Successfully Harnessing New Digital Technologies to Assure Maximum Plant Performance

A wide range of new digital technologies are becoming prevalent. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and a dramatic increase in the number of sensors is providing ever more data. Cloud technology makes that data widely available, and analytics and artificial intelligence, combined with increasing computational power, make it possible to analyze and interpret the data. Handheld and wearable devices make results accessible, and enhance the ability to track the effectiveness of actions taken. All of these functional elements promise to deliver real business value by allowing:

Objective, real time decision making, based on factual data and rigorous analysis. By generating and sharing a single, high accuracy version of the truth, decision making can be transformed from feelings / opinion-based debate (and often dispute) into fact-based collaborative alignment, resulting in better decisions being made, faster.

  • Uncertainties reduced or removed. Allowing physical assets to be operated at full potential, avoids the twin pitfalls of leaving money on the table due to excess conservatism and compromising availability by pushing too hard.
  • Aggregated data processed by computational algorithms. Providing joined up information much more quickly and efficiently than traditional engineering approaches enables insights beyond the analytical capability and comprehension of a typical human.
  • The result should be maximum business value from physical assets, at greater human productivity.

Although this is the promise of ‘new’ digital technologies like cloud, analytics and IIoT, in fact the same benefits have been touted for more ‘traditional’ digital technologies for many years, such as process simulation, advanced process control, on-premise data historians and databases and manufacturing execution systems.

Reflecting on the successes and failures of ‘traditional’ digital technologies is instructive, both to learn lessons for the adoption of ‘new’ digital technologies and to understand where new technology can provide breakthroughs.