I decided to revisit a blog that I have enhanced from over a year as preparation for a discussion I have been having with many people in the last 2 weeks around "realtime Information Platform" vs "Historian" which I enter that discussion in the next blog. Too many people are looking at one aspect.
The most significant disruption in industrial operational strategy is happening in this post GFC (global financial crisis) era. This is focused on determining an operational execution environment which enables timely contributions by the operational team for sustained high-performance plant execution. The focus is currently on operational processes, but this will shift quickly to driving a new operational experience which enables a new operational execution plan. Traditional user interfaces will not “cut it” both in products, or the way they have been implemented.
A common thread around the world is the operational personnel challenge, especially the finding of people to replace the existing “baby boomer generation” and lack of experience available in the market.
This is only part of the most significant disruption in operational strategy in the last 20 years, even since the introduction of the PC. There is a perfect storm happening, with these vectors:
- Ageing workforce: the significant number of highly experienced operations, maintenance, process workers who will retire in the next 5 to 10 years. Some mangers in “oil and gas upstream” talk about the fact that 80% of their current team will be gone in 5 years.
- Operational Agility means Decision NOW: to be competitive, decisions must be made now, this has caused a change in thinking that workers need to be empowered to make more decisions, through more information, higher knowledge and access to experience, and a transition from “worker” to “knowledge worker”. This also means that they have much more responsibility. As one customer recently stated, traditionally they had an operator cover 5 to 10 wells; this was fine when you have 100 wells which lasted 20 years, but in the next 5 years he stated “we will have 20,000 + wells, but we will not have 2,000 operators”.
- The rotating operational person means “time to experience” is shorter than ever: the experienced generation is retiring and transitioning to an age group 20 years their junior, and there is a new factor that people are not staying in their role or location longer than a year. One company stated 10 years ago that people were in a role approximately 5 years, but now they are seeing rotations of 8 months.
- Transition to digital native worker, with very different expectations, causes challenges with worker retention: The new generation is “digitally native”; they expect access to knowledge, they expect “touch experience”, they expect collaboration from anywhere, and they expect to learn on the fly.
Stepping back and looking at all of these vectors; we have significant disruptions for those in charge of industrial / manufacturing operational execution strategies.
Addressing that significant disruption will require a combination of techniques:
- A new generation of user interface products with more than interface capability, but embedded knowledge access, experience access, actionable procedures and natural intelligence, really empower the operational workers in all roles.
- A new operational experience design. Notice that the traditional enabler -HMI (Human Machine Interface) does not express this new design: as it is a true “operational experience” that goes through the “day in the life” of the new generation of operational knowledge workers.
- New alignment across the different systems, plant applications and sites to align context, actions. Keeping the sites, applications and systems “loosely coupled but tightly aligned”.
Why? Because today is not about Control Rooms; it is about agility and timely decisions, and this requires the “Flexible Operational Team” that works naturally together to leverage their experience, in the NOW to have decisions of all sorts made in a timely manner (often earlier than “now” to prevent instead of react).
The above diagram shows the concept of Flexible Operational Team, where at the bottom the traditional User Interfaces (UI’s) would have been permanently manned. These UI’s are becoming transiently manned, but all functions relative to the zone of responsibility are available. The more central operational centers (increasingly remote) will have a “quarterback” operational controller who is calling the shots, with a transient in-plant team of different skill sets, and a virtual team of experts usually external to the plant. The in plant team executes activities that must be done locally, e.g. Inspections, maintenance, and certain manual operations, and the virtual team are experts across the world who can be tapped on for experience and knowledge to work with the controller or the in-plant team.
The above requirements is driving customers to look at the concept of “Enterprise Control”, providing the unification, and evolution of existing systems to achieve the alignment required to enable the concept of “agility thru Operational alignment and decisions in the NOW”.
The Invensys Enterprise Control Vision is to provide a set of capabilities that enables customers to achieve "Operational Excellence” through three strategies:
- Empowerment of Operational People
Operational personnel (e.g. Operators, process engineers, process experts, maintenance, quality, production management) are empowered real-time decisions through operational awareness, access to experience, collaboration, and best practices in a proactive system, to perform multiple tasks, in flexible roles, in multiple locations.
- Unification through Federation across assets, applications and systems
Align the different assets and processes across the operational management layer (of the traditional automation levels) so that the industrial operations are more agile (can change equipment configuration and use of the equipment much faster and much tighter coordination). These assets that reside within a plant, within a process and across multiple sites are aligned to business and operational processes and require consistent measures and information. Each of the existing applications/ controls continue to run, but their information and visualisation models are aligned, and communication happens with orchestration execution, in order for the Operational Process to execute in the most timely and effective manner.
- Built on a Sustainable platform of capability so that the system has longevity to evolve.
Enterprise Control will be implemented in stages and evolve in scope, breadth and functionality through its lifetime at each customer installation, which could be 20 years. The system has been engineered and architected in a way that enables this evolution to occur in a sustainable way and caters to changing engineering teams and technologies.
New technology products will enable the above operational/automation paradigms, satisfying the changes in the market and workforce, compelling all of us to think and engineer differently as we evolve our operational systems.
I am hoping this refresh and discussion answers many of the questions people have asked me lately, as it is not just about the ageing workforce, the transition, the whole workforce culture and approach to work will be different in 5 to 10 years, and it really is a transformation to "smart work" in the industrial operational space.