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On the latest trends and innovations in industrial digital transformation

First published in CXO Insights, Middle East
By Sanjit Shewale  LinkedIn
VP and Global Head of Digital
ABB Process Industries division

About the author

Sanjit Shewale joined ABB in 2020 as the Head of Digital for Process Industries. He has 20+ years of experience in the advanced industrial software space across many different verticals, including discrete.

1Q- What are some of the trends shaping Industrial Digital Transformation

Predicting digital trends is continuous as technology evolves and improves. Leaders must scan the horizon and identify the most critical areas to pay attention to ensure their companies are fit for the future. Today, more than ever, there is a demand for higher productivity and efficiency, ever-shorter product life cycles, mass customization, and increasingly stringent safety and environmental protection standards.

Artificial intelligence and advanced analytics have been touted to be the key value drivers behind digital transformation. It collects, contextualizes, and converts operational, engineering, and information technology data into actionable insights to support decision-makers at various organizational levels. 

Another key trend is fully autonomous operations. This can include functions like advanced process control that handle multi-variable controls to steer the process to the most optimal setup. One could employ autonomous machines to operate in hazardous environments. Assistive technology such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) for remote operations has been available for some time; however, many companies still need to adopt and prepare for it. 

Holistic energy management is far from new, but the objectives and optimization models are changing fast. Sustainability is changing from a Buzz word to reality. 

In the future digital enterprise, everything is connected. Data flows seamlessly between operational and business systems, enabling new capabilities for Data-driven decision-making. As the degree of connectivity increases, it is imperative to implement an in-depth cyber security strategy. Companies, like ABB, with vast OT experience and a proven track record of cyber-attack resilience, can help to define and implement cyber security strategies pragmatically. 

And that brings me to the most crucial point, a healthy digital culture calls for a new mindset. The most challenging aspect of digital transformation is not the technology. It is about organizational change management. We need to nurture a mindset around distinct goals, such as reducing CO2 emissions, fostering a culture of knowledge retention, and driving holistic visibility. Equally, we must communicate how this ever-evolving digital toolbox will help get us there and why our people are mission-critical.

2Q - Can you give us some practical examples of Analytics and AI in manufacturing?

The recent advent of technologies, computing, and networking innovations, such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), is fueling new ways to address industrial complexities and better use the power of data. This phenomenon allows us to apply AI to industries by combining it with specific industrial domain expertise (for example, in cement, food & beverage, metals, mining, pulp & paper, etc.) for safer, smarter, more efficient, and sustainable industrial operations. Using the potent combination of specific industrial domain expertise, contextual data, advanced technologies, and AI algorithms, one can extract far greater value than the individual silos would ever be able to generate.

For example, the cement industry faces various challenges in its day-to-day operations around profitability/cost control, quality vs. throughput, emissions, and environmental Sustainability, etc. Advanced data analytics and smart optimization powered by AI will allow cement producers to hit key performance indicators around Sustainability, process performance, asset performance, connected workers, and operational excellence. Let's look at Sustainability. AI can be vital in reaching environmental sustainability targets, reducing emissions, and optimizing energy and management. 

For instance, ABB's AI-based system anomaly detection app learns about the plant and equipment's "normal" states and uses adaptive setpoints to detect unusual patterns and anomalous behaviors. By triggering alerts, it reduces the effort to identify and rectify energy consumption deviations—no more hassle of setting manual setpoints or alarms, no more notification overload. 

Let's take the Mining Industry for example. ABB is installing its enterprise-grade digital platform ABB Ability Genix Industrial Analytics and AI Suite to enable Gold Fields' Salares Norte project in Chile to drive efficient, sustainable, remote operations. With the technology, Gold Fields will gain data insights that will help them to increase industrial productivity and operational excellence while reducing costs. Remote connectivity will help reduce the number of people needed at the actual mine location, thus improving safety.

3Q) What is the role of industrial software solutions in reducing energy costs and emissions?

Designing, deploying and maintaining the optimal site-wide or enterprise-wide energy management and emission control strategy is a significant engineering and operational challenge, one that requires a wide span of competencies, engineering tools, architecture approaches, and service capabilities to identify the most performing and cost-effective solution for each process area and site. 

The whole energy system is evolving, enabled by Digital. Harnessing digital solutions is fundamental to decarbonizing industry while still delivering on traditional priorities like agility, safety, and overall equipment effectiveness. 

Industrial software solutions enable a modular approach for deploying a solution for energy management that typically includes monitoring energy usage at plant and process levels with real-time visual displays and data, identifying the best performance of process areas and opportunities for improvement, reporting energy consumption patterns of process areas and production lines, analyzing inefficiencies in plant and process areas, forecasting energy consumption schedules for process areas based on production plans and measured consumption and solving economic real-time optimization problems consisting of own generation, trading and using of energy in industrial plants and power plants

4Q) What are some of the biggest challenges faced in securing industrial control systems?

Industrial systems are usually large and complex, with many products and devices from different manufacturers. These are connected using a range of different protocols and connection methods. Maintaining overall system security is hard in this large and complex system. It is often challenging to keep an up-to-date inventory of all the devices in an industrial system, the versions of software/firmware they are running, and how they are connected. 

Adding to the challenge of complexity, industrial systems are not static. Changes, updates, and improvements are being implemented every year. These changes must be fully documented.  

Industrial systems are often operated for 30+ years; not all equipment is updated or modernized. This can lead to many unsupported devices, which may or may not have security issues. With age comes a second cyber security challenge, some devices within the industrial environment were designed and installed before cyber security was a concern for industrial systems. These devices may lack many security controls we take for granted in modern systems and need securing by other means.

With Industry 4.0 and the digital revolution, we are asking for ever-increasing amounts of data from industrial systems. If planned properly, it is easier for these new monitoring and analytics systems to become a bridge between the industrial system and the outside world. Malicious actors look for this type of insecure connection to exploit. 

Cyber security experts are in high demand these days, and Industrial Cyber Security experts are doubly so. Finding experienced or qualified people to design and maintain the security around industrial systems is often challenging. Our experts at ABB have extensive experience with the complexities of cyber security, availability, compliance, and safety.

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