When it comes to Digital Transformation:
What´s your "why"?

By Stephen Reynolds

I can remember as a kid receiving a Star Wars digital watch for my birthday.  It was the early 80’s, and Star Wars was the end-all, be-all of being a kid.  As I put it on, I could feel the force within me, and I knew I had arrived – my digital transformation was complete.

Nowadays, just like that kid version of me, many of us are tempted to look at digital transformation in much the same light.  There is no shortage of consultants and industry thought leaders (myself included) advising our teams.  Buy this, implement that.  Data Warehouse!  Data Lake!  Big Data!  Artificial Intelligence!  Cloud!  IoT!  All worthy technologies that carry the stamp of transformation, but without a purpose, they can be solutions looking for a problem.

Lead with “why”.  The chemical industry is notoriously slow to change.  With good reason – how many businesses could level the neighborhood with a wrong move?  Or make it uninhabitable for years to come?  Admittedly, these are extreme cases.  On most days, we just want to make sure we have produced to target and sent our people home safely at the end of the shift.  With these goals in mind, how do we begin?  What’s our “why”?

What keeps us up at night?  What obstacles do we workaround every day that make the process a little less efficient or that tiny bit unpredictable?  How long do we spend chasing data around before we take action?  Find those use cases that add value – equipment monitoring, process consistency, automated reporting.  Could we make our maintenance and engineering workflows more efficient with better management?  Identify and use the technologies that make sense for today’s problems and build from there.

Once I went digital, I never went back.  To this day, it still takes a moment for me to read a clock, but these new digital watches do much more.  As the industry transforms, some skills will fade as others become necessary.

The core tenets of Industry 4.0 include the interconnectivity of our people/ processes / technology, the transparency of information, the need for real-time insight, and the push for data-driven decision-making at the levels closest to the action.  Sound familiar?  These values are not new and extend from the operational excellence efforts empowering our teams today.  As we continuously improve, digital transformation is not a technological destination but the next step in our process and business evolution.

Watch this webinar, where LNS Research and AVEVA discussed the steps chemical companies are taking to get more out of plant and process data, improving the overall business performance.