IIoT and the Digital Transformation

Tim Olsen, EmersonIt’s hard to imagine there are many people working in the oil & gas industry who have not looked at the developments in IIoT and wondered what it’s all about. The more specific and important question some ask is, “Is this something my company should be adopting?”


By this point, most industrial users realize the IIoT has moved well past the buzzword stage and represents a group of technologies that are quickly maturing and proving their usefulness. On page 16 in the AFPM Annual Meeting Conference Daily in March 2018, Emerson’s Tim Olsen examines the issue in his article, IIoT and the Digital Transformation. He says it’s all about promptly delivering useful information to the right people.


One digital strategy is providing information—analyzed data and actionable information that can improve the safety, availability and performance of the operation—to the right person at the right time to enable a proper response. Today, processing facilities are beginning to effectively utilize the abundance of process and asset health data and information as part of an overall IIoT strategy. Although a digital transformation will require investments in technology, one cannot forget the investment in training staff to improve and behave differently with the new timely information. It should be noted that some jobs will be replaced (e.g., manual data collection), new roles will emerge (e.g., analysts and planners), and other jobs will evolve to be more efficient.


So the IIoT is more than just wireless devices, and implementing it effectively requires significant changes in work practices, and even the behavior of individuals. When these new and expanded capabilities are put to work correctly, individuals realize they have better tools which can help them do their jobs more effectively.


Most processing facilities are balancing the needs for safety, quality, profit, environmental compliance and reliability against the challenge of applying the right knowledge across organizational and geographic boundaries, while simultaneously reducing costs. Therefore, many companies are taking advantage of technologies such as enhanced KPIs and dashboards, remote monitoring and control, virtualization and digital twins, co-location of personnel and control room consolidation. However, questions remain about applying the correct technologies and techniques to get the greatest results, and what processes and behavior changes are required to attain these benefits.


The concepts of condition-based maintenance and device diagnostics have been around for a long time, but IIoT-based tools such as Plantweb Insight are making their implementation far simpler and less expensive. This is ushering in a broader change as companies make the shift from reactive to proactive.


The traditional approach has been to collect and historize process data, and then only use the data to look back and evaluate after an incident. The new approach is to utilize the abundance of process and asset health data and predictive analytics software to automatically analyze data and turn it into information. This new approach looks forward and alerts before abnormal operation or imminent failure, thereby providing the ability to take appropriate timely action to avoid asset failure.


But the question remains, “Is this for us?” Tim goes into more depth on how an individual company should evaluate the situation, looking at its specific plans and goals, to make the call.


Combining IIoT strategies that are integrated with pervasive sensors from both process and asset health that generate timely information, with trained staff to take appropriate actions is an extremely effective way to improve plant safety, operational effectiveness, enhanced competitiveness and, ultimately, profitability.


You can find more information like this and meet with other people looking at the same kinds of situations in the Emerson Exchange365 community. It’s a place where you can communicate and exchange information with experts and peers in all sorts of industries around the world. Look for the WirelessHART and IIoT Groups and other specialty areas for suggestions and answers.

1 Reply

  • I personally believe Digital Transformation (DX) of how the plant is run and maintained is key to achieving operational excellence such as improve reliability, reduce maintenance cost, improve energy efficiency, reduce HS&E incidents and response time, and increase productivity etc. Many plants are already successful with digital transformation including a mix of on-premise digital and IIoT solutions starting from digital sensors on wireless and fieldbus. Learn how other plants do it from this essay: www.linkedin.com/.../digital-transformation-what-actually-means-plant-jonas-berge

    Digital inspection
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    Digital distress calls
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    Digital operator rounds
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    Digital energy management