When manufacturers struggle to scale digital projects, is decentralized data to blame?

April 26, 2023

Failed digital transformation initiatives. Once-promising projects shelved or cancelled. Reliance on technologies that you know aren’t industry leading. Sound familiar? You are not alone.

Industrial organizations have invested substantial resources into data-driven initiatives in this inevitable march towards digitalization. There is however a basic problem at the heart of this industrial data revolution: Manufacturers face a flood of data, yet they only generate a trickle of value from it — leaving a well of potential insights, innovations, and initiatives to dry up. Despite years of promises, proofs of concept, and pilot programs, many digital transformation initiatives have fallen short of expectations.

Take AI initiatives: McKinsey research shows more than 75% of industrial companies have already taken steps to pilot AI, yet less than 15% have achieved meaningful impact at scale. When data-driven investments fail to deliver the expected results, it becomes harder to build organizational trust and find a budget for future projects.

As the volume and value of industrial data grows, organizations require a fresh strategy — and the right data solutions — to centralize, connect, and scale data operations across facilities.

Decentralized data limits digital projects

For many industrial organizations, the quantity of data sources, integrations, and users is increasing at an unsustainable rate. In the absence of a well-planned data infrastructure strategy, this surge of industrial data leads to mistakes, conflicts, and a variety of compatibility problems. Data silos exacerbate the problem by limiting user access, leaving datasets without context or meaning and causing actionable information to slip through the cracks.

Promising digitalization projects can become difficult to scale. For example, a chemical manufacturer looking to implement predictive maintenance to proactively monitor equipment, identify potential failures, and plan mitigation to avoid costly downtimes may first start by monitoring a small number of assets. The company may use a combination of different monitoring techniques, such as rules-based or condition-based monitoring and some advanced AI/machine learning agents to predict issues on pumps and compressors in a production loop. While tying into a data historian and some key sensors may be sufficient for this activity, complications may arise when extending to other assets at the facility or other facilities in the enterprise.

Without a centralized, connected data source, many organizations are stuck developing and deploying new systems from scratch to manage data generated at each location — a process that demands significant amounts of time and resources. This process can never scale at the rate needed to achieve actual digital transformation.  

As the volume, frequency, and complexity of industrial data continues to grow, don’t let decentralized data sink plans for ongoing digital transformation efforts. For a better approach to overcoming decentralized data and accelerating digital transformation, consider AspenTech InmationTM.

What are five benefits of a centralized data repository?

AspenTech Inmation is a global real-time data management (DataOps) platform that offers a single, contextualized, and infinitely scalable solution for all your organization’s data. Think about Inmation as a digital data nervous system.

If you’re one of the two-thirds of companies currently unable to analyze all the data you collect, AspenTech Inmation can unlock your data’s latent potential and accelerate digital transformation initiatives. As you work to rein in your decentralized data, here are five ways a centralized data solution maximizes your operations: 

Think big.

Deploying new manufacturing technology is a massive undertaking involving dozens of facilities, hundreds of production lines (old and new), and countless technical components. Under the traditional approach of implementing a series of one-off projects, some facilities end up connected to the latest technology, while others fall behind.

By replacing the point-to-point connections between all your data sources and users with Inmation as a data hub, you can tackle digital transformation holistically and efficiently. AspenTech Inmation easily collects, enriches, manages, and centralizes data access at scale in a single system across your entire organization (current and future).

Converge IT and OT

AspenTech Inmation is the critical layer that connects both IT needs and your associated operational technologies (OT), offering a single source of truth from which all stakeholders can seamlessly share data, collaborate, and prioritize more informed decision-making.

 Once implemented, AspenTech Inmation provides the easy-to-manage, scalable data connectivity, storage, and contextualization needed to enable OT use cases while being designed with the infrastructure, network, security, availability, and performance needs of IT in mind.

Improve security

When decentralized data is spread across myriad platforms, systems, and networks, it’s far more challenging to apply consistent, compatible security protocols — and malicious actors are eager to exploit these vulnerabilities.

AspenTech Inmation provides security with software encryption for all data- in motion and at rest. The built-in centralized data governance and access controls allows for accurate data in the correct hands. Likewise, you gain greater visibility into, and control over, your data operations — enabling teams to monitor threats, mitigate the impact of breaches, and responsively patch vulnerabilities.

Democratize data

Outside a handful of behemoth enterprises, few manufacturers have the resources to maintain a large team of data scientists — and the current IT talent shortage has challenged even those with the most advanced data operations (let alone small and mid-sized companies).

But finding value in industrial data shouldn’t be reserved for a select few technical users. Open and modern data servers make your data accessible to a wider range of parties beyond data scientists, whether it’s a plant operator, process engineer, or business user. Moreover, having AI/ML built into the AspenTech portfolio products ensures employees less proficient in data science can more effectively use operational data in their day-to-day roles. Processes that once took months can now happen in weeks.

Drive innovation

Whether it’s optimizing production, reducing environmental impact, or improving operational safety, AspenTech Inmation allows your company to derive powerful use cases for your industrial data. Your centralized data hub should simultaneously scale existing projects and power new initiatives that differentiate your business.

As an example of what leveraging data could look like, a chemical plant could deploy digital twin technology to virtually model production processes and optimize feedstock and inputs, simultaneously increasing operational efficiency while reducing costs and carbon emissions. Then, at the same time, an operator wearing VR goggles could traverse the plant virtually, viewing assets, inspecting how they’re performing, and observing how the asset is connected to other parts of the production process. The rich data you gather drives both short-term and long-term innovation.

There’s no shortage of opportunities for industrial data — but there’s a big difference between recognizing data’s potential value and actually tapping into it.

It’s time to grow beyond one-off digital projects that demand a high level of investment but provide little return. Digital transformation success doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your data processes, only a data management system that connects, centralizes, and makes your data operations work better. With your industrial data all under one roof, what could your business accomplish next?

This post originally appeared on VentureBeat

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