Change management—a process used to manage alterations to code that affects how equipment and processes are controlled, tracked, and archived—has long been a standard practice in software engineering. Despite its prevalence in IT, change management procedures and related software haven’t been as widely used in operations technology (OT).
As larger portions of automation spending are channeled into software in line with industry’s digital transformation, more attention is being paid to change management in the interest of maintaining the health of systems across OT and IT.
Effective change management has several benefits for manufacturers. For example, in a complex, multi-vendor environment where many different stakeholders are involved in making alterations to an asset's software, change management ensures that only quality code is implemented, and that IT and OT workflows remain synchronized. Moreover, with cybersecurity risks on the rise, detecting unauthorized changes to code, and identifying who made them, when they were made, and what they entail has become imperative.
To help end users better manage change across their systems, Rockwell Automation has introduced FactoryTalk AssetCentre— a centralized tool for securing, managing, versioning, tracking, and reporting automation-related asset information across a facility with the goal of improving uptime, productivity, quality, and regulatory compliance. Recently, AssetCentre has been updated with a new “Archive Management of Change” module from asset management software provider LLumin. This module augments the functionality already provided by AssetCentre by adding workflow and digital signatures, which act as a means of tracking modification and change requests to code and other processes.
According to Rockwell Automation, AssetCentre is designed for customers in industries like life science, food and beverage, and energy who must contend with complex regulatory requirements that mandate frequent updates to engineering or design specifications to remain compliant with regulations.
In addition to the new Archive Management of Change module, AssetCentre can also help streamline production restarts. For instance, consider a scenario in which a production line goes down due to the failure of a smart device. Even if the device is promptly replaced, if the maintenance technician is unable to locate the most recent configuration files, they may not be able to restore production to the desired state. If changes to the configuration of the device are tracked and backed up automatically when they occur, this type of bottleneck can be avoided.