Industrial automation has evolved to become driven by big data
Published on : Friday 01-07-2022
Balaji G, SVP, Head – Energy Industries Division, Process Automation, ABB India.
The pandemic is nearly behind us, but the effects on industry will last longer. What are three digitalisation strategies that companies are working on based on lessons of the last two years?
A shortage of skilled labour during the Covid-19 pandemic and an added drive towards digital transformation have prompted companies to automate the value chain and reduce human intervention.
Digitalisation represents a wave of disruption that has the power and potential to transform industrial processes, from controlling inputs from the supply chain to limiting outputs in terms of emissions and energy wastage. By providing a thread that weaves production processes, digitalisation provides the intelligence needed to optimise performance at every stage, ensuring that the result can be efficiently produced and will meet the expected levels of quality and consistency.
Furthermore, companies across sectors adopted a conglomeration of technologies and solutions to address heterogeneous operational issues. Digitalisation strategies such as shop floor automation, remote monitoring technology and supply chain integration emerged as result of the pandemic-infused challenges.
For so many Indian companies who are not fully into Industrial Revolution 3.0, is there any urgency to move towards digitalisation?
The term ‘digitalisation’ as it is used today refers to technologies that communicate faster, store and process data in the cloud, perform remote services, conduct instantaneous transactions, empower users in a mobile fashion, etc. While some industries, such as finance, lead in digitalisation, other industries are still at an earlier point on this path.
Digitalisation is the way forward for companies across sectors. As physical contacts were kept to a minimum over the past two years, it is digital that proved to be the most viable option for many organisations. The best way to support organisations in unlocking Industry 4.0 potential is to advance their existing digital investment.
Moreover, increased efficiency through intelligent systems, devices and processes is the best way to ensure cost savings for companies. The implementation of next-generation technology will also create new job opportunities in these companies and provide enhanced output.
For many companies, the challenge is in moving from pilots to deployment at scale. What is the way forward?
There are several factors that can stifle the transition from pilot to deployment, which is why many companies refrain from moving forward.
However, understanding the problem definition clearly, identifying the complexities in integration, retaining a low level of customisation to minimise solution cost, and creating a connected enterprise, as opposed to a siloed approach are few ways for companies to move forward.
There is so much work going on in the area of Data Analytics. What about the effort to get real-time data directly from machines?
Industrial development is unstoppable in today’s agile and competitive business environment. Over the past decades, industrial automation has evolved to become driven by big data, thanks to technological innovation and advancements of the Industrial Internet of Things.
Data needs to be analysed and applied ambitiously and innovatively – to the benefit of decision-makers, the individual industry, and the whole network. The answer is software-based analytics and decision tools suited for industrial operations management solutions. Business intelligence (BI) solutions focused more on structured data and processed that information in regularly occurring cycles. Big data expands the view by increasing the range and variety of data that can be analysed so that one can have additional context and insight to enable better decision making.
ABB Ability™, which combines ABB’s deep domain expertise with connectivity and software innovation to empower real-time, data-driven decisions for safer and smarter operations that maximise resource efficiency and contribute to a low-carbon future. ABB’s plethora of digital solutions from sensors to cloud – helps multiple organisations across sectors to automate, optimise and future-proof their businesses to achieve new heights in performance and drive sustainable progress.
Many niche and custom solutions are being attempted for connecting legacy machines, what about long term serviceability?
ABB is committed to the reliability of operations, providing full support to maximise operational uptime – and thereby lowering life cycle costs. Beyond providing different levels of service for products and systems that are already hard at work on customer sites, ABB believes its products must, by virtue of their design, be built for service.
Collaborating with our customers, we understand the challenges faced and can advise and support them in their maintenance and upgrade strategies. Leveraging our network of experts around the globe, the company can respond to customer queries and resolve issues rapidly.
But service is not restricted to maintenance and preventing failures. ABB’s service portfolio also encompasses the optimisation of processes and operations. The company can also support customers in their quest for greater energy efficiency, lower operating costs or in protecting systems and equipment from cyber-attacks.
Intelligent integration across engineering, infrastructure, applications, and services ensures new insights to empower faster, more intelligent decision making. By connecting people across locations and by giving them the right information at the right time, businesses have become more streamlined and able to cut costs, reduce schedules and minimise risk.
Is it too early to talk about standards and regulatory guidelines for collection, storage and access to data?
Virtually every organisation has enacted some sort of data privacy policies to regulate how information is collected, how data subjects are informed, and what control a data subject has over his information once it is transferred. Especially during the hybrid work environment that most of the organisations have adopted. Failure to follow applicable data privacy may lead to fines, lawsuits, and even prohibition of a site's use in certain jurisdictions.
Manufacturing facilities tend to have a lot of devices generating more data, which leads to another buzzword: Big Data. Putting in place a data infrastructure policy, helps to level the playing field in modern data management making things more equitable.
Managing, analysing, and activating data also relies on applications and services. Applications collect and generate data, as well as consume, analyse, and aggregate it; organisations are seeing hybrid architectures, addressing storage management complexity, and enabling data economy while dealing with big data.
G Balaji is head of Energy Industries division in Process Automation, ABB India. He is also a member of the Country Management Committee that shapes critical management strategy. In his role as the head of Energy Industries, Balaji is driving digital transformation for many customers through co-innovation and co-creation with the customers.
Balaji brings vast knowledge of Oil and Gas, Chemicals and Energy sector. In his career of close to 24 years, he has held several management positions in ABB India across operations and engineering, executing large complex projects and working closely with Global teams. He has been deeply involved in developing operational excellence and key initiatives within ABB India for our customers in the Energy sector.
He has a wide knowledge of technology applications in utilities and industries, and has been instrumental in developing and executing solutions around Industrial Internet of Things in plants and factories.
Balaji is an engineer in instrumentation and control.
(The views expressed in interviews are personal, not necessarily of the organisations represented)