10 Expert Digital Transformation Tips

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Inductive Automation’s Jennifer Faylor wrote on the company’s blog some thoughts from last fall’s Community Conference about digital transformation tips. She notes that digital transformation is “unignorable”. Yep. Even I write about it, even though I think that it’s something that began many years ago and will continue indefinitely.

Despite the abundance of companies forging ahead with plans to digitally transform, there are some that remain a little lost in the weeds. And for those that are already navigating Digital Transformation adeptly, staying on the cutting edge of best practices is indispensable, to ensure you continue to create top-notch solutions.

Following is her compilation of tips.

1. Think Big, Start Small, and Act Fast

“When you start thinking about Digital Transformation, think big, start small, and act fast. … And the big one, I think, most people overlook is actually the acting fast. They get too caught up, or they think about this as a traditional, large, single-entity monolithic project or initiative, instead of a whole bunch of small, iterative, flexible, agile approaches to transforming the company.” – Jeff Winter, Industry Executive for Manufacturing with Microsoft

2. Prepare for Expanding Scopes

“A lot of times with these types of projects, as they expand, as the interest in it grows, the scope of the project grows. So really [it’s important] to define what our core objective is that we want to accomplish, once we meet that objective, add on additional features to it. Sometimes it seems like with these projects, they can balloon almost too quickly. If we can keep it focused on a couple of specific objectives and meet those, then we can take that and build upon it.” – Nate Kay, Engineering Manager at MartinCSI

3. Show How Easy It Can Be

“I think a big thing for Digital Transformation is oftentime clients are very shocked by how easy it is to implement some of the Digital Transformation concepts … and I think we need to continue to push customers to do things like proof of concepts, or really just see a demo for what their system could be. I personally think that the SQL Bridge Module is the most powerful tool, and that customers have been using bad tools for so long that they just don’t realize how simple it can be to capture data and do things like eliminate that manual report that they’ve been filling out for 15 years.” – Elizabeth Hill Reed, Project Engineer, DMC, Inc.

4. Flip the Process From “Push” to “Pull”

“As soon as you do the first line and you prove the data is real regardless of what the preconceived notions are of what the data should be, you turn from a push process, where ‘We’re from central office and we’re here to help,’ to a pull process, ‘I have a problem with another line, can you guys do what you did on that line over on this line?’ So as soon as that coin flips, you’re golden.” – Dan Stauft, Director of Operational Technology, SugarCreek

5. Follow the “4 Rights”

“[Get] the right data to the right people in the right place at the right time.” – Steve Chapman, Partner, Barry-Wehmiller Design Group

6. Embrace Your Role as an Educator

“As an integrator you’re also an educator, in terms of especially today in the space where you do have IT, OT … those are two different levels that for years hadn’t really talked to one another and don’t really know each other’s world. And so now they’re being forced to communicate with each other, and we’ve got to try to help educate them on what’s important to each other and why.” – Mike Ficchi, Senior Controls Engineer, Multi-Dimensional Integration (MDI)

7. Empower People on the Ground

“And the idea is, is that if you work with people on the ground rather than just [sending them] a memo, to say that we’re going to be putting in this system, speak with the people first, get their opinion, and ask them for input because now you’ve empowered them, now they’re part of that solution, and they feel like this solution is going to help them produce better, not this is just going to be some measuring stick as an excuse to get rid of people.” – Craig Resnick, Vice President, Consulting, ARC Advisory Group

8. Add Extra Value to Everything You Do

“For everything you do, give a little bit of value-added. Something new, something that they haven’t thought of, but something that’s going to give them information that they didn’t have before, or control of something, or view of something, or some new data that you’ve merged two bits of information to produce new data, data that they didn’t have before. And they will love that.” – Chris Taylor, Managing Director, BIJC Ltd

9. Remember: It’s a Journey, Not a Destination

“This process is a journey and not a destination. If you can help everyone involved understand that … ‘This is new, and you know what we’re going to celebrate the wins, we’re going to get better from the losses,’ because both of those things will happen on a journey. You have the highs, you have the lows, but if we all understand, ‘Hey, we’re marching towards this common end goal,’ setting those mental parameters is extremely beneficial when we’re trying to attempt and create really any kind of change, not just Digital Transformation.” – Reese Tyson, Ignition Team Lead, Flexware Innovation

10. Accept That the Solution is “Becoming”

“One very important lesson that we learned last year and have discussed a lot internally is that any solution is never really done. It continues to develop in different directions as new business needs arise with the clients, and we’ve learned the hard way that we have to stop talking about the delivery and instead accept that it’s only a delivery, one of many. And somewhere along the road, we realized that there’s a term for this, it’s the thinker Kevin Kelly who actually coined this, ‘becoming.’ So, things are just becoming, the solution is becoming, it’s never ending as such, it’s just becoming.” – Jan Madsen, Founder, Enuda AB

AVEVA World Announcements

I had committed to a couple of events when the invitation to attend the AVEVA conference in San Francisco in November came my way. Many of my colleagues went out there thinking they had better opportunities to sell advertising than the alternative. Subsequently I received two announcements from the event. Both relate to data.

  • Constellation Energy chooses AVEVA solution to enable easier, faster, cheaper data analytics
  • Vision for connected industrial ecosystems revealed at AVEVA World in San Francisco

Weird thing to me is how marketing over the past few years regards data as something new. Way back in 1976 while working for a manufacturing company, I was moved from a position in operations to one in product development with the principle role as sort of “data czar.” I learned as far back as then about how crucial it was to have verified data in a form usable by all areas of the corporation. I was sort of at the nerve center for a few years.

We just have technologies for compiling, storing, verifying, and visualizing data that I couldn’t even dream about back then.

Constellation Energy for data analytics

AVEVA announced a partnership with Constellation Energy, provider of carbon-free energy, to give third-party analytic vendors secure access to select real-time data from Constellation’s operations.

Constellation will implement the latest release of AVEVA Data Hub, a cloud-based data management SaaS solution, which will help the company accelerate collaboration with trusted analytic partners and implement learnings more quickly, increasing the return on its analysis projects.

Currently, industrial operators, who are focused on data-driven solutions and decision-making, use a variety of methods to make real-time data available to internal and external teams. These methods are time-consuming to develop, maintain, coordinate, and some of them introduce security vulnerabilities that increase business risk. With IT staff in short supply, companies find themselves unable to respond quickly to new data requests or test out new solutions.

Constellation (formerly Exelon Energy), a long-time user of AVEVA PI System, decided to expand their data management solution into the cloud to easily share wind turbine data with a third-party analytics vendor. The company uses AVEVA PI System to collect, enrich, store, and manage sensor and time-series operations data in real-time. It then transfers that data natively to AVEVA Data Hub, a SaaS solution, where they can set up and manage select data sharing with authorized users, applications, and analytic tools both inside and outside the company. The new cloud-based addition to their data management solution is ready to use immediately; users can begin analyzing and processing data to achieve deeper insight in hours, rather than days or weeks.

Vision for connected industrial ecosystems

AVEVA showcases how industrial organizations are using real-time data to connect teams, empower them with data-led insights that speed up decision-making and unlock business value.

“We are witnessing the birth of an industrial universe that is completely connected, enabling a new kind of collaboration across colleagues, suppliers, partners, and customers,” said Peter Herweck, CEO at AVEVA.“Taking a data-centric approach empowers teams by connecting different players across the entire industrial ecosystem. This in turn transforms value chains into agile, profitable, sustainable networks. It is what we at AVEVA mean by the new, connected industrial economy.”

A recent survey, commissioned by AVEVA, of 650 senior international business executives across the chemicals, manufacturing, and power industries in North America, Europe, and the Middle East, found that 87% said they plan to increase their organization’s investment in industrial digital solutions over the next 12months.

Herweck added: “When you bring your data together and apply analytics so that you can visualize it in context, you unlock new ways of working. We are seeing leading companies like Shell and Worley breaking down data silos, building digital twins to deepen collaboration, drive transparency, and deliver actionable insights that enable their teams to work in a smarter and more connected way.”

AVEVA World has shown how leading companies such as Kellogg, Barry Callebaut, Pfizer, Dominion Energy, and Henn, starting to put in place the building blocks of these connected industrial ecosystems.  As the adoption of cloud-based industrial software becomes more widespread, organizations will be able to engage experts within and beyond their enterprise to deliver on innovative capital projects, optimize the operations lifecycle, accelerate decision-making, and reach sustainability targets that drive responsible use of the world’s resources.

StorageMAP Enhancements To Unstructured Data Management

I remember suggesting to OT suppliers about studying the new (at the time) unstructured database systems then coming out. Most were suspicious. Now, studies show that 80% or more of enterprise data is unstructured. Fortunately tools grew with the new database technology. One such developer is Datadobi, who just announced StorageMAP Version 6.3 enabling companies to archive, pipeline, and replicate unstructured data to object storage on-premises or in the cloud without lock-in.

The 6.3 release introduces the ability to copy network-attached storage (NAS) data to any S3-compatible object storage system. The new file-to-object copy functionality adds to StorageMAP’s ability to help IT leaders archive, pipeline, and replicate file data to S3.

With StorageMAP 6.3, companies can create a copy of file data on a cost-effective object storage server or service within different geographies, tech stacks, or networking providers. This enables organizations to archive aging and/or redundant, obsolete, and/or trivial (ROT) data to less expensive storage, pipeline data to the cloud for running cloud-native analytics and AI/ML applications against the data, or maintain a safe copy of data on heterogeneous storage operating systems (OS) helping protect against OS specific bugs or hacks.

The update addresses the four main critical concerns for enterprises:

• Cost Control – Orphaned data — datasets owned by employees of a company that are inactive but still enabled on an organization’s network or systems — represents a source of “dark” data consuming valuable capacity on NAS systems. Being able to move these datasets from NAS systems to S3-compatible object stores without lock-in allows IT leaders to significantly reduce costs and free up space on expensive production storage.

• Conformance to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Policies – According to 451 Research, 53% of enterprises currently have a formal ESG program in place or are planning for one. With the new StorageMAP capabilities, datasets with a higher degree of CO2 emissions associated with it can be relocated to cleaner storage. In addition, IT leaders can consolidate a larger number of NAS systems to reduce energy consumption and CO2 generation.

• Risk Reduction – Orphaned or ROT data can introduce risk to organizations because it is often unmonitored due to a clear lack of business ownership or excessive aging. The option of relocating this data from production NAS systems to remote or cold object storage can help prevent it from being exploited or leaked.

• Maximizing Unstructured Data Value – The average organization only uses 50% of available data for decision-making. With StorageMAP’s latest release, unstructured data can be quickly copied to the cloud and analyzed by cloud-native AI/ML. This allows IT leaders to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, trends, and more.

Ignition Adds Cloud Edition Plus Many Updates

I think that hybrid might just be the future as IT managers review the costs and constraints of depending too much on cloud vendors (AWS, Microsoft, Google). Customers of Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform must be asking for a public cloud implementation, though. 

I’ve highlighted a blog post by Dante Augello of Inductive discussing some of the reasoning and features of a Cloud Edition coming in 2023. Following that announcement are notes about the latest update to Ignition—8.1.22.

Ignition Cloud Edition

  • Many hybrid architectures have taken advantage of the cloud over the years, allowing controls applications to run on-premise while communicating and sending data to the cloud in order to take advantage of virtually unlimited storage and computing power. 
  • This connection to the cloud also offers better integration with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other cloud-native technologies.
  • The goal of Ignition Cloud Edition is to enable a hybrid architecture that connects one or more on-premise gateways and numerous edge gateways that send information to a Cloud Edition gateway for enterprise-wide data aggregation and monitoring.
  • This new product will differ from the standard version of Ignition in three key ways: distribution, purchasing, and features.
  • Unlike standard Ignition, Ignition Cloud Edition won’t be a service provided directly through Inductive Automation, so it won’t be downloaded from the Inductive Automation website. Like other cloud-based applications, it will be made available through your preferred cloud infrastructure marketplace.
  • Since Ignition Cloud Edition will be purchased through a cloud infrastructure marketplace, there is no need to buy an upfront license as with standard Ignition. This allows for elastic deployments, scalable payment options like pay-as-you-go, as well as the ability to adapt compute size and number of instances as needed.
  • Ignition Cloud Edition will run in the cloud, so it won’t be ideal for direct data acquisition from plant-floor PLCs. For this reason, it won’t have Ignition’s original device drivers built in. Instead, Cloud Edition will have a collection of cloud connector modules for cloud-native technologies such as document databases, message queues, and key-value stores like MongoDB, Kafka, and Redis.
  • A key benefit of Ignition Cloud Edition’s infrastructure is elasticity. If you find that you need more or less computing power than you anticipated, you will be able to scale the infrastructure much more easily than with an on-premise infrastructure.

Ignition 8.1.22: New Configuration Explorer, Enhanced SVG Importer, and CSS Stylesheet Resources

This blog post by Aaron Block gives points about the latest update.

  • Ignition 8.1.22 arrives with major upgrades to Perspective, the Gateway Network, and redundancy, plus improvements focused on general quality of life.
  • Perspective gets the majority of attention in Ignition 8.1.22, with three big updates: a new Configuration Explorer, SVG Importer enhancements, and resources for CSS stylesheets.
  • The Configuration Explorer locates active bindings on any particular Perspective view. Now in Ignition 8.1.22, simply right-click and choose “Configuration Explorer” to display the location, type, and state of all enabled bindings. Embedded views and root containers are also represented in this overview. 
  • In prior versions of Ignition, it was sometimes difficult to import complicated SVGs with intricate shading or other non-supported components within the raw SVG file. 8.1.22 offers more support for these complex SVGs, as well as most common SVG elements.
  • The “convert to drawing” function stays true to its name, allowing users to simply choose the function in the right-click menu and convert existing components into SVGs.
  • Rounding out the trio of major Perspective updates is an advanced project-scoped CSS stylesheet resource and resource editor. Users can now conveniently add their own CSS stylesheets into the Perspective project itself instead of spending time inserting CSS through the gateway’s style directory.
  • And there are many more updates. Check out the blog for more detail.

Emerson Exchange 2022

The control and automation market I’ve been in since the late 90s has definitely become a software market. Yes, the main players that remain do still have their legacy controllers, instrumentation, sensors, and networking. The excitement that remains is mainly software and services. Domain expertise within the supplier community becomes increasingly important. 

I was coming off a vacation (not planned by me) and couldn’t work out the logistics of making it to Dallas. I kept up with things through press releases and reports from social media guru Jim Cahill. I survived missing presentations by the inimitable CTO Peter Zornio. News came through, anyway.

Announcement summaries follow. 

Boundless Automation

This next-generation architecture will empower companies through “boundless automation” to manage, connect and deliver operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data seamlessly and easily across the enterprise. Moving data freely and securely across OT and IT domains – from the intelligent field to the edge and cloud – will enable operational and business performance optimization across the enterprise.

It really is all about the data.

Check out Jim Cahill’s report.

DeltaV

  • Emerson’s Latest Control System Update Lays Foundation for Software-Driven, Data-Centric Automation Platform
  • DeltaV version 15 helps drive faster, easier digital transformation to accelerate IT/OT convergence, enabling easy upgrades and modernization

Intelligent Field

PlantWeb plus recent acquisition AspenTech = Emerson’s Plantweb digital ecosystem, optimized by AspenTech, enables industrial manufacturers across all industries to “See, Decide, Act and Optimize” their operations. Leveraging a robust suite of sensors, software and control technologies, Plantweb now enables companies to optimize the business and sustainability performance of their plants and enterprise through advanced asset and business optimization software.

SCADA

Movicon.NExT 4.2 is a flexible, modular platform that provides local HMI, supervision and analytics that scale from small IIoT or WebHMI applications on embedded Linux devices to large Windows server systems, allowing users to achieve sustainability and performance improvements, one step at a time, easily and cost effectively.

I/O Interface

Emerson has released DeltaV IO.CONNECT, a new subscription software service designed to help plants simplify modernization with an open architecture pathway that makes it possible to transition to more efficient control schemes without the need to completely overhaul existing infrastructure. In a traditional plant with tens of thousands of I/O points and many controllers, this can save hundreds or thousands of hours of labor and up to 40% of the capital required for a total rip-and-replace upgrade.

Hydrogen Production

Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), a regulated subsidiary of Sempra, has selected Emerson’s digital technologies, software and services to demonstrate the resiliency and reliability of its new [H2] Innovation Experience in Southern California. One of the first microgrid projects of its kind in the United States, the [H2] Innovation Experience is a technology demonstration that aims to show how carbon-free gas made from renewable electricity can be used in pure form or as a blend to fuel clean energy systems of the future.

Rockwell Automation Announces Edge-to-Cloud and Upgraded Asset Management

Here are two interesting announcements from Rockwell Automation this month. DataOps and asset management subscription service—both technologies for the future.

Edge-To-Cloud

IT companies have been touting edge-to-cloud architectures for several years. I’ve followed several of those companies until they decided there’s not enough revenue from the industrial market to satisfy them. Industrial technology suppliers have been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. But the pace is picking up. 

In my next post after this one, I’ll discuss another industrial company who has discovered edge-to-cloud as a promising architecture of the future. Rockwell Automation beat them by few days. I have two announcements from Rockwell from last week revealing that company’s continued advance into software and IT-related technologies. Some executive sources in the industry have told me that Wall Street is driving much of this strategy by valuing software companies over hardware companies. 

Check out Rockwell’s investment in and subsequent partnership with PTC that enhanced its software connectivity of automation to IT. Then acquisitions of Plex and Fiix to get into the cloud. Now a partnership with Cognite for a data hub—yet another key component.

  • Strategic partnership to develop a unified, edge-to-cloud industrial data hub offering
  • Combines Rockwell’s FactoryTalk software with Cognite’s Industrial DataOps platform Data Fusion [Note: I’m on record somewhere predicting DataOps as a cool tool for the future.]

My Equipment Subscription

I always forget that often when Rockwell talks asset management, it’s not the same thing as when a process automation company discusses it. In Rockwell speak, this means keeping track of Rockwell assets in a manufacturing company.

  • My Equipment Digital enables digital collection and updating of industrial automation asset data through the use of network-based devices. 
  • The digital collection method includes firmware information and a one-time vulnerability assessment.
  • Customers can self-manage and track their installed base automation assets
  • The self-manage feature can be added to an Installed Base Evaluation (IBE service) and is included in the My Equipment Digital and My Equipment Managed offerings.
  • Mitigate network risks if legacy products and/or unmanaged switches are found
  • Review modernization potential to determine risks and productivity improvement opportunities by identifying which older products may be less expensive to repair than to buy new
  • Provide adequate remote support coverage by confirming that the most prevalent technical segments are covered
  • Reduce costs through the optimization of asset and spares strategies by comparing storeroom data to the installed base, and the identification of warranty savings

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