The Manufacturing ConnectionTim Sowell, Invensys Fellow and VP of System Strategy at Invensys in the Common Architecture team in R&D, writes the Operations Management Systems Evolution blog on the Invensys blog site. He offers thoughtful pieces about where operations management software and practice could be going.

In his latest post, he talks about a dinner conversation with people in the industry and what his companions thought were the most important transformations occurring now.

I’d have to agree with them. People who talk to me echo much the same. Check out his blog page for the complete details, but here’s a teaser.

Agility to adjust to market conditions and change

The clear common requirement was the end to end operational alignment, understanding across the value chain. This holistic operational control, was a significant change in all three industries the sites had run with independence, in all cases the expectation was that site / regional uniqueness will be maintained but now alignment and traceability of action, product across the total value chain, e.g.| multiple assets/sites. A fascinating discussion here was both water and food talked that they expect this end to end to include outsourced assets that make up the chain, and effect the quality of the product or service that their brand is delivering. This is why it is the ability to federate assets and systems while still allowing site uniqueness is key. The inclusion of non company assets in the value chain and requiring operational traceability, accountability and agility to change are just around the corner.

The operational workforce transformation

Operational role retention / rotation. The impact of the operational culture, approach with gen Y and more holistic operations. These have covered extensively in the blogs, but is the area both of my dinner companions spent over 50% of dinner time.

The key areas are:

  • The knowledge transfer from the retiring generation and how is the captured.
  • The highest critical concern is the fact they are already seeing people in roles for much less time, and this is across the operational roles. So the issue is how to embedded and design the experiences to enable to become effective dramatically faster, e.g., 20% of the time today. Our conversation went away from industrial operational systems, to commercial systems, such as Facebook, banks, mobile phone applications. The key here is these applications are being delivered to market without having to train the users, they have intuitive experience that leads users through the steps. Agreement that this is a paradigm shift in operational design, from today’s approach where user interface is thought of well after the control, and we have engineers who are not human in factor people, designing the systems. All attendees said we need to continue this discussion, as this is not just control rooms, but reports, and information etc.

New Product Introduction

The life time of products and services is dramatically reducing, and the companies stated that seem to have ever change and introduction of new products and services. The move is to individual products and services for each consumer. How do we introduce, absorb these new products and services to the operational systems that will deliver them in a timely manner without significant error.

This could be considered agility, but both wanted this pointed out separately as it is a real dynamic that effecting them, vs the infrastructure and assets that are also changing and must absorb agility of change. An intriguing point here was that they commented that operational system and automation system absorb new product introductions without change, but all commented on the challenge of new assets with existing systems requiring federation into the system, and how do introduce new products procedures to operational staff. So the discussion for new product introduction was not just for systems, but also for people to execute, how can they take the new product from the PLM system, and deliver the control, and instructions, across many sites with different systems, and different cultures.

Your thoughts

What do you think about all this? What would you add? Let me know.

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