By Sphera’s Editorial Team | February 18, 2020

Digital threads are allowing connectivity and data mining for true innovation and insights across global organizations.

This was a key theme of the 2020 ARC Industry Forum, which brought more than 800 leaders in digital innovation and business transformation to Orlando, Florida, in February. Indeed, integration of information technology, operational technology and engineering technology, commonly referred to as IT, OT and ET, means a future ripe for vast collaboration and business process improvement.

But while Digital Transformation is exciting, it comes with its consequences. It means never operating the same way again. It means risking everything to implement and scale innovation globally.

According to Dow Corp.’s Melanie Kalmar, who is the chemical company’s corporate vice president, chief information officer and chief digital officer, and Peter Holicki, who is Dow’s senior vice president of operations, manufacturing and engineering, there are more than 20 billion data points coming from automation to support operations today. However, minimal data is being used to inform operations.

Hazardous industries operate with a lot of data. In addition to the billions of data points from automated processes and machine sensors are the vast data coming from management and IT systems as well as human-derived inputs—that is “tribal knowledge” and gut-feel instincts guided by years of industry experience. For years, digital innovators have aggregated these types of data for real-time use. And the value proposition is solid: data, when properly aggregated, will illuminate system holes. The holes are the impetus for change and transformation.

Transformation is the baseline for industry leaders collaborating cross-functionally. The work Kalmar and Holicki are undertaking is a prime example. They’ve found a gap in one of their systems and have developed a strategy for integrating IT and OT to support Operational Excellence and improve plant turnarounds. This has meant eliminating some long-held beliefs about the way each functional group should operate. For example, manufacturing is no longer responsible for just buying pumps and compressors or “anything with a blinking light,” Holicki said. Instead, this transition has led to the reconciling of digital investments between the functional organizations in pursuit of business strategies and underlying value propositions.

Industry leaders, like Dow, are pursuing digital strategies to transform. And they are laser-focused on strategies that will have a measurable impact on their competitive futures. Under the banner of “smart facilities,” which is estimated to improve manufacturing productivity by 17% to 20%, is where industry leaders are pursuing innovation to improve safety, productivity and reliability across their plants and assets.

8 Take-Aways From the ARC Forum

Here are eight things that operators can learn from this year’s ARC forum.

Leading operators are:

  1. Deploying new technologies to assess, monitor and manage cybersecurity risk.
  2. Integrating supply chain and site logistics to drive effective maintenance strategies.
  3. Evolving from plant-based optimization to enterprise-wide / value chain optimization with real-time feedback
  4. Using GPS and RFID tags and proper monitoring, innovators are tracking equipment and people on the asset to manage their proximity to hazardous plant conditions.
  5. Transferring human-derived operational inputs to support predictive maintenance strategies.
  6. Employing drones, robots and crawlers to improve the quality of inspection work. In addition, leading operators are reducing the need to put people in hazardous environments, including at heights or in confined spaces.
  7. Planning how they will use drones, robots and crawlers to maintain an asset.
  8. Leveraging data insights and metrics to support deterministic operations.

Bonus Coverage

While at the conference, I asked several of the analysts for their feedback to the industry’s top trends. Their feedback and takeaways, included:

  • Don’t discount condition monitoring. While artificial intelligence and machine learning are all the rage, they are in support of a system. True predictive capabilities come from monitoring weak points or failures in systems
  • Industry operators can deploy identical software across the board, but it’s what they do with it that will make the difference in terms of their operational advantage.
  • Get ready for persona-based insights!

Where do you see digital strategies designed to support transformation? I look forward to hearing from you.