The Stages of Modernizing Industrial Operations

The Stages of Modernizing Industrial Operations

Article
Published on August 17th, 2020
Resources

Submitted by Luis Morinigo, VP Business Development & Strategic Partnerships at TwinThread

The state of your operations is a continuum that’s continually adapting to survive and thrive in your respective industry. There are seven established stages on this journey of operational modernization. By reviewing the following, you’ll understand what each stage entails, the benefits it will provide your organization, and the next logical step to take on the path toward greater performance.

Stage 1: Computerization

  • Description: You’ve got PLCs / IPCs in place collecting operational data on the performance of your assets and lines.
  • Benefits: These systems benefit your organization in that they collect large amounts of data against a galaxy of metrics that, if drawn from, will support your domain experts in identifying areas for improvement.
  • What Next?: Organizations at this stage of modernization are looking to connect to the wealth of data housed within these Historian systems.
  • Pro Tip: Little known fact; from this stage you have the opportunity to skip several steps since you won’t need to integrate legacy systems.

Stage 2: Connectivity

  • Description: Through the application of Agents or Gateways, you connect to your data so it is not siloed within your information collecting systems.
  • Benefits: You’ve established a pathway between machines that collect data and machines that interpret it.
  • What Next?: Now that you have access to your data, it’s time to gain some visibility so you can begin to see what’s happening within your operations.
  • Pro Tip: Don’t sell yourself short by settling for seeing what’s happening now. Real-time insights are important, but setting out to predict what will happen is much more powerful.

Stage 3: Visibility

  • Description: By applying telemetry dashboard and time-series data, you’re now able to “see” what’s occurring with your operations, in real-time.
  • Benefits: Your subject-matter experts will be empowered to prevent detected anomalies from synthesizing into larger more disruptive operational issues (asset downtime, component blow-outs, etc.).
  • What Next?: Seeing what’s happening is great - understanding why it’s happening is better. The next step is to implement the ability to analyze the data so root causes can be identified.
  • Pro Tip: Whatever solution you choose, make sure it’s one that keeps your in-house experts (engineers) front and center. Speed to value can only occur with your subject-matter experts leading the way.

Stage 4: Transparency

  • Description: You’re now applying time-series / historical data analysis and hierarchical data models. These elements will allow your experts to identify why something is happening.
  • Benefits: With a greater level of understanding into why a particular event is happening, your domain experts will be better equipped to rectify any issue that arises.
  • What Next?: You know what’s happening now and can look into the past to understand why. Now it’s time to turn your interests toward the future - what will happen.
  • Pro Tip: You shouldn’t need data scientists to interpret your data. A solution that visualizes the operational information so it’s easily consumed by your engineers will create a working environment where your problem-solvers feel included and applied in their field.

Stage 5: Predictions

  • Description: AI Models and machine learning are being applied to your data to predict what will happen within your operations, should a particular set of variables continue or remain unchanged.
  • Benefits: Your organization can be far more proactive than reactive, as you will be able to prevent certain outcomes and prepare for others.
  • What Next?: With the ability to predict what will most likely occur, it’s now time to hone in your processes and eliminate inefficiencies.
  • Pro Tip: Time to predictive insight should not be drawn out. Your experts should be made capable of operationalizing improvements fast (days).

Stage 6: Adaptability

  • Description: Digital feedback loops and method calls empower your experts to take action. Digital threads identify areas for improvement in processes surrounding your asset loadouts.
  • Benefits: By factoring variables not inherent to the machinery itself, a greater level of control over performance will be achieved.
  • What Next?: Continue to interpret, evaluate, tweak and hone - as was stated earlier, this approach is a continuum - there’s never a time where there isn’t room for improvement.
  • Pro Tip: Instead of asking, “are we there yet?”, ask “where to next?”.

Stage 7: Services

  • Description: A cultural mindset, pervasive across your organization, rooted in a determination to continue optimizing operations at scale.
  • Benefits: By continuing to hone in all operational efforts, performance metrics across the board will improve and the cost of doing business will continue to fall.
  • What Next?: At this point, you’ll already know “what’s next?” - to ask the question - “What’s next? How will we be further optimizing performance today?”
  • Pro Tip: Get to this stage faster by drawing on a solution that can do all of the above, instead of just some.

After reviewing these stages, where do you feel you land on the spectrum? Once you know where you’re at, you can decide where you’re going next and what you need to get you there. No matter where you are, TwinThread can support your next step. Contact us here to describe where you are on your operational journey - we'd be happy to show you how we can help.