Plant Insights

Digital Transformation: Essential for Process Industry Operations

October 13, 2020

By moving to the IIoT, computer technology has progressed beyond the confines of information technology (IT) to the shop floor, delivering greater efficiencies and increased productivity for manufacturing operations.

Digital Transformation: Essential for Process Industry Operations

During the evolution of the industrial internet of things (IIoT) over the last two decades, there has been increasing emphasis on interconnecting sensors and devices with industrial applications.  This encourages greater deployments of automation as well as promotes increasing the usage of cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) in today’s process control applications.  By moving to the IIoT, computer technology has progressed beyond the confines of information technology (IT) to the shop floor, delivering  greater efficiencies and increased productivity  for manufacturing operations. 

The initiation of the IIoT basically overlooked the human element, which is critical to properly operate any  manufacturing process no matter what level of automation is applied.  All of the various teams involved in manufacturing operations become more productive due to the deployment of IIoT networks that can capture, exchange and analyze data in real-time. However, without an IIoT infrastructure, it is nearly impossible to obtain the same level of gains that one would have with it. New adoptions of IIoT will encourage collaboration between people and machines.  This is particularly the case for all personnel closely involved in production, because IIoT enables them to respond faster to any operating conditions that change within their industrial processes. The best approach is a  “people-focused” IIoT that will allow industrial enterprises to harness its true potential to maximize plant operations by increasing  production efficiency which, most importantly, ensures employee safety.

Due to  the COVID-19 pandemic, seamless communication is needed between people and machine data collected via IIoT and through traditional software. Remote staff need to easily be able to go online to assist on-site team members with any operational process issues that they may be unable to solve on their own.  For plants running production 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, shift handovers are critical because each shift relies on the previous shift’s notes and details in order to work as effectively as possible. As IIoT becomes ubiquitous in industrial manufacturing, access to shift details that have occurred and may be key to operational effectiveness must be available to all those that need it, not just to technical specialists.

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