‘Industry in transition’ transformed by open systems

ARC’s Andy Chatha sees machines getting smarter, and plant management needs to follow suit to match this trend.

By Bob Vavra, Content Manager, CFE Media February 9, 2016

A manufacturing plant that is both open and connected is at the core of what ARC Advisory Group president and CEO Andy Chatha sees as an industry that is in transition overall. Chatha addressed about 700 attendees at the 20th annual ARC Industry Forum in Orlando on Feb. 9.

If an open, connected plant seems to run contrary to the way plants operate today, that was one of Chatha’s main points: Industrial plant operations are adapting to new rules and new technology.

"We see the world changing," Chatha said. "The aerospace industry is being transformed, the automotive industry is being turned upside down. And we know what fracking companies have done to the oil and gas industry. Industry after industry is being transformed by companies from outside the industry."

To accomplish this, Chatha said manufacturers have to adopt new, open architecture control and operation systems to augment or replace the proprietary systems of today.

"We believe process plants are ripe for next generation digital transformation," Chatha said. "Most of the plants are aging, and most of the plant assets are 30 years old. If you want to see the most highly automated plants, go to China. Old plants are prone to failure and are very difficult to operate.

"Because the plants are so expensive and so complex to upgrade, many companies don’t upgrade; they just keep existing plants up as long as they can," he added. "We believe today’s proprietary systems don’t provide a good foundation for future plants."

The new model, which Chatha rolled out on behalf of his ARC research team, points to the use of connected assets: a connected supply chain, connected workers, connected machines and connected finished products. "You need some sort of an open system to do that," he said.

The open architecture and smart machines provide a framework to allow a full, interactive manufacturing process. "It has to be an end-to-end process, from the time you design the product to the time you decommission the line," Chatha said.

The other critical change will be the much-discussed convergence of information 
technology (IT) and operational technology (OT). "We believe you need to have your experts working together," Chatha said. "I know many companies are integrating IT and OT and others are trying to get there. That’s a very important thing our industry has to do."

Chatha cited five traits of innovation-driven companies. Such companies:

  1. Are customer-centric and demand driven
  2. Encourage collaboration internally and with partners
  3. Have strong IT, OT and engineering resources
  4. Embrace open and secure software platforms, and
  5. Seek opportunities to transform plant and business operations.

Bob Vavra is content manager, Plant Engineering, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com.

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