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How can we make industrial control solutions more adaptable to changing environments?
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Bridget Fitzpatrick
Global Technical Lead for Process Automation

Dynamic and intuitive machines are transforming the way businesses function in every industry. Industrial control solutions have traditionally not been known for easy adaptation or inexpensive changes. Part of this has been related to the legacy structure of layered control technology. The existing technology monolith has dramatically improved overall performance but has also added a complexity that needs to be managed. To flexibly adapt, a new architecture and philosophy is required.

Megatrends and disruptions

From the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, control systems have played a crucial role albeit providing advancements in mechanical and or pneumatic systems whereas now, Industry 4.0’s digitalisation relies on intelligent, connected systems and has a potential to generate $3.7 trillion over the next decade.

Control systems icons

The companies who embrace and actively manage their digitalisation will succeed and find ways to add value to the enterprise. New technology is not the solution. The key is to find the transformations that add value and then leverage technology intelligently.

Accelerating digital transformation

The inability to adapt to changing conditions, difficulty in managing multiple optimisation goals and inconsistency are just some of the limitations of existing control systems. At Wood, we are deploying technology innovatively to empower our clients and driving digital transformation translating into significant business value.

  • Using control templates: We identify the control strategies to meet client functional requirements and leverage these as flexible templates to right size the engineering effort.  We worked, for example, with Suncor on well pad development using Modular Type Package (MTP) concept resulting in an estimated cost savings of more than 50%. This project also was a winner of two Suncor President’s Operational Excellence awards.
  • Reinventing control algos: We are systems integrators but, more importantly, process control experts. We are active members of varied industry groups, including the Open Process Automation forum. We recognize the need for open systems with reengineered solutions and have established a Wood Function Block library, leveraging our decades of experience over a wide range of vertical markets.
  • Using real time cost control: We have found that nothing stimulates highly effective decision making quite like an informed workforce.  Integrating real-time variable costs into operations screens results in a step change in both cost performance and an understanding of cost drivers. In places where the costs can be highly variable like power and natural gas, this can be a gamechanger.
  • Using the digital twin: We have found that companies that leverage and actively maintain their engineering design data use data in more innovative ways.  They can provide easy access for ongoing learning and integrate it into optimization and simulation models to apply and grow their intelligence.
  • Using machine learning and artificial intelligence: Both machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied effectively to transform data into actionable intelligence and into autonomous operations. Leveraging AI to support intelligent control systems is key to realizing the opportunity that Industry 4.0 brings. A recent *study confirms 50% of companies that embrace AI over the next 5 – 7 years may double their cash flow. And manufacturers that implement intelligent systems achieve 17 – 20% productivity gains.
  • Using operations as process managers: We also see a shift for the operations team to be the manager of the process, rather than just the “operator” of the process.  In places where a single product is manufactured in multiple locations, sharing technical and business data allows for a global optimisation of the assets.

The way forward

To lead the way forward, an ecosystem of operating companies, technology providers and service companies need to identify and execute breakthrough shifts in how the process and manufacturing industries are managed.  This thinking is underway and gaining traction. For this new industrial revolution, only reinvention will suffice, these are not simple incremental changes.

References:

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