How open data historians drive digital transformation

Jeroen Coussement on

Digital transformation remains a boiling hot topic around any production facility. Read why next-generation data historians are the most powerful engines for driving a digital culture change within your organisation.

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In a Deloitte survey of 361 Industry 4.0 executives across 11 countries, 94% of respondents report digital transformation as their organisation’s top strategic initiative. A PwC survey of 200 European executives indicates that more than 9 of 10 of respondents are investing in digital factories, yet only 6% consider their factories to be fully digitised. Does this sound familiar?

Why production companies struggle to generate growth from process data

When trying to build tomorrow’s factory, yesterday’s solutions for production monitoring just won't fit the bill anymore. Think paper processes. Stressed phone calls to the production floor. Outdated remote desktop solutions for SCADA systems. Static Excel sheets shared through email. All of these solutions lack the speed, usability and scale to meet the continuously evolving demands of Industry 4.0.

Lack of a groundwork data architecture

After years of piling up different applications and systems, today’s main data challenge for most businesses is to develop a groundwork IIoT architecture that interfaces with any industrial data source, can be scaled to various IIoT use cases around the plant quickly, and empowers various roles within the company to reap the benefits of plant-wide data visbility.

This plant-wide data visibility is all about driving the flow of data to the right people and systems in real-time. By offering people frictionless access to data, any credited employee can be empowered to make small improvements, monitor the results, and constantly iterate to optimise them. Over time, these continual changes lead to significant improvements that impact bottom line efficiency.


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Why historical data is the fuel of digital transformation

In the past decades, industrial organisations have been implementing a wide number of solutions to digitally transform their processes. Most companies use SCADA or other systems that gather data from sensors, valves, pumps or other sources, to help control their systems and equipment in real time. But these systems have limited capabilities in terms of data storage and analysis.

Where there is a huge amount of data, there is also an opportunity to generate a significant return on that data

Historical data is probably the most under-leveraged company asset, and the most crucial part of digital transformation at scale. Almost all industrial companies are generating an ever increasing load of data from equipment, sensors or systems. However, more data does not necessarily mean better data. Data lakes can easily turn into data swamps, in which data is formatted, stored, and secured differently, and locked away in silos. The data is not displayed together, nor seen through a single pane of glass.

However, where there is a huge amount of data, there is also an opportunity to generate a significant return on that data. Analysing the data generated by IIoT connected devices can provide your company with deeper insights, enable you to produce more effectively, save energy, reduce downtime or extend the life of equipment. All things that have an impact on the bottom line.

Why data historians are the most powerful engines of digital transformation

The first step in any digital transformation journey is having a scalable method of collecting data in a robust way. Data historians are specifically designed to store continuously monitored process plant data over long periods of time. Their data storage capabilities are astounding, making them suitable for even the largest plants, those collecting data from 100.000s of data points.

By capturing and trending real-time data, you can be sure your operations are working as expected. An unlimited amount of control points, such as temperature, pressure, pH value, etc. can be monitored to ensure the correct values are maintained within the acceptable thresholds. Through automated alerting, deviations can be identified in real-time and addressed immediately.

Yet this is only the beginning. True digital transformation requires more analysis of the combined data to gain a better understanding of your systems.


man holding tablet device

Proprietary vs. open data historians

Traditional data historians are closed systems used primarily to view and visually analyse plant performance at a single site. Custom developments on top will mostly require hard to find external resources. And since these historians are proprietary systems, it can be a pain to extract data from them.

Next generation historians empower your workforce by completely removing the need for specialist skills to gain actionable data insights

In the past, company engineers would write software to generate trend reports and graphs, and then try to visually analyse historian data to spot anomalies and areas for improvement. Spreadsheets were the weapons of choice, but it took a lot of work and expertise to get to actionable production insights. Therefore, process knowledge was only available to a handful of employees.

Next generation historians empower your workforce by completely removing the need for specialist skills to gain valuable data insights. And because modern historians make the data more readily available through the use of standard SQL structures and open interfaces, they can be easily integrated with any reporting or BI tool, or connected with other systems such as ERP and MES.

Thanks to their availability, and open interfaces, virtually any kind of analysis of plant data is possible, whether it is on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device, for one or multiple plants. Open process historians allow you to take a birds eye view on operations, or to drill down on production issues and perform root-cause analysis in minutes, all based on highly accurate time-series and relational data.

Conclusion

  • Managing today’s business with obsolete tools that cannot be scaled further undermines the bottom line of your business, while growing data complexity has forced historians to evolve to an open architecture.

  • Whereas spreadsheet reporting only gives you a static view on operations, next-generation historians will help you see and analyse data from any industrial source, both in real-time and historically.

  • Today’s open technologies have made IIoT technology and site-wide data visibility available to any production company. Even the smallest SME in the industry can now reap the benefits of IIoT connectivity.


data historian dashboards

Factry Historian: open core, limitless connectivity

Factry Historian enables production companies to gain the maximum value from IIoT data and unleash its full potential across their organisation. The system is robust, scalable and talks with any other tool, system or software. Data is collected in real-time, stored on-premises or in the cloud, and made accessible for in-depth analysis through a standard IT environment.

Through a built-in visualisation component and role-based dashboards, the right information is presented to the right employees at the right time in the right format. No more spreadsheets or paper. Yes to instant process insights.

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