Think about how far usability in technology has come over the last couple decades. The devices we depend on in our homes and offices every day are constantly becoming more accessible and user-friendly, offering helpful new features as advances in technology deliver more capabilities.
The evolution of home climate control is one example I often point to. Really, it wasn’t too long ago that we had to manually input every temperature change we wanted, turning a dial or sliding a lever on the thermostat.
Fortunately, we advanced to the convenience of the programmable thermostat, giving us a level of automation and improving our energy efficiency. However, these devices still require a certain amount of manual control via interfaces that often leave much to be desired.
Now the new generation of “smart” home climate control is taking us into the realm of full automation. These edge devices (thermostats) actually learn from our schedules, preferences and habits and continuously update their operating criteria. With bright, simple, intuitive interfaces, they make the whole process of heating and cooling a “plug-and-play” experience while delivering even greater energy efficiency.
These are the types of advances that will take usability in Asset Optimization software to the next level as well. The workforce you are depending on — today and in the years to come — demands technology that is both intuitive and effective. When you’re able to augment your people with cognitive guidance, automated knowledge and natural language processing, you drive optimum decision-making at every level and can safely challenge operational limits.
Make Your Enterprise “Smart”
Enhancing usability is just one critical area where advances in technology can help achieve new levels of operational excellence. By incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) in technology deployed in your operational environments, assets and systems across the entire enterprise can be enabled to operate semi-autonomously — generating greater profitability while also operating safely and minimizing environmental impact.
So where specifically can you create the greatest impact with new technology? To focus your efforts, consider these key actions:
Deploy AI capabilities throughout operations. When you deploy AI-powered applications throughout your asset, you begin to truly enable self-optimizing semi-autonomous systems. With embedded AI, models can be deployed from the edge to the core of the enterprise, they can be updated in real time, and they can collaborate across functional tasks to improve performance and sustain value, supplementing the existing expertise.
Integrate your business processes. You can break down functional silos with consistent models and applications that share data across functions and business processes, thereby enabling a closed-loop learning system that self-optimizes. This is where you get to the next level of asset optimization, by connecting the dots between all functional areas of your enterprise.
Harness edge and cloud capabilities. The access to high-powered computing is changing the game for capital-intensive industries, as it enables them to explore scenarios and resolve issues that may have been impossible just a few years ago. You can now link assets and sensors to enterprise systems or the cloud, deliver data from stranded assets to enterprise MES systems or data lakes and pool together enterprise and remote data for analysis in the cloud. This compute power enables you to exploit the full value potential of IIoT.
Bring together IT and OT. The magic really happens when you combine the networking and communication capabilities of your information technology systems with the monitoring and data-collection power of your operational technology. By being able to access, condition, analyze and distribute key asset performance data, you’re driving toward a facility that safely pushes the limits of operation by adjusting as conditions change.
Ramp up your competencies and skills. Smart plant technology is not about removing people from the process. Rather, it’s about empowering workers to make better decisions with the most accurate data and doing the “heavy lifting” of data analysis so they can focus on high-value tasks. Operational excellence is not achievable without organizational excellence. Companies that attract the right talent, develop that talent and sustain the capabilities needed to leverage these technologies will be the ones that capture and sustain the most value.
This is how companies can capture and spread the insight of experts, accelerate decision-making across the business, drive organizational alignment and embed analytics throughout the organization. Tomorrow’s leaders will be the ones who apply this technology to create the “smart enterprise of the future” and achieve operational excellence that is sustainable through changing market conditions.
To learn more about leveraging Industry 4.0 and AI capabilities to supercharge your business, please read my new executive brief: Next-Generation Operational Technologies Enable the Smart Enterprise in a Changing World.