Industryweek 32277 Emerson1

Innovative Uses of Industrial IoT are Delivering Measurable Improvements

Sept. 18, 2018
New Subscription-Based Models Simplify Technology Adoption
  • IIoT adoption can start small and scale.
  • Companies are exploring new supplier partnerships and accelerating benefits.
  • Operational Certainty methodologies can help companies find performance opportunities and identify actions that will make the biggest impact.

Over the past 30 years, efficiency has often been the starting point for manufacturers as they establish performance improvement plansand invest in technology. And so far, the industry has succeeded in adopting discipline and automation to accomplish more with less.

But today, performance gains are getting smaller, while expectations are higher and competition is tougher. The reality is ... efficiency is no longer the entire answer for those looking to transform their operations. The mandate is to reach Top Quartile performance and stay among the top 25 percent of their industry peers.Manufacturers need to shift their strategies in pursuit of digital transformation—rethinking outdated business models and strategically applying technology to change them—rather than focusing on simply cutting costs.

This efficiency era approach, leadership by cutting cost, runs deep in many company cultures, sometimes resulting in leaders missing bigger-picture opportunities to rethink processes and procedures.This can make it difficult to see the next big idea, resulting in lost opportunities to reinvent operations and evolve to the next level of performance.

Companies like Emerson are helping. Through its Operational Certainty Consulting practice, Emerson helps customers pinpoint their causes of poor performance, prioritize actions that can yield the greatest improvement and establish a scalable work plan for achieving those results.

Though it can be difficult to strike “the way it’s always been done” from a company’s vocabulary,today’s top performers are injecting innovation into their operating models to break out of the efficiency rut. They manage risk by making the investment scalable, focused on a specific problem that doesn’t require complex engineering or major capital investment.

For example, consider Denka, a Singapore-based chemical subsidiary of Tokyo-based Denka Company Limited, a company focused on making its Jurong Island plant a top-performing facility.The plant, one of the world’s largest for producing polystyrene resins used in plastic products, depends on steam for heat to power the manufacturing process. However, steam traps that help distribute this energy source throughout the facility are prone to failure. Manual inspection of the traps was expensive and time-consuming, and like many companies,Denka was resigned to treat the energy losses as part of its operational costs—until they decided to look at things differently.

Automation and remote monitoring changed the game for Denka. Simple, easy-to-install monitors were connected to the steam traps to detect performance and potential failures. An offsite Emerson team remotely monitors the traps and provides regular performance reports to the Denka team. Denka maintenance crews were able to quickly and efficiently identify and replace leaking or defective traps, preventing energy (and financial) losses previously accepted as unavoidable. This new approach required zero capital investment, with monitoring of 148
steam traps, including the sensor technologies, delivered as part of a new subscription service offered by Emerson.

The secure,outsourced solution delivered on its initial promise of increased efficiency, but the benefits didn’t stop there. It also established the framework for Denka to fundamentally change its approach to maintenance. Rather than hunting for problems and repairing equipment that has already broken, maintenance crews now use data insights to recognize and address potential issues before they result in equipment failure or downtime.

At the end of the day, Denka not only realized a 7 percent reduction in steam consumption, but also transformed processes to eliminate worker rounds and contractor inspections.

“The way we work now is different,”said Ng Hock Cheong, maintenance manager for Denka Singapore Pte. Ltd. “We receive a weekly report of failed traps instead of annual manual survey results. We immediately replace the trap or traps because it’s just a few each time. The weekly exception reports provided by Emerson become work orders for the maintenance team.”

When manufacturers identify and seize big opportunities like these, they can achieve top operational performance. Uncertainty about newer technologies can be the biggest barrier to realization of these gains, but new service models are emerging to address these concerns and remove the risks of capital investment.

Many of today’s automation and process monitoring capabilities, like the steam-trap monitoring solution adopted by Denka, are delivered as managed services, utilizing the Industrial Internet of Things(IIoT) to securely transmit data to a third-party service provider, which analyzes the data and provides the customer with insights. This managed service approach means no capital outlay for end users, only fees for services rendered.

It all boils down to maximum potential for meaningful operational performance improvements, with minimal risk. When improved efficiency is a worst-case outcome, and a culture focused on innovation to build shareholder value is the real objective, a company is well on track to achieve top performance.

Learn more and connect with an Emerson Digital Transformation consultant.

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