Process manufacturing organizations have always needed to optimize operations, but the underlying catalysts for that need have not always been static. Today, for example, optimization is very much a result of increasing globalization and the need to secure competitive advantage even as company budgets shrink dramatically.
One particularly interesting element of this new wave of optimization initiatives, however, is that it must be approached differently from those of the past. As Nathan Pettus explains in his recent article in Control Engineering, most teams have been optimizing their plants for years if not decades. This means that action on the local level provides increasingly less benefit with each passing year. Most of the local optimization options have already been tackled. Organizations that want to thrive, therefore, need to look outside the plant to capture additional gains.
A vision for optimization across the enterprise
The next step, then, is to shift the optimization focus to another level. To accomplish this, many organizations are searching for ways to drive improvement at the enterprise level. However, these initiatives are complicated by the fact that operational technology (OT) has long been shielded from information technology (IT) and the internet. Moving data from the plant floor to the enterprise is no easy task.
Enter Emerson’s Boundless Automation™ vision. Boundless Automation seamlessly integrated industrial software, Industry 4.0 technologies, and next-gen automation to democratize data—breaking down silos for secure, seamless connectivity from field to edge to cloud.
It all starts, Nathan explains, with a comprehensive architecture that spans the OT/IT convergence. New technologies will help move critical information to the people who need it. Nathan shares,
“By providing the right access to information by the right people, organizations foster the innovation that leads to constant improvement and, with the right technologies and collaboration, eventually toward self-optimized facilities. But providing this access means changing the traditional paradigm of operation to decentralize models and eliminate data silos, enabling contextualized data to stream effortlessly across the enterprise.”
If this sounds familiar, it’s because something similar has been done before with business systems. The move to a seamless ecosystem models that of the move to highly-integrated business systems that occurred over a decade ago.
A foundation in modern technology
None of this can happen, however, without the newest technologies emerging in the marketplace. Nathan explains,
“A new, more modern technology fabric will provide the critical technologies operations teams will rely upon, such as analytics, simulation, energy management tools, field-based insight applications, and more. Technologies and protocols such as Ethernet advanced physical layer (APL), 5G communication, OPC UA, hyperconverged infrastructure, and containerization are forming the foundational technology infrastructure that will simplify connectivity among systems and smooth data flow.”
“Instead of building solutions as an edge layer on top of automation, new technologies will deliver an integrated ecosystem with fit-for-purpose apps, delivering a more intuitive experience between operational technology and information technology. This will be the case whether content originates from the cloud, a field device, or an on-premises hyperconverged infrastructure.”
We’re already seeing some of these technologies arrive in the marketplace. Emerson technologies like Emerson’s DeltaV™ Edge Environment are breaking new ground in flattening engineering hierarchies and delivering secure movement of data wherever users need it, while at the same time providing a sandbox testing and coding environment where OT and IT teams can work together to deliver co-engineered solutions to their most complex problems. Meanwhile, technologies like Emerson’s DeltaV PK Flex are offering software-defined control while simultaneously bringing APL into the plant.
You can learn more about how Emerson’s Boundless Automation vision is leveraging Industry 4.0 to drive digital transformation across the enterprise by reading Nathan’s article in full over at Control Engineering.