The Approach to a Connected Plant

powermag.comTechnology is being incorporated into operations and maintenance schemes at an ever-increasing pace. New digital tools are helping optimize assets, improve performance, and reduce overall costs.

The Connected Plant Conference was held in Charlotte, N.C., in late February. The event featured presentations on some of the latest digital tools being utilized in both the power generation and chemical processing industries. Case studies were presented by several end-users explaining how technology has been implemented by their companies, the challenges they faced, and how problems were overcome. They detailed the benefits realized through technological initiatives and offered tips for others interested in going down a similar path.

The “4M” approach was a recurring theme during the event. If you haven’t heard of 4M, it stands for “Make Me More Money.” Craig Harclerode, business development executive with OSIsoft, was the first person I heard use the term during the conference. He suggested that a lot of companies try to implement digitization initiatives without having clear objectives. An edict may come down from above that the company wants to “Do Big Data … Do the cloud,” but there is no business driver identified.

“The bottom line: It’s about business,” Harclerode said during a presentation. “It should be led with a business problem, and it should be focused on making more money. Improving EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization]. Improving yields. Improving safety.”

Once a company identifies a business problem and a corresponding digital solution, executing the best implementation strategy isn’t automatic. The right people need to be in the right roles to maximize benefits. Harclerode said the companies he sees getting the most value from digitization “evolve an OT [operational technology] chart of accounts, leveraging configurable, smart, digital twin templates, owned and managed by the subject matter experts, not IT [information technology].” He said IT plays a role, but the subject matter experts are really the people creating worth by configuring and managing the digital twins.

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