The ability to transform an analog signal (voltage, current) to a digital numeric representation is about 100 years old. In our industry and many others, we have used this analog-to-digital conversion to take a process measurement (temperature, flow, basis weight, pressure, etc.) into a computer for use in algorithms, operator display, and reports, and send it back out again to control the process. We have been digital for a long time.
Why do we continue to see articles about the "digitalization" of industry? What is new?
It does not have anything to do with making things digital. It is about connectivity.
There has long been an ability to get data through gateways and into networks. The control system that is connected to field instruments at a production facility (which is referred to as "operations technology") has been able to connect to the office and business networks (referred to as "information technology"). These gateways were proprietary and specialized. Getting the data you want could be done but it was a significant investment to get it.
The Internet is the new thing. It has become a way to connect operations and information with a readily available infrastructure. Its ubiquity is a solution as well as a problem. Do you want your data on the Internet? Do you want everyone to access your confidential information? Can the Internet be a gateway to let bad people in that you need to keep out?
There are ways to protect data and networks. However, much of the industry is well behind in protecting their data and networks.
When a vendor talks to you about becoming digital, you need to ask them what they mean. If they really think you don't have digital data, you should show them the door. If they really mean connecting your control system to networks and applications that will provide integrated benefits, you need to ask them how they will make this secure. The ability to have a more direct connection between you and your customer is clearly beneficial but the risk of making both you and your customer vulnerable is also a consideration.
Imagine you have a client that can place an order for 1,000 tons of your premium grade and know when it will be delivered, while you have their order automatically scheduled in your production schedule and all required raw materials are automatically scheduled for delivery. Sounds great! If that is what a vendor is calling "digitalization" then the question is how to make it secure. There are also performance and reliability concerns; your investment depends on whether the solution is usable. They may be able to lower costs of this solution by using the Internet instead of building proprietary infrastructure, but if they don't have an answer for security, performance, and reliability then they don't have a solution.
Another perception of "digitalization" causes additional confusion. There are some technologies that allow more measurement of your process. For example, wireless sensors can be used in hard to reach places to add digital signals instead of having to manually record information. This is not "digitalization". The wireless technology and standards might be new, but fundamentally this does not make our industry more digital. It is a way to add more data to an already digital system.
"Digitalization" does not mean algorithms that use data. These algorithms are not new; the use of digital data in statistical, modeling, or analytical software has been around a long time.
The term "digitalization" is a bad term. It suggests there is something new that isn't new. We also hear the term "digital transformation", which is another way to describe changing the "information technology" environment to an Internet based approach making connection to the operations side (inward) as well as to corporate wide or global resource (outward) easier. When you see these terms, you should not think of them is if anything is being made digital. What it really means is the Internet can be used to connect your facility to the outside world at a lower cost. If a vendor is selling "digitalization", don't buy it. If they sell "connectivity" with security, performance, and reliability then they might have something worth looking at.
Pat Dixon is a proven process control expert, project manager, and leader, serving to free up money in an industrial facility. Instrumentation, process control systems, and advanced control optimization in manufacturing provides the opportunity to free up resources and maintain high product quality, comply with environmental regulations, and protect the safety of workers and the community. To provide these benefits, Pat has served as an engineer, manager, and leader with industrial manufacturing sites, control system vendors and integrators, and as a consultant. Also a leader of non-profit organizations and in public service.
Can you imagine the potential cost savings and operational efficiency to be gained by having a "smart" reel in a 7x24 operation like pulp & paper? In this post, Dan Miklovic discusses how the the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Smart Connected Assets are poised to make this a reality.
Forest Products and Pulp & Paper Industry Challenges
Taking Smart Connected Assets to a Whole New Level
Traditional Value Propositions Not Trivial
Forest Products Companies Also Beneficiaries of the IIoT
Dan Miklovic is a Research Fellow with LNS Research; he primarily focuses on industrial transformation, operational architecture and manufacturing organizational change management, and industry vertical coverage for process manufacturing, infrastructure, transportation, and other asset-intensive industries. He also provides collaborate coverage across the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), the Digital Twin, asset performance management.
Wireless Sensors Dominate
Most IoT Applications
Sponsored by Digi-Key and TE Connectivity: Available in an extensive array of shapes, sizes, and functionality, sensors are perhaps the most essential ingredients to any IoT product or platform.
The general function of the Internet of Things (IoT) is to monitor and control "things" via the internet or some private wireless network. The monitor function clearly dominates, with sensors generating most of the data traffic.
Without good sensors, most IoT applications would not exist. That fact alone makes sensors the critical design component when developing most new IoT applications. Attention to sensor qualities and specifications should be a first consideration when designing nodes for data collection.
Lou Frenzel is a contributing Communications Technology Editor for Electronic Design. He covers topics such as wired and wireless networking.
Bringing Superior Value To Metals And Paper With The IoT
In a few short years, the Internet of Things has transformed the way that organizations do business with both their own customers and each other.
Alfred Becker is the global lead for Paper & Packaging Industry and Manufacturing within Mill Products Industries at SAP.
The New Culture of Smart Manufacturing
Technologies aren't really the sticking point for digital transformation-it's change. Which comes first? Process or culture?
What is eating manufacturing executives right now? Is it the availability of new smart technologies and how to implement them? Nope, it's the usual culprit-change management.
There's been an ongoing discussion about changing from a process-first organization to a culture-first organization in the digital transformation journey. In the manufacturing industry, it is drilled into us to follow process; if the process is perfect, the product will be perfect every time.
So how does manufacturing move from this mindset to one that puts culture first?
The more relevant question: Is such a change beneficial?
Mike James has held several roles at MESA International, including chair of MESA's Global Education Program from 2009 to 2012 and chair of MESA EMEA from 2010 to 2013. After serving as president of the Manufacturing Operations Management Institute to continue developing MOM education with MESA, James was appointed chair of MESA. He is now ex-chair and an executive committee member. He is also chair of the board of directors for ATS Global.