Digital Twin Alliance to Address Complex Digital Transformational Challenges

In brief: Three Organizations Combine Expertise to Bring Digital Twins to Life, Create Added Value, and Deliver Support Across the Asset Lifecycle

The idea of an open system for data flow from engineering through construction to startup to operation & maintenance, and perhaps even to decommissioning has intrigued me for years. I have worked with MIMOSA and its Open Industrial Interoperability Ecosystem for many years. Check it out.

For the most part, suppliers have been a bit slow to this game. The way of the world is that automation vendors never liked the “open” part, since their design emphasizes tight integration of as many parts as possible under their proprietary umbrella.

An ecosystem is one thing, and a partnership is another. Sometimes companies announce partnerships with great flourish and publicity only to see the great promise wither from neglect. Sometimes end users (owner/operators) reap significant benefit.

With that background, I approach the announcement of a partnership. I like the idea, but execution and sustainability will be proof of the strength of this partnership. Note that two of the companies are sort of like “conjoined twins” joined at the hip.

From the announcement:

DORIS Group, global Engineering and Project Management company in the energy industry, Schneider Electric, supplier of products and solutions for digital transformation of energy management and automation, and AVEVA an engineering and industrial software supplier, have agreed to develop a strategic partnership to deliver Digital Twin technology for the upstream oil and gas markets.

These new solutions will support the goals of oil & gas organizations to improve asset performance, increase sustainability and maximize return on capital on projects.

The three companies will combine offerings to bring engineering capabilities, an asset lifecycle software solution and digital specialization in order to create a fully formed digital twin to serve as a backbone for improving performance for the upstream sector. The new solution will:

  • Bring new assets on stream faster through the use of cloud-enabled software that improves collaboration and increases engineering efficiencies
  • Deliver enhanced safety leading to better business outcomes
  • Improve traceability through a single point of accountability
  • Enable remote operations and production assurance through a fully functional Living Digital Twin that mirrors all aspects of the operating asset

Oil & Gas owner operators have struggled to go digital due to the lack of a structured offering and orchestration as no single vendor currently delivers what is required to achieve this. Large amounts of data of various types, from different sources is another challenge they face, often leading to data inaccuracy and incompatibility, as well as difficulties in organizing that data and identifying trends.

Similarly, the oil & gas sector is under considerable pressure to quantify, track and reduce CO2 emissions as well as reduce overall pollution – this can be even more difficult with limited monitoring, no established method and no data-driven decision making.

Together, DORIS, AVEVA, and Schneider Electric will offer a structured digital and collaborative solution across the lifecycle of projects that will help oil & gas owner operators address many of these challenges.

Christophe Debouvry, CEO of DORIS Group, stated, “DORIS Group is excited to be strategically partnering with Schneider Electric and AVEVA in this unique venture which will allow us to accelerate the building out of our digital transformation strategy. Combining our complementary expertise will go a long way to providing a powerful enabler to offer our customers embarking on their digital transformational journeys with optimized solutions throughout their assets lifecycle.”

Craig Hayman, CEO AVEVA, also commented, “Leaders driving the next wave of transformation are moving quickly and that’s why this partnership with Schneider Electric and DORIS Group is so opportune. Our common aim is to support organizations on their digital journey especially in the current environment, helping them accelerate the use of digital technology, realize the value of a digital twin and also work towards a more sustainable future. It’s never been easier to begin a digital transformation program, as access to cloud computing, great connectivity, a merged edge and enterprise combined with analytics and machine learning, means that the ability to digitally drive productivity improvements into the industrial world is now unprecedented.”

Christopher Dartnell, President Oil & Gas and Petrochemicals at Schneider Electric, commented, “This partnership is in line with Schneider Electric’s objectives around Digitization and Energy Transition and we will bring our expertise in both energy and process efficiency to the industry. Our goal is to support customers looking to adopt a digital twin model, by offering our experience to facilitate the overall digital transformation for our clients enable them to improve lifecycle performance and safe operations while also making their operations more sustainable.”

People and Data—the Most Important Assets

This week I attended the AVEVA World customer conference sitting on my patio with a bank of computers on the table. It’s always nice to catch up with the latest from technology suppliers, even if we couldn’t meet in person and have all those informative hallway conversations.

Next week I’ll be attending three conferences, something that would have been a physical impossibility only a few months ago. Looks like all of my anticipated conference trips have been cancelled until November.

I must begin with a note regarding the AVEVA/Schneider Electric relationship. If you go back a few years, Schneider Electric made a rather large and significant acquisition. It kept the Foxboro and Triconex (and a few other) brands and used the software parts—Wonderware and Avantis and some others—as an investment into an engineering software company called AVEVA. As a result, Schneider Electric owns just over a majority of the shares in the publicly traded software company. And, therefore, Schneider Electric played a significant minor role in this conference.

Schneider’s chairman and CEO, Jean-Pascal Tricoire, said, “AVEVA should be agnostic. Our customers don’t have just one system but have the problem of integrating the complexity of having more than one system. AVEVA is completely open. We are independent companies working closely with each other.”

Craig Hayman, CEO of AVEVA, noted during his keynote address, “We’ve pivoted to emphasize digital. We recognize that people and data are the two most important assets. We do this technology in order to make people successful. Businesses have the great responsibility to protect employees and customers. We’re seeing the power of data and analytics helping companies respond to incidents as they occur and operate assets as efficiently as possible.” Indeed, digital, data, and people were the keywords of the event.

In further remarks, Tricoire emphasized “Digital Trust and Sustainability”. He shared how COVID-19 has accelerated existing digital trends, encouraging more efficiency, “remote everything,” greater resilience, and for sustainability to mitigate and adapt to primary threats of both the pandemic and climate change. He said, “Faced with a very volatile environment, companies need superior agility, and increased efficiency. This means they need increased capacity on one side, resiliency on the other side. The overall winner is digitalization. And the need for digitalization has been further reinforced by companies new need to operate remotely, for higher efficiency, and ultimately, for much better sustainability.”

Guest customer keynoter, Saad Bashir, CTO of the City of Seattle, speaking on “Digital Agility in the Age of COVID-19” shared his thoughts on what happened in Seattle when the pandemic hit. “Although we had planned for digital resiliency for some time, we didn’t really know how it would go until one morning all 30,000 people in our team decided to stay home and log on.” Although the team’s resiliency plans have held up well, Saad adds, “We’ve already seen opportunities from the lessons learned and one that’s worth highlighting is digital resiliency…with a unified view of our infrastructure with systems that are seamlessly connected so that they can inform decisions.”

Much discussion involved both Cloud and Edge—you must develop both, can’t have one without the other.

Ravi Gopinath, AVEVA Chief Cloud Officer and COO discussed cloud and AI. He noted four areas of investment—new way of engineering; new way of visualization; reliability and safe operations; drive agility. Develop cloud on one side and AI on the other. The cloud strengths—deploy applications easily, low TCO, enable flexible consumption, and enhance collaboration. AI provides—analysis, prediction, guidance, learning. Leading to Digital Twin, Big Data, and Industrial IoT and Edge.

The press release coming from the event focused on Schneider Electric, who announced expanded partnerships with AVEVA, Lenovo and Stratus to address the convergence of IT and OT. This partnership is bringing together system integrators with IT solution providers to build integrated industrial edge computing solutions resulting in the immediate release of three programs to empower system integrators to expand their value to end users, enabling their customers’ industrial digital transformations.

These programs include:

      Industrial edge reference designs: Co-developed with AVEVA, including solutions from Lenovo and Stratus, these reference designs reduce risk and time to market with fully customizable, pre-integrated EcoStruxure Micro Data Center solutions for any edge environment. With secure solutions designed to meet IT standards, system integrators can free up time from the IT architecture to focus on the software and solutions. These reference designs are available in Schneider Electric’s Local Edge Configurator and can be customized to specifications.
      A digital training program for system integrators: Edge computing continues to prove itself as a space for opportunity for system integrators to extend business models and establish their roles as consultants. This learning program includes a comprehensive digital training series for system integrators on Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Micro Data Center and EcoStruxure IT solutions to help address common challenges at the edge.
      The Industrial Edge Exchange Community: Built within Schneider Electric Exchange, the Industrial Edge Community allows system integrators to easily identify and engage with edge-certified IT solution providers. It is designed to facilitate new business and address IT/OT projects, and features a tool that pairs Alliance System Integrators with Schneider Electric’s Edge-certified IT Channel Partners.

    “The smart factory is becoming smarter. Our expanded partnerships and new industrial edge programs empower system integrators to leverage their domain expertise and become IT/OT convergence specialists and meet these needs for their customers,” said Philippe Rambach, Senior Vice President, Industrial Automation, Schneider Electric. “We know that smart manufacturing is driving an unprecedented wave of IT technologies into industrial spaces. As companies leverage AI, robotic processing automation, and more, they will require edge computing solutions to reduce latency and enable resiliency, while ensuring privacy and security, and addressing important data and bandwidth requirements.”

    What is the Industrial Edge?

    For industrial operators to capture the benefits of increased automation, they cannot rely on cloud-technology alone to bring the resiliency and speed demanded by AI, HD cameras, and other Industry 4.0 technologies. Local edge data centers are IT infrastructure enclosures/spaces/facilities distributed geographically to enable endpoints on the network. When in industrial environments such as a manufacturing plant or distribution center, this application is referred to as “industrial edge.”

    Taking a Digital Journey

    Taking a Digital Journey

    Keynoters have a tough time with originality these Digital Days with everyone emphasizing Digital Transformation. Steve Lomholt-Thomson, chief revenue officer of AVEVA, took us on a Digital Journey this morning. Setting the tone of the three days of AVEVA World Congress (North America edition).

    Three technology trends to watch: an IoT boom; cloud/empowered edge; and, AI / ML. The theme is digital. The Digital Organization discovers its Digital DNA, figures out how to build that Digital DNA through people who challenge the status quo; and then figures out how to track talent flow.

    Which all starts us on our Digital Journey. On this journey, we unify end-to-end data, connect data silos taking an wholistic view of the business, and then visualize our assets and supply chain. I believe implied in all this is the company’s product AVEVA System Platform. The company touted six customer stories with at least five of them (and probably the sixth) all leveraging System Platform.

    Oh, and the only time the “W” word was used referred to past tense.

    Other areas of the company were highlighted:

    Focus on assets–asset performance management including how to use machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) for predictive analytics (predictive maintenance.

    How to combine it all into a Digital Twin–bringing the design lifecycle and physical lifecycle into congruence.

    Recently hired head of North America business, Christine Harding, interviewed customers from Campbell’s (soup/snacks), Quantum Solutions (integration project at St. Louis/Lambert airport), and Suncor (Canadian oil sands).

    I have the rest of today and then tomorrow to take deeper dives into many of these topics. If there is anything you want me to ask, send a note.

    Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

    Schneider Electric Foxboro and Triconex Innovation Days 2019

    I’ve followed Foxboro and Triconex for many years now in my coverage of the process automation business. A great company that, not unlike too many others, suffered now and again with very poor management. The company has now settled in nicely at its home in Schneider Electric and appears to be healthy here.

    Much credit must go to Gary Freburger. He provided a steadying hand as the leader before and through the transition, as well as guiding the integration into the new home. He is retiring at the end of the year. I’ve met a number of great leaders and a few stinkers in my 20 years at this side of the business. Gary’s one of the great ones. And his chosen successor (see more below) seems more than up for the task of building on his successes.

    Marcotte Succeeds Freburger as Process Automation President

    This week’s major announcement revealed that Nathalie Marcotte has been selected to succeed Freburger as president of its Process Automation business, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

    Nathalie Marcotte Official Picture  jpg

    “After a long, successful industry career, including more than 15 years serving Invensys and Schneider Electric in various senior leadership roles, Gary has decided to retire,” said Peter Herweck, executive vice president, Industrial Automation business, Schneider Electric. “We thank him for his many contributions and his strong legacy of success. We wish him well, and I congratulate Nathalie on her appointment. She brings more than 30 years of industry knowledge, expertise and experience, as well as a long record of success. I look forward to working with her as we build on the success Gary has delivered.”

    Since joining the Schneider organization in 1996, Marcotte has held several positions of increasing responsibility, including vice president of Global Performance and Consulting Services; vice president, North America marketing; general manager for the Canadian business; and, prior to her current position, vice president, marketing, Global Systems business. As the company’s current senior vice president, Industrial Automation Services, she is responsible for Schneider Electric’s Services business and offer development, ranging from product support to advanced operations and digital services. She is also responsible for the company’s Global Cybersecurity Services & Solutions business, including the Product Security Office.

    “As we move through this transition, it will be business as usual for Schneider Electric and our Process Automation customers,” Marcotte said. “Gary and I are working very closely together to ensure there will be no disruptions to our day-to-day operations. This ensures our customers have the same access to the exceptional people, products and technology they have come to trust and rely on to improve the real-time safety, reliability, efficiency and profitability of their operations.”

    “I thank Gary for his many contributions to Schneider Electric and to our industry in general. Under his leadership, our customers, partners and employees have never been better situated to succeed, today and tomorrow,” Marcotte said. “This transition will have no impact on our technology strategy and portfolio roadmap. We remain committed to our continuously-current philosophy, which means never leaving our customers behind. Now, by leveraging the strength of the full Schneider Electric offer, we can take the next step toward enabling an easier, less costly digital transformation for our customers, while keeping them on the path to a safer, more secure and profitable future.”

    Following the opening keynotes, I had the opportunity to chat privately with Freburger and Marcotte. Following summarizes a few key takeaways.

    Digitalization and Digital Transformation.

    These topics were prominently displayed in the ballroom before the keynotes. In fact the welcome and opening presentation were given by Mike Martinez, Director of Digital Transformation Consulting. These are common themes in the industry—in fact, not only process automation, but also at the IT conferences I cover. Each company has its own unique take on the terms, but it still boils down to data, data integrity, databases, and data security. All of which were discussed.

    Key Points From the Presidents.

    Integration across Schneider Electric. One priority has been working with other business units (and their technologies) across the Schneider Electric portfolio. This could be PLCs and drives, but power is a huge emphasis. Schneider Electric management wants very much for its process automation acquisition to integrate well with its historic electric power business. This is seen as a strategic opportunity. One thought-provoking observation—is the process engineer/electrical engineer divide as serious as the IT/OT divide? No direct answer. But these domains have historically had little to no collaboration. One to watch.

    Close working relationship with AVEVA. If you recall, Schneider Electric bundled its various software acquisitions including the ones from Invensys (Wonderware, Avantis) and used them to buy into AVEVA—the engineering software company. Bringing automation and software together was a constant source of pain for Invensys. Schneider Electric dealt with it through a separate company. Along the way, cooperation seems to be better than ever. Marcotte explained to me that Foxboro combines its domain expertise with the more broadly general software platforms to achieve customer values. See for example my previous post on Plant Performance Advisors Suite.

    Cybersecurity.  Marcotte has been leading Schneider’s cybersecurity efforts. These are seen as a key part of Schneider Electric’s offer. See especially the establishment of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance. They don’t talk as much about Internet of Things as at other conferences, when I probed more deeply about IT, cybersecurity was again brought up as the key IT/OT collaboration driver.

    It’s been a struggle, but the Schneider Electric process automation business (Foxboro and Triconex) seems as strong as ever. And the people here—both internal and customers—are optimistic and energetic. That’s good to see.

    Taking a Digital Journey

    Integrating Engineering and Project Execution

    The design engineering function originates data. It includes data about the structure of the plant or factory, data about the equipment and processes used to make the product, and data about the product(s) itself. In my early career, I embodied the movement of the data from design to operations and then back to design in a continuous loop of as designed—>as built—>as designed. I was also involved for a while in the development of a platform to automate this process using standards.

    To say I’m interested in this area would be an understatement. And this process is important to all of you, too. Including those who siphon off some data for other uses such as accounting, customer service, maintenance, and reliability.

    AVEVA, the integration of its iconic design engineering software and Schneider Electric’s software business, just introduced integrated engineering software designed to help customers transform the way capital projects are engineered, executed, and integrated into operations and maintenance.

    The integrated portfolio comprises three software solutions. AVEVA Unified Engineering integrates process design with front-end engineering and detailed 3D based design. AVEVA Unified Project Execution links and streamlines procurement and construction processes for capital projects. AVEVA Enterprise Learning enables the rapid skilling of operators and engineers using Extended Reality (XR) and simulation tools, to ensure efficient startups and shutdowns, normal operations, and the ability to handle abnormal situations

    “This launch builds on the recent news describing AVEVA’s capabilities as the first company in the engineering and industrial software market to comprehensively address the end-to-end digital transformation imperatives with an integrated portfolio of solutions that deliver efficiency, unlock value and empower people across the lifecycle of capital assets and operational value chains,” commented Craig Hayman, CEO, AVEVA. “It changes the way that owner operators engage with Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) companies in designing, building, commissioning, and operating their capital assets.”

    The functionality provided in these integrated solutions enables the realization of an EPC 4.0 strategy for owner operators, central to digital transformation in the capital-intensive process sectors. This allows collaboration on a global scale, through hybrid cloud architectures and on a common platform. The entire manufacturing process can be traced, tracked, and linked – from engineering and design, through procurement and construction, to handover and to operations and maintenance, as a comprehensive Digital Twin for the capital asset.

    “As competition in the business world accelerates the time has come for industrial organization to innovate to facilitate the transition from the manual, document-centric processes, towards a data-driven vision of project design, procurement, and execution in order to increase safety, reduce costs, and minimize delays, “ commented Craig Hayman, CEO AVEVA. “With the launch of AVEVA Unified Engineering, a first of its kind solution, we are breaking down the silos between engineering disciplines and enabling our customers to turn conceptual designs into 3D models quickly, accelerating engineering to estimation and ensuring designs can be operated before committing billions of dollars.”

    New AVEVA Unified Engineering enables the integration of the process model and plant model lifecycles from concept to detailed design, delivering frictionless collaboration for multi-discipline engineers to collaborate in the cloud. The net result is a minimum 50% improvement in engineering efficiency in FEED and up to 30% in detail design, which can yield a 3% total installed cost improvement. These savings can be re-invested to ensure engineering quality, accuracy, and maturity for downstream project execution business processes.

    AVEVA Unified Project Execution solutions integrate with AVEVA Unified Engineering to further break down the silos within Procurement and Construction by combining key disciplines covering Contract Risk Management, Materials and Supply Chain Control, and Construction Management into one cloud based digital project execution environment. AVEVA Unified Project Execution solutions deliver up to 15% reduction in material costs, 10% reduction in field labor costs and reduces unbudgeted supplier change orders by up to 50%, which translates to 10% total installed costs savings opportunities for our customers.

    AVEVA’s Enterprise Learning solutions combine traditional simulation-based learning with 3D connected learning management solutions. AVEVA’s learning solutions extend process models and 3D models from AVEVA Unified Engineering to fast track DCS panel operator training, field operator training, process and maintenance procedural training, and process safety situational awareness training using cloud and Extended Reality (XR) technology to deliver up to 2% Total Installed Cost reduction by improved operations readiness.

    “Our Engineering portfolio enhancements will deliver increased agility for our customers, enabling them to reduce cost, risk, and delays, minimizing errors and driving rapid capital project execution. The cost savings are realized by mitigating capital investment risks at the process design stage, cutting engineering man-hours by up to 30% in plant design, reducing material costs in procurement by up to 15% as well as reducing field labor costs in construction by up to 10%,” commented Amish Sabharwal, SVP, Engineering Business, AVEVA. “With these new solutions AVEVA is providing integration across all stages of the capital project, from conceptual design to handover, to optimize collaboration and break down silos between both engineering disciplines and project stages.”