Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Smart XXXX: What does it mean!!!

So often today you hear the word “smart” put on the front of a segment describing the transformational program encompassing many of the Internet of Things concepts.

Smart Cities, Smart Farms/ Agriculture, Smart Airports, Smart Plants, Smart Fields etc.

Are they different or do they all come down to a basic set of concepts, transformations that are applied to that industry to significantly shift the needle in operational efficiency?

 Fair question, and so often lately I am being asked what is the difference between IT/OT, IOT, and Smart xxx? So I thought it was worth a discussion, as I suspect there different interactions.
To me the discussion of “smart/intelligent” industrial it is all about achieving “operational Optimization/ Excellence”, to suite the required production at the most effective time, cost. This is a shift from time based production and managing the process to managing the production of product/service. Driving the optimized execution of work / actions on operational processes for that product/service delivery.


At the core it is about changing the way in which we manage and execute work tasks, either automated or actions with human intervention so that only required work is performed at the correct time.  

“Smart Strategies” are fundamentally different from current IoT, Big Data etc. thinking:

  • The IoT, Big Data etc. Initiatives/trends can be characterized as offering the 5 “any’s” – any information, in any context, at any time, to any user, for any action
  • “Smart” products and operations can be characterized as offering the 5 “right’s” – the right information, in the right context (operations situation), at the right time (which is often earlier than “real-time”), to the right users for the right actions (which are often preventative and at best prescriptive).
All fundamental on the journey towards “operational excellence.”




That said “Smart Strategies” will employ the services of IOT, and big data, but the key is “Smart” is about tightening the execution of an operation process relative to the current product delivery expectations. A key concept is that the Operational Process, (no matter if it is in a city, airport, or production line) understands:
  •        What it is expected to deliver in characteristics of product or service, and when
  •        It is “self-aware” of it’s condition and ability to deliver that product/ service, due to capability, materials and the situation it is in.
  •        It is able to then request and interact with other process, applications, assets and people to gain the required actions needed to succeed and when. 

This is a transformation from just understanding it is taking control of the process, as opposed to time schedule actions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Empowering a New Generation of Front Line Workers.

Recruiting and retaining talent is a top concern for management as the global workforce transitions to the “millennial” generation.  Every time I am in front company executives across industries and regions of the world, yes operational efficacy comes up, but always the deep conversation and search for ideas comes around the changing operational workforce, and associated workspace.


The diagram below illustrates the changing workforce:  


While mundane tasks will continue to get more automated, what work remains in terms of executing on the front-lines warrant a smarter workforce to deal with the corresponding rise in process complexity and product velocity of the value chain. Or a Operational System that abstracts this increased and evolving complexity into the system, allowing variability in the workforce experience and skill. In other words, for those on the industrial front-lines, the boundaries between physical vs. information work will continue to erode – which in turn, changes the very nature of the software applications to support these workers.  

The next generation of industrial software must be able to propel the productivity frontier to new limits while accommodating the new expectations of the Millennial workforce. Examples include:       
  • Information at the fingertips: The information they demand to do their job must be equal to or better than their experience as consumers of mobile, social and collaborative technologies.
  • Work to be rewarding: They can accept tough work conditions if it offers them the autonomy to contribute in their own way in order to keep them engaged and committed.
  •  Change jobs more often: As opportunities to grow “up the career ladder” shrink, they will seek lateral mobility for growth, putting greater pressure on software applications to accelerate “time to proficiency” and performance consistency.
As I sit in the Karoo in Southern South Africa, on Easter weekend away with a number of senior managers of companies in different aspects of manufacturing. The conversations do discuss the future of economics, but the big discussion comes back to workforce transformation, skill set development and retention, and new culture and work method with the Gen Y, how to maintain their engagement and interest. In this country (South Africa) where there has been a significant departure of “baby boomer and gen x” over the last 20 years, leaving the current level of Gen Y in the workforce is already at levels of 2020 expectations in western world (40%).

The issue is how to train, retain, and develop skill and experience, so that companies maintain the required output efficiency. The nice part of the discussion is the reality that it is not a transition of workforce, that it is a totally new workforce that will engage, operate and work totally different to the traditional Gen X and before, and the development of an company/ operational culture that is exciting to attract and retain talent is key.

The big question is can this exciting, attractive culture/ experience be created in an economical and sustained way, especially in the current cost restrictive climate? This then leads to a discussion on the alternative discussion around “generalization “ of “activities” through templatisation of processes, and information, so that decisions and actions can be abstracted from the variability in the experience levels of the work force.  The key assumption is worker experience will vary, and your operational practices will evolve and improve with the business at an ever faster rate, the operational systems of 2020 need to enable a workforce of different skill sets to work in a consistent manner making consistent timely decisions and taking proven actions.

The airline industry has done this with pilots being able to move across different plans, meet their operational team ½ hour before flight, and key still act in a timely and consistent manner. Perfect example was the “Hudson River Incident” where the pilots met ½ hour before take-off, and in the 3 minute flight they took actions only speaking once due to repeatable proven procedures to achieve a successful outcome. 

Why cannot we do the same with the industrial landscape and systems, so that we assume that workforce will change, evolve and the operational systems can accommodate this change while maintaining operational efficiency??     

Monday, March 30, 2015

Multi-dimensional impact of a changing Industrial Operational Workspace vs. the Transforming Workforce!

Multi-dimensional impact of a changing Industrial Operational Work space vs. the Transforming Workforce!
This blog has discussed a lot about the changing workforce, but let’s step back and look at the real change that of the industrial work space. The way in which we operate the business, from:
  • business strategy to operational execution real-time alignment
  • to serving customers
  • new product introduction
  • to operating across multiple plants and regions
  • to collaboration manufacturing
  • to speed and agility of manufacturing

Are all changing, at increasing speed, forcing increased volume, quicker, accountability and consistent “actionable decisions”.

There are two significant forces (workforce transformation to dynamic workforce, and the work space transformation) at play. That are “lining up” to drive the most significant transformation in the  business/ operational landscape required in order to be competitive, leveraging the third force available that of technology, (bandwidth, Internet of things, cloud, etc).

This post will focus on the changing Operational Work space as illustrated in diagram below depicts:


Sunday, March 22, 2015

Managing Variation is Corner Stone of Operational Growth but Requirements Platforms

I wrote about this 2 months ago, but seem to have spent the last two weeks talking and working through this “managing of Variability/ variation” as key. Too many people said that you are forcing standards, but these only come once you have a platform of abstraction on top of variation you want manage or accommodate.

 “How do you manage this Variability, so that production consistency, agility and increased production output are achieved?”   While the concept of everything being a standard would be great, it is not practical and there are variability’s that we must “manage” and others we must “accommodate”.

 “Standardization is not a business goal – it is a means to an end. 
The goal of business is to make a profit.”
                                                             - Continuous Improvement Leader
Thus, any standardization effort must distinguish between the different types of variety in a way that maximizes profit without constraining the business strategy. Thus, the business challenge can be summed up (using the mining example illustrated in the above) as follows:
  1. Mastering necessary variety: When running a mine or plant, such things as Ore Body quality (raw material quality) that varies not according to the ideal plan. Breakdowns of equipment, weather like hurricanes/ cyclones disrupt ports and operations, tides effect ships coming into ports. These are “necessary variability” that all must be “mastered” to optimize production, operations, and you need to put systems in that allow you change plans and strategies as required. I had one workshop last week where the team was looking at long term strategies in the traditional sense. They had not adjusted their thinking to a long term strategy now has to make of shorter operational plans that can be adjusted in “near real-time” due to “master” these “necessary” variability. The operational systems must empower all people to be planners in their time span, to empower actionable decisions that are related to achieving the bigger strategy, and clear impact is understood.  As products, deliverables change and vary more regularly, plans will become shorter and increased volume of plans to achieve a business strategy.
  2. Accommodating unavoidable variety: Situations like different automation vendors or implementations across equipment, processes and sites. It is impractical to think a company can acquire new or existing equipment and processes and expect a particular PLC or automation system, the OEM equipment suppliers just make the change to cost prohibitive. In order for companies to grow and be agile, they must “accommodate” natural variety from equipment suppliers, existing sites, but be able to apply their operational standards/ processes across the different equipment.  Another area that that limits operational excellence is the different “experience” levels of the workforce, from shift to shift, from site to site. The operational systems must abstract operational/ or site experience by embedding operational procedures/ actions into the system providing a guidance and consistency of operational decision and action. This starts to generalize the workforce experience enabling significant operational workforce flexibility between sites, and hiring, addressing the challenges of workforce / skill shortage.
  3. Eliminating unnecessary variety: Anything other than the above two scenarios would be eligible for standardization.
It is NOT about “rip and replace with standards it is about “mastering and accommodating” these variations while enabling operational excellence growth and continuity by applying operational standards across this variability. Key is “platform strategies” that abstract the variability and can absorb variability while provide a platform for services that enable standards to be built on. Providing the architecture for “sustainable innovation” through managed standards that can evolve over time. Standards can be operational models in supervisory for alignment of context and structure, as well as operational actions to guide users through tasks in a consistent way. Also, configuration of control strategies should be over multiple vendors, where common control standards for process can be deployed over multiple controllers but managed in structured way.
Does this mean one platform? NO, not for the industrial landscape different layers of the industrial operations landscape have different roles. Providing different services and different ability to absorb a variety, but the common services between these platforms must enable them to “tightly aligned but loosely coupled”.
As we have pointed out the key to success in this dynamic but changing world is the ability to “Master Necessary Variety” in your business, while “Accommodating Unavoidable Variation”. Providing a structure to acquire new “brownfield plants” accommodate their existing automation and process. But apply the new companies’ differentiation through applying their operational procedures across these acquired plants.
This is not a new concept, but I seem to explain it a lot now days!!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Multi-site standards have to be economically viable, but Operational Value of standards is the driver vs IT requirement

While flexibility allows us to deal with the plant floor reality, it also comes at a cost and thus requires governance. This is typically where the IT and Engineering perspectives tend to clash:

  1. Standardization (what Corporate IT desires): How to deploy “out-of-the-box” or packaged solutions that reduce risk and time-to-value in implementation across the plant sites? Increasingly Operational value is driving standards and platforms.
  2. Flexibility (what Engineering desires): How to support the various customizations to accommodate the heterogeneous nature of the process within a plant site?

But with the growing demand for agility and ability to absorb new production plans, new product introduction with minimal impact to day to day operations. Combine this the ability to “accommodate variability” in automation systems often from different vendors across multiple plants, or equipment, as well variety in team skills, and experience. The implementation of platforms combined with standards provide the necessary abstraction to “accommodate” this variation. So move to standards is growing driven more from the operational continuity drive than IT (which drove it based upon cost of implementation and sustainability).


To solve the above two seemingly opposable expectations, large enterprise users of a platform use a Center of Excellence approach to centrally manage the template library while helping orchestrate each of the plant’s technology roadmap in a way that is aligned to their Continuous Improvement journey.
The illustration below maps (at a high-level) the governance process of how templates are created, maintained, and modified to support the rollout across a multi-plant standardization effort.

Many of the most successful companies driving standards, are now seeing the rewards and return through agility to absorb new plants into their organization, yet leverage the existing unique automation, plant floor systems.

But so many of them comment to that they learnt the hard way the need for governance, yet site collaboration to make the standards effective and adoption successful. Too many state building standards from the corporate center out seems logical, but in reality so much knowledge is in the field and the need for capturing that experience back into standards is key. Plus the shift with standards away from a project DNA to more of “product” life-cycle DNA is key.

The important learning is that standards are part of a program, they part of learning, but return is significant now not just IT point of view but from an “Operational side” and this is where the significant economical returns are seen through operational consistency, and agility. Understand that standards is a program, clear understand the required governance to succeed long term, and investment up front with the field so the standards will be adopted. Combine this with clear kpis to understand the reason why your implementation a platform and standards so the value can be measured for the long term, as this is a long term initiative that must enable sustainable innovation.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Cost of Delay: Realtime Actionable Decisions Critical at all Layers in Industrial Operations

In a number of recent discussions with people when they have listened to sessions on the operational transform and the concepts of people and team transformation, they incorrectly feel the focus is only on the  “operator”. While the operator is the closest person to the “coal face” a fundamental concept of the operational transformation are the shifts to:
·         Actionable decisions performed as early as possible
·         Collaboration across the operational team in making the decision, and taking the action
·         Sharing of current situation and experience
·         Awareness of the situation as early as possible.


As seen in the diagram below if a situation is left then by the time it hits the weekly report even daily report the cost of the situation is significant.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Taking a Lead from the Human Body with Reducing risk through an Enterprise Nervous System for Industrial Architectures

For the last couple of weeks I have been travelling in what seems hundreds of meetings with many people. However, last week I had a number of presentations on the direction of Operational/Automation systems, and challengers of the 7 to 10 years.
Twice a question was asked around flat vs. layered architecture, similar question around one platform vs. multiple platforms.

       Layers allow me to contain change

       Layers allow me to manage complexity, divide and conquer

       Inter-operable layers reduce technology lock-in and increase options for clients


       Federated means lower level has autonomy but cannot violate higher level rules and principles.