This successful collaboration between humans and machines is fundamental if the steel industry to reap the full benefits of industry 4.0 innovations when it comes to sustainability.
We, as engineers, are good at domain-specific knowledge, intuition, creativity, empathy. Machines, conversely, are good at large data sets, calculations, learning, automation, pattern recognition. The company that can marry the two successfully will enjoy competitive advantage in the digital future.
Sustainability-related actions mean different things to different people depending on their job function, and they experience varying degrees of difficulty when it comes to locating and analyzing data across their organization. An industrial-grade analytics and AI platform helps you get the most from federated data sources – your existing control systems, IoT devices, MES, ERP, CMMS, engineering and other databases.
Contextual Data Fusion tools automate data integration, letting operators identify previously hidden relationships and performance trends, make timely predictions and accurate forecasts. The business value from taking this holistic view is tailored to specific roles and enables cross-enterprise actions.
However, this can only be achieved if you trust people who are building the optimization models for specific use cases: their deep process expertise, the know-how of your industry. Now, their expertise and ingenuity can be captured and shared on a common platform – augmented with edge, cloud and ML technologies for maximum impact. Industrial analytics helps various functions in all industries to collaborate, augmenting human abilities with AI/ML, and focusing on solving concrete problems.
Earlier, I mentioned investment in people and its importance to the digital transition. In this context, when we talk about technology being ‘disruptive’, we don’t just mean in terms of quantifiable, statistical gains around efficiency and sustainability: we also mean culturally within an organization.
When we talk about the digital transformation, we often do so in terms of futuristic technology, but in fact, if it’s done well, it is more a commitment to continuous improvement and perpetual change – in order to stay relevant. Therefore, I prefer the term DigitalOps. Practicing DigitalOps means continuously discovering, modelling, analyzing, combining, extending, and optimizing business processes in a way that allows companies hit their KPIs around operational excellence, sustainability, process and asset performance, safety and productivity of connected workers. It also means looking differently at cyber security – as an enabler and accelerator of DigitalOps, defending your business in a dynamic, strategic way.
Understandably, many people ask: “Is my job at risk, or will it vanish, as a result of digitalization and automation?” This is the wrong question. Certainly, many personnel in the process industries will see the way in which they work fundamentally transformed, but the real question should be: “How can I best apply and adapt my existing skillset to allow me to be relevant and prosper in the brave new world of digital?”
There is a significant shortage of skilled labour in the process industries. The onus is on companies to demonstrate that they are serious about ESG policies and innovation if they wish to attract the next generation of digitally literate talent to whom issues such as climate change are a genuine concern.
The technology transition must be supported by the transformation of processes and people. How well a specific solution solves a use case is often not as important as how it fits within the overall operational business culture. Unfortunately, successful change management is often overlooked.
In conclusion, technological innovations such as AI, ML and advanced data analytics, provided by a specialist technology vendor with proven domain knowledge, operated by a motivated, digitally literate workforce, and backed by meaningful long-term investment have tremendous potential to optimize energy management and emission control in the steel industry, allowing companies to hit environmental targets and contribute to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable world.