The benefits from digitizing industrial assets
Information has no boundaries – it can benefit all functions
As the competitive landscape with the digital revolution is changing and the pace at which it changes accelerates, companies must also be ready to a multitude of potential outcomes – flexibility to react and to adjust will be key. Choosing one path simply is not possible. You must be ready to change course fast to survive. Alarmingly, according to a PWC-study, most companies, up to 70%, were focusing mostly on efficiency and cost cutting. Good examples being predictive maintenance, energy efficiency and remote monitoring. According to this study, the most balanced approach came from the Chinese, who also had the above-mentioned cost and efficiency as targets, but who also had the highest count in new business development as a benefit from digitalization.
Flexibility is one of the cornerstones of the Distributed Intelligence concept. What do we mean by flexibility and how does that differentiate the approach? We see flexibility in two parts, intertwined together. First, flexibility in the way we work. Starting with a question about the customers’ business needs, with what information and how can they benefit from the information coming from digitalizing assets. Only after that need is defined, can we move to the technology. Even though this might sound as a common approach, identifying business needs first, this is not common, or genuinely true, in an industry combining hardware and software for mission critical assets, very much driven by technology, a point-to-point solution, a plug to a need.
To be truly flexible and business driven, the solution has to be flexible enough to accommodate the customers’ needs to a degree, where they can build competitive advantage to their offering. However, as said in the beginning of this article, the rate of change is accelerating, so the business needs of today are not those of tomorrow. At the same time as our customers are launching new services using their new digital innovations, they need to be ready to react to the respective offerings from their competition. Room for maneuvering will be needed, one way of the other. If today the pressing business need is cost cuts and efficiency, tomorrow it will be business development, safety or quality. Too often still today, especially large companies have deep silos with thick walls, well protected budgets and territorial wars. But data knows no boundaries. From data you get information, and information is power.
As an initial starting point, remote monitoring might get the budget, after all it does cut cost and increase uptime. It also has a ROI that is easy to calculate. But if the asset or process is viewed across functions, and the technology harnessed to serve functions across the organization, the ROI could be multifold. The CFO is for sure interested in energy consumption, asset life and depending on the asset, utilization levels and possible revenue streams. HR can be interested in who is using the machine and do they have the necessary training or certification to use the asset. Sales is always interested in selling a new unit, new filters or other consumables or in understanding how the customer is using the unit – how could you increase customer satisfaction. The possibilities are never restricted to the needs of just one function. Technology must be built to support the above opportunities. The technology, both the hardware and the software, must also be dynamic, active. 2-way traffic, meaning not only monitoring and data collection, but also control, optimization and management. The asset must be made smart, if possible autonomous. Software updates are important, for both the operating system as well as the functions and features. The solution, from the smart terminal, edge-computing solution, to the platform must be able evolve as the world around the asset changes. Flexibility is king.