It didn’t take long for the rise of the internet to upend the way process manufacturers do business. Over the span of just a few years, plants went from prioritizing a rigid, isolated control system structure to needing ways to integrate across the enterprise to optimize operations.
While it still makes sense to ensure each plant or unit across the enterprise is optimized, the most effective organizations do not stop there. As Emerson’s Claudio Fayad points out in his recent article in Chemical Engineering magazine,
“Sustainability, energy and reliability initiatives are refocusing efforts on optimizing the entire fleet or enterprise to capture previously unnoticed or undervalued synergies.”
Shifts in corporate and public opinion are forcing a rapid move toward more focus on reliability, sustainability, and energy use, and organizations need to quickly find ways to monitor and manage the associated benchmarks.
Doing more with less
One key way organizations are achieving optimization is by shifting focus away from building new facilities and instead exploring how they can be more efficient with the resources they already have. Tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning software can use the data plants are already collecting from a wide variety of existing sensors to analyze and trend plant performance. But to perform this trending holistically means moving the data to the enterprise from multiple locations, which, in turn, means enabling cloud connectivity.
To meet this need, more and more organizations are adopting a boundless automation vision for their environments. Claudio shares,
“To truly get the most benefit from automation, organizations need an architecture that will seamlessly integrate the software, tools, technologies, data and controls of a next-generation automation stack across every operational domain, from the field to the edge to the cloud. Driving this type of holistic optimization, necessary to compete in a global market, will require more than complex independent edge architectures to collect, standardize and democratize data.”
Democratizing data allows teams to use it to optimize operations across every domain—reliability, sustainability, energy use, quality, and more—so that cross-functional teams can innovate without wasting time trying to collect data from various silos across the enterprise. Instead, a unified software ecosystem will collect, collate, contextualize, and standardize data as part of operations, increasing the value of every piece of data across the enterprise and leveling up collaboration.
Today’s digital transformation builds tomorrow’s operations
As new technologies—Ethernet advanced physical layer, 5G, OPC UA, hyperconverged infrastructure, containerization, and more—emerge to bridge the gap between operational technology and information technology, plants can use them to take the first steps on the path to a unified boundless automation architecture. That is why Emerson is building these technologies into current and future versions of its automation technologies, like the DeltaV™ distributed control system, AMS Asset Monitor, and more. These technologies, and many that have yet to emerge, are the building blocks of a unified automation and control architecture that will create the next-generation, enterprise automation platforms.