Digital industry consulting: We are all about the future, vitality and growth

“This year we are all about the future”. That’s the main theme of the Northern Industry Fair in 2022 - which has inspired my blog. It's a good time to talk about the growth and vitality from the perspective of industrial digital transformation grounded in the real world. The events of last years have showed us how uncertain the future can get, making it harder and harder to predict what’s next. Changes are coming faster and faster, which makes preparation more important than ever.

By Antto Shemeikka  LinkedIn
Global Industry Consulting Lead, Digital
Process Industries

About the author

Antto is an enthusiast of industry digitalization and automatization driving more sustainable and meaningful world. He has worked in and for the industries the last 20+ years. Being interested in the world and taking the opportunities around has enabled living in multiple different countries and travelling across 50+, which has given a great amount of perspective and enrichment.

Increasing value from digitalization at scale to build resilience

Every industry and every company today is being disrupted by digital transformation. This is one of the most discussed topics as we are meeting face to face again. At Oulu event, we dive deep into major projects, sustainable development, mining industry and maintenance topics. But I think, what it is about: how can you build organizations that are able to thrive despite rapid change? Digital has become the biggest lever when it comes to building business resilience.

In particular, process industries are under intense pressure to transform from an environmental, political, and cultural perspective - and this pressure will continue until major action is taken.

The four key drivers for change which I would point out here:

1. Driving a more sustainable future

Firstly, the need to embed sustainability in every part of business strategy. We’re seeing an acceleration towards net zero carbon. Many of the world’s biggest companies have publicly committed to reducing their emissions and are investing heavily. Digitalization plays a critical role in addressing the sustainability challenges across many industries. The main business opportunity here lies in the holistic energy optimization, integrating data from many areas, not just from your own systems. Modern asset performance management (APM) and advanced process control (APC) software also have a proven track-record of reducing energy consumption. Powered by AI / ML, the improvement potential is still bigger. Real-time emission monitoring and other KPI tracking are important for ESG reporting.

2. The new generation of talent

Secondly, we are seeing a change in the workforce. The new generation of talent wants to work with companies that are digital, innovative and purpose led. And it’s not only about attracting the best talent, but companies must also find new ways to capture and transfer operational knowledge and drive workforce competency. We help companies replace paper, clipboards, spreadsheets and two-way radios with mobile apps, live video, augmented reality headsets, virtual reality headsets and more – speeding up issue resolution. It’s one of the most exciting and impactful experiences making its way into the industrial environment.

3. The shift towards autonomous, integrated digital operations

That brings us to the third point about relieving people from ‘dangerous, dull and dirty” and opening up more interesting roles for them – which is driving the shift to autonomous, integrated digital operations. This also means building agility and flexibility into organizations to be more responsive to change and to improve their bottom line.

According to McKinsey, for sites and sectors operating at a lower level of digital maturity, there are opportunities to improve EBITDA  (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) by 3-5 percent or more. For more mature sites, the potential might be lower, although a 1-3 percent increase in EBITDA is still a substantial improvement. We see evidence that transformation is working and demonstrating enormous value, like in this example from the steel industry where our customer has achieved a real milestone in steel melt shop autonomy and has boosted productivity and profitability by $2M per annum.

4. Addressing key issues around cyber security

Despite the impending threat, cybersecurity is not top of mind for companies implementing new technologies, according to a State of Play report on cybersecurity in mining. However, the ever increasing inter-connectivity between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) systems makes industrial plants more vulnerable to sophisticated cyber attacks. It is crucial to plan responses to avoid wide-ranging impact from commercial loss to use of systems to trigger catastrophic worldwide events. By integrating specialized technologies within ABB’s portfolio of deep domain expertise and cyber security solutions we are constantly enhancing operators’ abilities to detect known and unknown control system threats. This means, process industries get the best of both worlds - leading industrial knowledge combined with the latest technology, to better protect their operations. You can simplify your security by consolidating tools, automating risk detection and remediating risks sooner by adopting ABB's cyber security workplace.

Putting ourselves in your shoes (or boots)

Operations. Supply Chain. Processes. Asset Performance. Sustainability. Workforce safety. Security. Working in an industrial company, you certainly want to relentlessly improve in these areas and your company is probably setting ambitious goals.

The good news is that the digital technologies and solutions already exist today to meet those ambitions. Our Industrial Digital Solutions Consulting team at ABB Process Industries helps companies investing in digital transformation to get started or accelerate their initiatives, work smarter and deliver tangible outcomes - laying the foundation for long-term resilience.

But there is no single path to realizing the vision of smart and integrated operations. Because of cross industry exposure, we have digital experts specialized in every particular sector -  who often have experienced your day-to-day tasks on the ground - we are able to put ourselves in your shoes (or boots). We help pick applicable, high ROI digital use cases to get quick wins. We’ve been in the trenches fighting the same battles as you and winning many of them with digital tools, engaging your people. Always trying to understand your challenges and your vision, and relate to your company’s strategic initiatives.

Demystifying Big Data and AI

There is a lot of buzz about Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, a lot of ongoing research and innovative ideas from the universities, tech companies and startups. However, I believe that a still tighter collaboration is needed with the industry to realize the promised value. It’s only when data science and visualizations are combined with the practical knowledge of your processes that real problems get solved. E. g. We’ve already put AI in front of real users, developing an algorithm that helps prevent cobbles in steel mills, or applied data, image and acoustic analytics for anomaly detection on conveyor belt rollers in mining.

There are many other real-life examples of digital and the tangible value it delivers that you can discover on

For me, digital means that everything runs better. Even in unpredictable times, you can be better prepared for the uncertainty by adopting the latest technologies. Let’s think big, go as far into the future as you can imagine and plan for, and get practical. Let’s talk about what digital means for you.

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