How Digital Transformation Initiatives Affect Existing Facilities

This past fall, the AIChE organization for chemical engineering professionals held an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Applications and Industry 4.0 Forum as part of their 2018 Annual Meeting.

Emerson’s Tim Olsen (center) moderated a video recorded session with Dow’s Leo Chiang (right) and MIT’s Richard Braatz (left). This 5:10 session, Predictions for “Industry 4.0”, explored how digital transformation initiatives will affect existing manufacturing facilities.

After introductions, Tim opened the panel by asking Leo about how digital transformation is impacting existing facilities. Leo explained that the additional data and information provided by Industrial Internet of Things sensors and devices allows more activities to move from manual to automatic operation. And work processes can move from reactive mode to proactive mode.

He shared an example of a process engineer coming in on a Monday morning. Several years ago, it meant doing some investigation of what happened over the weekend to put the process into its current state. Today, through easily accessible KPIs and dashboards, this engineer can have a good picture of the current state in minutes—and helps identify what needs to be addressed.

Richard added that his experience has been working with pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical manufacturers. The mode of operation several years ago was much more trial and error and doing experiments to identify improvements. Of course, experiments are still performed but there is much more data, analytics and modeling to uncover these improvement opportunities.

It’s much more common to see operator displays in biopharma facilities showing principal component analysis and multi-variate statistical analysis to verify the process is operating correctly.

Tim followed up by asking if there are drawbacks or concerns with these and other examples of digital transformations. Leo noted that while these enabling technologies bring benefits, they still require decisions by humans on the best course of action. They also require organizational leadership to set the vision to change current practices to benefit from the enabling technologies.

Richard shared that there are so many powerful analytical tools available right now, but that there is a risk of misapplying the tools. The breadth of expertise required, such as computer science, optimization, statistics, etc. for many of these tools exceeds the breadth of expertise users have to apply them correctly.

Watch the video for more perspectives on what are some recommended first steps in undertaking a digital transformation initiative.

Visit the Operational Certainty Consulting – Digital Transformation section on to learn about ways to move along the digital transformation path. You can also connect and interact with other Industrial Internet of Things and digital transformation experts in the IIoT & Digital Transformation group in the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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