Redefining AI: Turning Analytic Insights into Actionable Intelligence

by , | Sep 1, 2021 | Digital Transformation, Power Generation, Reliability

Anne Turkowski

Marketing Communications Strategy Manager

Transition from Reactive to Predictive

Data analytics is a critical enabler of digital transformation, making it possible for numerous industries—power generation among them—to shift how they operate and become more efficient and agile and, consequently, more competitive. Advanced analytics can transition power producers from a reactive operations and maintenance approach to a predictive or prognostic strategy. This actionable intelligence—built directly into the automation platform—unleashes efficiencies that improve operational situational awareness across traditional and renewable resources. Ultimately, it reduces overall costs while increasing plant safety, reliability and availability.

Essentials for Success

When most people think about analytics and digital transformation, their first instinct is usually to focus exclusively on the technologies. And while the technological advances are indeed transformative, there are two other foundational elements essential for success that are often missed: Process and Culture.

There are two ways to view Process. First, think of it in terms of how a power plant functions—the thermal processes, for example. Process can also refer to the work processes, or steps, you take to fully deploy analytics as part of the digital transformation journey. But, perhaps the biggest challenge area when adopting analytics, especially for more established employees who are not “digital natives,” is culture.  Why is culture so important? Simply put, we know that transformation works best when you have input and alignment with the people who will be interacting most with the technology.

A new cultural mindset is needed to apply the latest technologies and processes,” says Rick Kephart, vice president of technology for Emerson’s power and water industries. “Obtaining buy-in from the entire organization is essential to successful digital transformation.

Now that we’ve addressed all three elements, let’s hone in more closely on Technology.

 The Power of Analytics

More specifically, the power of analytics and how it enhances decision making. It has been proven that good data provides good insights, which enable quality actions that result in a profitable and successful business. To quantify it: McKinsey & Company research indicates analytics has the potential to deliver an economic impact of between $4 trillion and $11 trillion by 2025. But let’s be clear from the outset: We are not advocating volumes of data for data’s sake. Nothing could be further from the truth. What’ we’re talking about is real-time, robust, behind-the-scenes insights from data that provides plant operators with the information needed to take action.

And it’s nothing short of game changing.

For power producers, advanced analytics built directly into the automation platform enables a transition from reactive to predictive operations and maintenance. Improving data collection and archiving leads to better tools for understanding and using that data. This evolution of the control system unleashes efficiencies that improve operational situational awareness across traditional and renewable resources. Ultimately, it reduces overall costs while increasing plant safety, reliability and availability.

Analytics is about to switch from “it would be nice to have” to a requirement in the future.

 Remote Operations

Utilities benefit from actionable intelligence derived from analytics in two important ways. First, as today’s advanced control technologies quickly detect the onset of an abnormal condition and bring it immediately to the operator’s attention, they are able to swiftly take action to avert potential problems. Second, plant data can be sent to a centralized M&D center for longer-term, strategic analysis across the entire fleet. Both add value.

According to Kephart, one of the biggest trends in the power industry is control room consolidation and remote integrated operations, in which multiple generation assets are managed from one location: “Analytics is critical to this scenario.”

 Beginning the Journey

While data analytics presents a massive opportunity, it’s not always clear where to start. There are a few factors, as shown in the illustration below, that can contribute greatly to success.  Even though the illustration is linear, we are reminded that that this journey never really ends, and it rarely follows a straight line. Instead, it is circular, with each step feeding off the other.

There is one more important aspect to keep in mind. Analytics, like computer programs, have to be created. They are human-derived and human-serving: they are not replacements for real brainpower and emotional intelligence. However, when properly applied, analytics can provide insight across the entire enterprise-–operations, engineering, maintenance, business administration and IT—making the human being more effective and more engaged.

You can learn more about how about how to turn vast amounts of data into insights that drive proactive decisions to boost operational performance at all levels by watching an on-demand POWER webinar featuring Emerson’s Kephart, and moderated by POWER Magazine’s Aaron Larson.

Visit the Ovation distributed control system page on Emerson.com for more on the technologies and software to help deploy actionable intelligence.

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The opinions expressed here are the personal opinions of the authors. Content published here is not read or approved by Emerson before it is posted and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Emerson.