To take advantage of digitization, industrial manufacturers need new operating models, smart partnerships, and targeted investments
With the industrial sector evolving at a break-neck speed, the role of operations and information technology is becoming increasingly important for smart manufacturing production.
In fact, digital transformation is changing the way manufacturers fundamentally operate by unlocking new opportunities that are helping them redefine manufacturing success. It is also helping them with the design and application of solutions across their entire value chain.
The simple fact is, digital transformation is a trend manufacturers cannot afford to ignore.
From plant floor to boardroom, digitization means companies can connect assets, production and team members across the entire manufacturing process. Information can be delivered to the right person or equipment in the right place, at the right time to improve production efficiency, quality and profitability.
The Urge to Connect
When more and more end users look to optimize their production and supply chain by bringing in islands of information, they need original equipment manufacturer (OEM) partners to provide smarter machines.
Therefore, OEMs need to understand these end user goals and react to them. Their machines must be smarter – able to access and capitalize on operational, business and transactional data for improved enterprise, plant and supply-chain performance. That requires building smart machines using technologies that allow better use of data and enable end-users to make intelligent decisions based on that data.
OEMs are also pressured to keep costs competitive. They face different challenges depending on their locations around the world and their customer base. To remain competitive, OEMs will have to go outside their comfort zone and look at more innovative, strategic ways to reduce costs and time-to-market, and stay ahead of their competitors.
Of course, gaining access to data to close gaps is easier said than done; and this is where The Connected Enterprise comes in.
Move to a Connected Enterprise
A modern infrastructure – in which people, processes and technologies can be seamlessly connected across an enterprise that stretches hundreds or thousands of miles – is known as The Connected Enterprise.
It embraces technology advances that include not only big data and analytics but also open-standard Internet of Things (IoT) devices, mobility, virtualization and cloud computing.
Most importantly, it creates nearly unlimited opportunities to improve and transform operations. The Connected Enterprise presents the today’s industry some key opportunities:
- By collecting valuable asset data and contextualizing it into actionable information, companies can empower workers with critical operational information and help them optimize equipment performance;
- Equipment data also can be used to more quickly troubleshoot issues, create predictive maintenance strategies, and better understand worker behaviors – all of which can help reduce downtime; and
- Remote-access technology can be used to monitor remote workstations and sites, all from a centralized location. This can help reduce safety risks and costs associated with sending workers to check in on these systems manually.
These opportunities are not just theoretical. Some companies have raced ahead; collecting data from smart devices embedded in their plants’ equipment to monitor and improve operations via better quality, higher production speeds and reduced energy consumption.
They are starting to create digital twins of their critical assets and model their processes virtually to proactively develop solutions that support their operations from design and start-up through operations and maintenance.
Other companies have gone even further, delivering real-time insights to executives that allow for asset optimization and strategic realignments of plant portfolios for maximum profitability.
Industrial Ethernet Connectivity
In a dynamic industry like oil and gas, energy companies are continually challenged to find new ways to achieve greater efficiencies across the production environments.
Even so, leading companies are taking advantage of innovations in industrial Ethernet-based connectivity and advanced analytical software to better leverage the full value of their asset data, and accelerate high-performance petroleum production.
Realizing The Connected Enterprise has become their business imperative. As the benefits from the convergence of automation, communications and information technology multiply, oil and gas companies are creating digital oilfields, pipelines and refineries.
Wireless technology, visualization software and other advances now allow their companies to access and monitor assets in real time, and help merge disparate oilfield data into streams of actionable information – anywhere, anytime.
The Game Changers
Although the energy sector has tended to lag behind other industries in leveraging technology advancements, the potential for data and analytics in the industry is growing every day as more companies tap into it.
Validated reference architectures from Rockwell Automation help expedite the engineering and delivery of oilfield solutions so companies can achieve first time to oil faster. Rockwell Automation also helps oil and gas companies deploy manufacturing execution system (MES) software, which can analyze the current status of production and make decisions on how to optimize operations in real time.
Using these best-practice, proven and repeatable solutions, downstream, midstream and upstream operations can take advantage of advances in technologies like open-standard IoT devices, big data and analytics, virtualization and mobility, and cloud computing that enhance The Connected Enterprise.
As one of the most significant advances enabled by the IoT, digital remote-monitoring seamlessly integrates sensors, hardware and software, and wireless connections to extract important operational information from multiple assets across the plants.
Not only for oil and gas operators, manufacturers from other sectors can use this information to continuously monitor current and historical operating conditions, troubleshoot any potential issues, and make process adjustments at an earlier stage to help increase uptime – all without leaving their workstation, which can be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the physical site.
That is just the beginning, and the possibilities are unlimited. As more companies seek to capitalize on their data and make the journey to The Connected Enterprise, the decisions they make along the way will be critical to realizing long-term business benefits.
Digital transformation brings the operations and enterprise information groups together into a common cause. Leading companies are already on the way to digital transformation to improve productivity and stay globally competitive. These companies are unlocking the value in their manufacturing assets, returning improved profits to shareholders.
Rockwell Automation underwent its own Connected Enterprise journey and understands the end user challenges, as well as the opportunities for OEMs serving them.
Through its industry expertise, technology and partners, Rockwell Automation is helping OEMs design connected, compliant and competitive machines that help enable The Connected Enterprise for end users.