Accelerating Digital to Build Better Industries Post-COVID-19
The COVID-19 crisis will transform industry. New circumstances have reinforced the importance of agility, efficiency, and resiliency. Our industries are simultaneously needing to save costs while building more capacity and robustness. To achieve both, there is one solution: digitization. But this is not new to industry. Digital transformation was in motion well before the pandemic hit. During the crisis, those who were fully connected had a significant edge. And those who were not, are now trying to catch up. COVID-19 has been a massive accelerator of digital, reinforced by the core needs of remote everything, resiliency, efficiency, and sustainability.
Transitioning to remote everything
Expect everything to become remote. Remote connection and monitoring allow for greater agility, safer working conditions, and higher levels of security. It allows operations to continue without disruption, while abiding by social distancing protocols. During the crisis, many industries experienced scenarios of being unable to send workers to site, leading to operational delays. Unmanned operations allow industry to continue even with reduced physical presence. Augmented reality allows operators to monitor and diagnose machine issues from afar. Virtual reality allows operators to undertake virtual training and visit sites without physically entering them.
Take Baosteel Group, a modern iron and steel company in Shanghai, which created the first truly unmanned hot rolling workshop. During the lockdown, due to their digitization program, they were able to continue operating ensuring both business continuity and the safety of their operators.
Remote technology not only advances processes, it empowers people. On the shop floor, technology including simulations and augmented reality, resolve issues faster. It maximizes support in operations and builds collaboration, allowing sites to connect with talent around the world to get the deepest experience and training.
Resiliency has risen to the top
This will not be our last crisis. Whether it be a due to health, politics, or disasters, we need to step up resiliency to be able to overcome them. In our installations, industry needs to focus on three factors: connectivity, predictiveness, and preventiveness. With connection comes the ability to monitor. Then, using software and analytics, operators can predict future issues which are flagged to services to fix before they become an outage.
But the robustness of an installation is only as high as the weakest point in a facility. Every company is a combination of a value chain including access to the grid, power distribution, building management, IT management, and process management. A break in any one of these links will weaken resilience. Therefore, across the whole chain, automation and analytics need to be implemented. With automation, problems can be solved at the local level without human intervention. With analytics, data can be extracted from the installation to indicate where the service is required.
Enel, an Italian utility, is at the forefront of digital transformation. When energy demand during lockdown decreased dramatically in industry and increased sharply in residential, Enel could manage, in real-time, energy distribution from their remote O&M control center. This is how resilience ensures business continuity during crisis.