilly’s strong IT/OT partnership allows it to unite on a shared purpose of producing life-saving medicines with safety first and quality always.

“In the last 10 to 15 years, we really have started to partner together, whether it is on lifecycle management projects and upgrades that we’re doing or in identifying new technologies and new places where we want to move forward,” said Dave Sternasty, VP of corporate engineering and global health, safety and environment at Eli Lilly. “I would say that the partnership between IT and OT is really strong and is one of the things that we see as a key to our success.”

The partnership drives key initiatives, such as:

  • Designing and defining digital capabilities to be included in new plants, buildings and lines;
  • Exploring potential value from new technologies and capabilities;
  • Developing an understanding of industrial cybersecurity, a plan to mitigate immediate risks and an ongoing strategy to ensure best-available protection;
  • Collaborative ownership of manufacturing data and analytics architecture, and a strategy to ensure seamless data availability with context across the entire automation and IT landscape;
  • Global Robotics Program, which stewards a dock-to-shop-floor automated material-handling strategy. The program also deploys both mobile and fixed robots that are integrated with the company’s manufacturing and warehouse execution systems, and
  • Global Serialization Program, a solution to provide regulatory-mandated traceability for each and every unit of final product.

Eli Lilly expects to execute its full digital transformation vision over the course of the next 10 years, with a goal of having a fully predictive plant by 2023.

The company also plans to modernize its data and analytics architecture, incorporating critical capabilities, such as cloud, edge storage and IIoT to address digital transformation needs.

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