One of the hot topics at OPTIMIZE 2019 has been how exactly can companies adopt and apply new, innovative technologies such as IIoT, advanced analytics, AI and machine learning?
We had many speakers and panelists specifically addressing this topic, including Accenture Managing Director Tracey Countryman, McKinsey & Co. Partners Nikhil Patel and Henning Mueller, AspenTech President and CEO Antonio Pietri and Columbia University chemical engineering professor Dr. Venkat Venkatasubramanian. We also heard from ARC analyst Peter Reynolds, who explained leaders in AI adoption will see significantly greater benefits compared to laggards. 122% change in cumulative cash highlighted the significant value that is available to early adopters of AI.
After attending these discussions — and from many hallway conversations with our customers — here are my five key takeaways for making these advances really work for your business:
Start small. Don’t try to “boil the ocean” or solve everything at once. You can be pragmatic around a significant problem that represents major value. This is the point Nikhil Patel from McKinsey made on the Executive Panel “Set Your Compass and Go.”
Find a business need. Begin with a machine learning program that focuses on a specific area, such as plant equipment failure — and from there, you can figure out how these capabilities apply to needs across the enterprise. As ExxonMobil Chief Computational and Data Scientist Dr. Thomas Halsey noted, it is important to identify your “pain points.”
Leverage domain knowledge. Having a partner that understands the process or environment that the technologies will be applied in — and is able to interpret what the data says — results in the most accurate context and most effective decision-making support. In his plenary presentation, Antonio pointed out that the physical and chemical “rules of the road” are always needed to keep AI on track.
Assess the cultural impact early. Get involvement from employees early and help them understand that the new advances are enhancements to their jobs and not threats. AI will enable experienced engineers to address the bigger challenges of planned downtime, efficiency and maintaining profitable production levels. Training is really needed here — as Tracey Countryman of Accenture said, “People can’t keep up with the changes.”
Collaborate across functions. While digital solutions can close the gap between areas such as scheduling, planning and process control settings, technology alone cannot close the gap between people. Often these groups need to be bridged to get the most value out of advanced solutions. Speaking on the Executive Panel, Reliance Industries CDO Rui Bastos noted that it’s important to “build a coalition of champions” to ensure success.
With the right approach and the latest technology, companies in the process industries can position themselves to adapt to whatever changes may be on the horizon. This is what we’ve been talking about all week, and some of those conversations have been captured on camera. We will be sharing more interviews like this one over the coming days and weeks. I look forward to digging even deeper into the issues that are driving our customers’ businesses.