In February, I had the pleasure of attending and speaking at the third-annual Connected Plant Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina. The focus of the event was innovation and technology, integration, digitalization, efficient energy and plant/process improvements.
With my primary focus on the Oil & Gas markets for most of the past 10 years, which have embraced digitalization, it was great to see that the same focus has been established across both the power generation and chemical markets. Several of the sessions that I attended focused on topics such as “How to Get started with Digitalization” as well as an “Introduction to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT).”
Since these digital initiatives have become commonplace for so many organizations, it is interesting to hear that there are still companies struggling to get started. Having worked for several companies now that tie into the digital transformation process, I can say there are several interpretations of what a digital plant and a smart plants can be. Every year Petrotechnics, and now Sphera, conducts an annual Operational Excellence Index (OEI) survey of hazardous industry professionals that looks at changing attitudes toward Operational Excellence and digital transformation and measures the progress toward adoption. In this year’s report, nearly 70 percent of industry leaders say companies are only just starting or are currently implementing digital transformation projects, and 53 percent say companies are still trying to figure out what “digital transformation” means to them. You can access a copy of the report here.
My presentation focused on “The Journey to Smart Operations,” and many of the questions that followed the presentation were from companies looking to move toward smart operations, digital plants and managing data. The basis for the presentation was from an e-book with the same name, “The Journey to Smart Operations,” where we showed how industry-leading organizations are leveraging decision-support data to progress their Industry 4.0 initiatives to achieve smarter operations.
There was one question that was asked in almost every session that I attended, which was “Where do I begin my journey?” The answer surprisingly was the same regardless of the presenter. Find a process, a system, a bottleneck—something within your organization that you feel needs improvement and is not too complex—and go for it. The key is to start small and not take on too much. Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help.
Having worked for Petrotechnics and now Sphera, know that we are here to help and that you are not alone and there are many who have already started this journey. Lastly, since you are just starting this journey, you have the benefit of learning from what others have done and can learn from their mistakes.