There is no doubt that this year has been a catalyst for major change. In fact, Microsoft has revealed that 2020 has seen a decade’s worth of digital transformation compressed into just a few weeks.
Like many others, the industrial sector has been in a state of flux because the demand and supply chain changes prompted by the pandemic have caused considerable global uncertainty. These challenges have been tackled head on by the industry in multiple ways, with organisations accelerating their planned initiatives to overcome problems posed by the pandemic, rather than having a knee-jerk reaction.
Without informed and detailed insights into their operations, organisations would be taking multiple stabs in the dark to get their operations back on track, especially in this turbulent macro-economic environment. The resilience, agility and guidance they need ultimately comes from adopting market-proven approaches that embrace digital transformation strategies, which encompass emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Not only do these technologies deliver improved efficiency, but they also enhance performance and productivity.
Now that market demands and expectations are constantly evolving, data insights are being used much more frequently than in the past. Asset reliability is also becoming even more critical for asset-intensive businesses as unplanned shutdowns have a significant negative impact on the value chains. Digital transformation initiatives are enabling businesses to address this risk by helping them to harness data to build and deploy an advanced asset performance management (APM) solution so they can monitor critical assets and predict failure to prevent unplanned shutdowns. The APM solution integrates data about online and offline equipment to help organisations visualise plant performance, enhance workforce efficiency and apply AI for predictive maintenance and resolution.
Software that is infused with AI and available in the cloud is designed to both ramp up the pace of digitalisation and empower the workforce through valuable insights and visibility into the performance of the organisational assets. This, in turn, offers greater agility for organisations while significantly reducing operational costs.
AI, coupled with other technologies like virtual reality and virtualisation, has not only given industrial organisations access to a whole new world of information, but has also led to the advent of the digital twin – a virtual replica of machinery and factories, all powered by data. This means that management, maintenance and control of machinery can be done digitally, giving the workforce visibility into the status and performance of their assets, as well as delivering powerful savings throughout the business.
Truly understanding the impact of this technology has historically been challenging, particularly for industrial organisations that produce massive volumes of data. Consequently, organisations need to increasingly ensure that the right data is coming from a single source and is being delivered to the people who need it. They can achieve this by implementing a unified operation centre so everyone is looking at the same information and can collaborate around common issues. This will enable businesses to use data insights to reduce operational costs and expense.
The pace of change should be seen as an exciting step forward, rather than a daunting, mammoth task that comes with a significant financial burden. With data continuing to be perceived as a valued commodity, it will evolve the relationship between the customer and technology providers by offering new insights and greater efficiencies.
As business uncertainty continues, the need for industrial organisations to have greater ownership over their own data is critical. It will mean that technology providers can enable industrial companies to drive even faster digital acceleration. However, if we think that the pace of change has been quick in 2020, it will be nothing compared to what the next few years will hold.
We are moving towards a new era where all industrial organisations will question how and why they have put up with inefficient processes and ways of working for so long and, in doing so, will embrace technology to build a better, more efficient and sustainable future.
Craig Hayman is CEO of AVEVA
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of The Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.