Digitalization Achieves Warp Speed

Photo credit: iStockphoto/coffeekai

It is not an exaggeration to say that working models of how we live and work have changed faster in the past four months than in the last four years.

Microsoft chief executive officer Satya Nadella estimated that two years’ worth of digital transformation has been compressed into two months.

Not only has the pace of change been accelerated, according to a Gartner survey, business leaders surveyed expected that some of this change would be permanent. The WFH trend, for instance, is likely to be permanent for up to half of the workforce — at least for the rest of this year.

Digital resilience during turbulence

The recent AVEVA World Digital conference explored digital transformation across industries in depth. With a focus on connecting the digital workforce and improving supply chain agility, the seminar delivered insights on shaping a sustainable, resilient future for businesses in times of change.

For global corporations, the two most valuable assets are their people and their data.

“Businesses have a great responsibility to protect employees and customers,” said Craig Hayman, chief executive officer of AVEVA. “We’re seeing the power of data and analytics help companies respond to incidents as they occur and operate assets as efficiently as possible.”

Now more than ever, companies are pivoting to operate in different ways. The power of technology to unify data and remove silos has never been more important. It allows teams to collaborate to improve business models, an area of top concern to senior management.

“Because unifying data helps you see opportunities more clearly, boost efficiency and optimize operations in challenging times,” pointed out Hayman. “Digitalization can help you pinpoint the opportunities to consolidate and understand how to take advantage of the situation.”

The world’s most capital-intensive projects from smart factories and connected cities to power stations and farming facilities are adjusting to this new reality, led by global teams connected through technology. Supply chains and operating models are flexing to respond to disruption because global transportation has become almost impossible at scale. Global demand is now being met by a network of localized sources.

Investment patterns have changed too, with industries moving to minimize capex in the short term and drive efficiencies throughout their operations. The increased awareness of and focus on sustainability can be seen as an opportunity for industries to embrace fresh ways of working and drive growth.

Critical stages for DX

Outlining the three stages that companies exploring digitalization go through, Hayman breaks them down to:

  1. Stage 1. All the information and data across business operations are brought together in one place. With unified data, it is much easier to link asset strategies to business objectives. Risk, cost and performance can then be balanced better in an asset performance roadmap.
  2. Stage 2. With the data in one place, AI and ML can then be utilized to drive efficiencies and teams can be deployed according to resources across the asset life cycle.
  3. Stage 3. With access to trusted information, teams can work efficiently and draw insights that span the entire engineering operations and performance processes.

Using the scalability of cloud, all data and analytics can be unified and made available to entire teams wherever they are in the world. AI and the cloud provides the scale and capability to amplify teams.

Going further and putting all of this together in a digital twin will enable consolidation and enhance work performance. A virtual replica of a physical device that can be used for running simulations before the actual device is built, a digital twin can offer insights into performance and identify potential obstacles, allowing optimization of deployments for peak efficiency.

“Part of this is about adopting a learning mindset,” said Hayman. “It is also about accelerating new digital ways of collaborating and operating. Taking advantage of the constantly-evolving capabilities of what software infused with AI can offer.”

“What we are seeing is that cloud is the glue and AI is the intelligence that underpins the decision-making process,” added Hayman.

AI in the cloud

Citing Schneider Electrics as an example, Hayman pointed out how a digital first approach helped the Schneider Electric smart factory harness the power of enterprise asset management in the cloud to help teams establish a smart factory template that could be deployed across multiple sites. 

“The Schneider Electric Batam smart factory has reported a 44% decrease in asset downtime,” said Hayman. “This approach enables a team to optimize maintenance even when working remotely and can amplify our sustainability agendas… Schneider Electric used AVEVA Insights in the cloud to remain agile and optimize themselves during the lockdown.”

AI also empowers people to make better decisions, even in unprecedented circumstances. By drawing on data of past performance to predict future outcome, AI can do more efficiently and accurately than what people alone can do. Using smart systems, AI can recommend better courses of actions.

Hayman cited energy group, ENEL, as an enterprise that uses AVEVA’s AI predictive analytics to prescribe improvements and optimize performance at energy plants.

“By working with us they benefited from a complete understanding of risk and that improves decision making throughout ENEL,” said Hayman. “They’ve accelerated their autonomous plant vision in the past few months as well.”

Once an issue is identified with predictive maintenance, the team can now ask questions like: Can we make it to the next planned outage or do we need to schedule an emergency shutdown? What is the optimal time to perform maintenance to minimize impact and cost? What’s the likely impact of an outage and what actions can we take to pre-empt it?

“This is how next-generation technology is transforming energy production,” Hayman added.

An ecosystem of global leaders

Leveraging tech tools such as the cloud, industrial IoT/edge, big data, digital twin, artificial intelligence, mixed and virtual reality, is necessary to innovate and drive business into the future. These technologies optimize every aspect of asset performance, engineering and operations.

An ecosystem that brings together many innovations across diverse industries can provide broader and deeper insight spanning the industrial life cycle of the various sectors such as energy, food, water and infrastructure.

Speaking of AVEVA’s community of global partners and leaders, Hayman said, “This is the foundation of AVEVA’s success, where global leaders and thinkers from the front lines of smart cities, smart manufacturing and energy can share ideas and perspectives to provoke more innovative thought.”

Photo credit: iStockphoto/coffeekai