Plant of the Future: Systems will guide the way

What does this change mean for the operations team?
By Plant Engineering August 24, 2018
Carsten Rottchen, managing director of production at Rittal. Courtesy: RittalCarsten Röttchen, Rittal

“Plants play a particularly important role as they include more than the pure production of parts. Plants have to keep up the high level of availability to the market by integrating production processes into the whole value chain.“To consequently optimize and accelerate production processes within the value chain,the plants needs to be digitized and automated. In consequence of a high level of automation our staff has to adapt to operations that are less manual in nature. They will be more concerned with monitoring, analytics, and continuous improvement.”

Kevin Lewis, Siemens

“The shift to digitalization will require the operations teams to understand the capabilities and the technologies that are available.Technology is changing rapidly and it is critical to stay current with what is on the market and to understand how a fully integrated, end-to-end digital enterprise implementation will improve time to market, efficiency, andoverall business performance.”

Lanny Floyd, Electrical Safety Group

“Operations leaders must support plant engineers in developing and nurturing relationships with technology providers and user groups—who refine and expand capabilities of evolving technologies—so that they can be in a position to make informed decisions in applying these technologies, as well as influencing development and direction of technology trends.”

John Glenski, Automation Plus

“In a generic view of manufacturing, operators assist and guide the equipment to produce a product. With the continued implementation of robotic technologies,coupled with machine learning and predictive analytics, automation now has the potential and will eventually guide and assist the operators (andmaintenance teams) on the plant floor, and throughout operations. “This change could have various effects on the operations team,including reduced labor on the production floor,targeted maintenance operations versus “firefighting,” and floor operators will be more multifunctional in their applications to production.”

Paul Galeski, MAVERICK

“New artificial intelligence tools perform the data analysis in advance and then present options for the operations team to take action, eliminating the need for a specialist (e.g., a scientist or PhD) on staff.“As legacy systems are updated and thoughtfully migrated to more modern platforms, the entire workforce must be trained on the new improved hardware and software platforms. Tribal knowledge is less critical after that expertise and the system intellectual property (IP) has been captured, improved,and documented. “As companies update or migrate their existing legacy system, they want uninterrupted operations through technology transitions, retaining and improving the system critical IP in the operation. They should no longer need specialists on specific hardware or software platforms but will want more specialists on the overall process or unit operations. Systems will all look, act,and respond in the same wayin an open architecture trend. “The need will be for operators whose core knowledge is on the processing domains. In addition, automation engineers will have to be more IT-oriented than ever before.”

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