On the road to the digital enterprise

Decide where to go and use a map to get to the digital enterprise.


About two years ago, at Emerson Automation Solutions' Exchange user conference, executive managers said they'd come to realize the substantial levels of support industrial companies would need to get started on the industrial Internet of things (IIoT), or, as it might be characterized, their digital transformation.

At this year's Emerson Exchange, held in October, what followed from that realization became clearer. "When a company acquire a process control system, it knows what it intends to do with it," said Peter Zornio, Emerson Automation's chief technology officer. "It's not quite the same with IIoT. It may not be as clear where to start."

In an Emerson study of industry leaders, while all respondents were actively conducting digitalization pilot projects, only 21% had moved beyond that stage into enacting new operating standards. Only 20% of respondents said they had a vision for moving forward, while 90% agreed that having a clear roadmap was important.

Rules of the road

In response to this acknowledged need, at this year's event Emerson announced a digital transformation roadmap supported by consulting and implementation services.

The roadmap focuses on business drivers and business enablers. Drivers look at capabilities relative to industry benchmarks, including for production management, reliability and maintenance, safety and security, and energy and emissions. Enablers focus on capabilities in organizational effectiveness, systems, and data integration.

A company might start by focusing on pumps or on asset reliability more generally. Another approach might drive adoption of cloud technologies and analytics.

An operational certainty consulting group delivers services from jump-start workshops to deep-dive change management to deployment of digital toolsets. The Emerson Plantweb digital ecosystem includes software, analytics, and products. The implementation team standing behind it includes more than 80 solutions architects and analytics integration engineers, backed by a project and service engineering workforce that exceeds 8,400.

Emerson was a leader in introducing wireless networks in industrial environments. Today, it has deployed more than 37,000 wireless network installations and more than 175 integrated reliability platforms and applications.

Emerson partners with Microsoft for its Azure cloud environment. Digitalization efforts emphasize operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) collaboration. Zornio advised engineers to involve IT in projects from the start, even if just as a matter of courtesy.

Industrial-strength validation

Timothy White, director, reliability-based maintenance project, with offshore drilling rig provider, Ensco, validated Zornio's remarks. In recent years, Ensco launched its predictive intelligence center to eliminate unplanned drilling rig and drilling ship downtime, with a focus on top drives, blow-out preventers, thrusters, pipe handling systems, and draw works.

Sensor data is collected using an OSIsoft Pi data historian at the Houston-based center. Analytics determine asset health and predict its trajectory.

Because energy companies were slow to get started with digitalization, White said, "The energy sector stands to gain the most from these emerging technologies."

Digitalization barriers, continued White, include "lots of old iron," control systems not based on open systems, needs for more sensors that must be zone-1 certified, and cyber-security uncertainties. He didn't avoid the cultural barriers involved either, which include personnel assuming digitalization means "big brother just wants to watch us."

The big announcement at the event, of course, was Emerson's acquisition of GE Intelligent Platforms and related line of programmable logic controllers (PLCs).

Kevin Parker, senior contributing editor, CFE Media, kparker@cfemedia.com.

This article appears in the IIoT for Engineers supplement for Control Engineering and Plant Engineering

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