The power of data to transform industrial operational excellence

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July 2020
Rajesh Ramachandran

Chief Digital Officer
Process Automation, ABB

Industry 4.0 is all about enterprises transforming their entire digital value chain through the power of analytics and AI to harness and unlock the inherent value of their data.

With these technologies, all the ingredients exist to make digitalization a really powerful rainmaker but it requires a highly innovative approach to harnessing data. That demands commitment, focused effort and an equally committed, expert partner. A partner who is conversant with both technology and industry, and deeply entrenched in combining the two for real impact.   

The promise of digitalization and Industry 4.0

The concept of autonomous manufacturing plants has been a human dream for many years now. Science fiction idolized it. Over the past five years, rapidly emerging developments in self-reporting, self-performing equipment have fired the imagination of manufacturing enterprise management and plant operators worldwide.

On the face of it, Industry 4.0 is driven by automation alone. This perception is not erroneous. Smart sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) have been amongst the most visible harbingers of this new wave of industrial transformation.

But automation itself isn't the propellant. It has been around for some time. At ABB, we ourselves have been at the forefront of automation innovation for over a century. The true change agent is the scale and sheer ubiquity of automation today. And the bigger one is data. The real value of data is in the insights that can contribute to better decisions and strategic planning.

The path to Industry 4.0

Today to succeed, Industry 4.0 principles and techniques are key. How we use artificial intelligence and machine learning; and how we truly maximize the power of analytics is the true secret to getting entrenched, completely, into the Industry 4.0 era.  

AI, ML, data analytics - all done with industry domain expertise - success factors in the age of Industry 4.0

What's stopping this transformation

The need to understand the transformative impact of Industry 4.0 technologies and how to implement them rapidly. 

Most of the data in enterprise systems not used for analytics

At ABB's, we have been in constant conversation with the industry - customers, analysts, market influencers and delivery teams. The trends are telling. If you read just the three big trends in the above graphic, you can understand cause and effect. Currently, without digitalization, as much as 73% of enterprise data is lost to analytics. This represents a massive opportunity loss since digital transformation can deliver up to 40% increase in productivity when well implemented. 

The 'why' is evident as well - over 80% of implementation effort, typically, is spent in understanding industry processes and data sources, designing methods to capture that data, requiring complex change management. The time to realize RoI from such a mammoth effort and investment is predictably long. So most enterprises settle for point solutions that, unfortunately, can never deliver the benefits of an enterprise-wide digital transformation.

What's the answer

To start with - understanding that what makes the difference is deep domain understanding "industrial" - "industrial analytics" rather than just "analytics", "industrial AI" rather than just "AI", and "Industrial IoT" instead of just "IoT".

Unless technology deeply integrates with industrial operations, the path to Industry 4.0 will remain slow and fractious. Our efforts at ABB are focused on using all of our expertise and knowledge of industry-specific practices to create something relevant.

When it comes to choosing a solution, a well-planned digitization approach adopting the path of least resistance is a good start. Solutions based on open architecture which can easily connect with existing systems minimize the need for radical change management. It is also prudent to factor in scalability. Even if an enterprise solution isn't on the cards, solutions that are extensible from machine to plant can eventually cover enterprise-level over time.

For a successful digital transformation, it is necessary to have strong user adoption. Companies should choose a solution built on deep industry understanding which is customizable to the company's needs, culture, and operating environment. A modular solution would also help organizations put their scarce resources to meet their most important business demands.

The key to success lies in a well-planned digital strategy and choosing the right solution to suit the organization's needs.

The solution should reflect a deep understanding of the industry, scalability, good change management techniques, and security.

About the author

Rajesh Ramachandran is Chief Digital Officer, ABB Process Automation & Head of the Group's ABB Ability™ platform. In this role, Rajesh leads the digital vision, strategy, platform engineering, thought leadership,  and execution of ABB’s digital portfolio and business growth to move up in the customer’s value chain - thereby addressing the needs of digitalization and Industry 4.0 to bring immense value to customers.

With over 28 years of experience in technology, product, business, industry domain and organizational leadership, Rajesh has built and transformed world-class multinational organizations, COEs and R&D centers. His international leadership experience across India, USA, Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific includes stints with leading multinational corporations, where he has strategized, innovated and delivered successful software products & industry-rich technology solutions. He has been highly successful in transforming businesses to IP & platform-led nonlinear profitable growth organizations. Rajesh's primary strength lies in leading the build of successful and award-winning platforms, products & solutions with a hybrid product strategy model that taps the best of business-driven technology innovation and technology-driven business innovation.

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