Deliver sustained high-performance production

[The following advertorial appeared in the PACE 60th anniversary November 2013 special issue. The HMI and Operator Interfaces section was supported by Wonderware Australia.]

In this post global financial crisis era, a significant disruption in industrial operational landscape is taking place.

This new landscape focuses on creating an operational environment that enables timely decisions and actions across a highly diverse and geographically distributed team to deliver sustained high-performance production. 

Requiring a shift away from traditional, inflexible operational processes to a new operational experience that provides agility and flexibility in execution. This new landscape is driven by significant changes in key dimensions of the operation: people, process, and technology.

This new world enables new ways of operating where traditional operational tools like Human Machine Interface (HMI) on the desktop will not be sufficient as the mode of operations evolves from:

  • Individual to a flexible distributed team of different roles and skills, collaborating and sharing in real-time
  • From one location (control room) to a dynamic role that is free to move to a location best to execution the action. 

There are many drivers affecting this operational transformation, as a first step, let's explore the trends and drivers behind this fundamental shift in the operational landscape. The major elements are shown in the figure below.

The changing operational landscape.

The changing operational landscape. 


One of the most dominant global issues facing industrial operations is the transition from a well-established and experienced workforce to dynamic, transitional workforce with a very different approach to addressing tasks, accessing information, and working together. 

The specific elements that will affect the design of supervisory operational systems include: 

  • Worker retention challenges mean that the "time to experience" must be shorter than ever: The experienced generation is retiring and transitioning to an age group 20 years their junior, where in 2020 it is expected the tenureship in role will be less than 2.4 years. 
  • Operational Decisions Now: To be competitive, decisions must be made now, causing requirement for workers to transition to "knowledge workers" empowered to be have greater responsibility, making more decisions, requiring contextualised information, higher knowledge and access to experience. 
  • Operational Agility requires collaborative Flexible Operational Teams: With the move to integrated operational centers, requiring the formation of dynamic operational team, from site workers, to support, to those in the center and subject matter experts who physically distributed yet making collaborative real-time decisions. The challenge of these operational teams, is allowing consistent "trusted" information access across the total team, and the ability to collaborate, share and manage work items across the team.
  • Transition to digital native worker, with decidedly different expectations: The new generation is "digitally native"; they expect access to the knowledge they expect "touch experience", they multi task and expect multi-tasking applications, they expect to collaboration and learn on the fly. The traditional industrial operational experience of HMI or DCS interface will not "fly".

Operational transition of supervisory world.

Operational transition of supervisory world. 

Technology and process

Combine the above changes with ageing existing HMIs/ DCS workstations that were built for a process and are now "island, underlines that the industrial world is facing a significant disruption in the way design, operate and the philosophy behind the end to end operational experience on plants.

Addressing that significant disruption will require a combination of techniques:

1. A new generation operational experience. That must include embedded knowledge access, experience access, actionable procedures and natural intelligence, empowering the operational workers in all roles. The information must be more exception-based and situationally aware of the plant status, enabling faster realisation of conditions and required actions.

2. Device Independent Operational Experience. So that operational content can be displayed and actioned across devices from desktop, pda, tablets to collaboration walls. New content and navigation can be added without knowledge of the devices and roles using them.

3. Integration and alignment across systems and sites. Requiring an industrial platform that embraces the "loosely coupled but aligned philosophy, while enabling federation, contextualisation with standards management. 

4. Collaboration and team sharing. The system naturally enables sharing, collaboration and notification across team members in real-time. 

5. Consistency of Operations/ Roles Actions. A foundation for operational innovation is the consistency of operational actions/ processes across teams and sites. Combined with consistent interface experience, notifications, required for reliable support for rotating roles and people.

6. A New Operational Culture. Technology is only one step; success with this new model requires a collaborative team culture, where sharing and partnering needs to be natural within the organization. 

Reviewing these requirements in their totality, it becomes clear that vendors and design engineers as well operational leaders will need to consider a new paradigm in operational execution beyond the traditional supervisory control to sustain operational agility/ excellence with this dynamic and culturally different workforce.

[By Tim Sowell, Vice President & Fellow, Invensys. Follow him on invensyssysevolution.blogspot.com

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