The pervasive and powerful business changes from the digital transformation (DX) process may seem incredibly intricate or even overwhelming. In reality, companies have the power to choose the most relevant solution or solutions based on their immediate priorities and then implement additional software as time goes on and as operations and teams adjust to leverage these new and powerful systems effectively.
Whether the most immediate need is scheduling, analytics for management, monitoring asset performance or something else entirely, industrial software can play a vital role. From EPC to O&M and IT, let's look at how industrial software and the DX process can drive key improvements and advancements in sustainability, safety, regulatory compliance, operational efficiency and more for power professionals and organizations.
How Industrial Software Supports Digital Transformation
The power and utility industry faces several pressures, influences and other factors that complicate operations, necessitating responses that make businesses more agile, flexible and responsive.
Consider that the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects a nearly 50% increase in worldwide energy use by 2050. Combined with growing consumer preferences for renewable energy and emerging regulations related to emissions and many other areas of industrial operations, power facilities need to adapt to remain successful.
Digital transformation and the culture of continuous improvement and operational excellence that it supports leads to more positive outcomes for businesses in such a dynamic environment. An industrial software platform offers a key competitive advantage in automation, data management, analysis and operational intelligence development and much more — changes that drive digital transformation efforts.
More Efficient Data Collection Fuels On-Demand Access, Strategy Development and Informed Decision-Making
Simple, secure and reliable access to relevant data empowers stakeholders who make important decisions to consistently leverage all available information and pertinent analytics in those efforts.
Far from the disconnected, disparate and often disorganized sources common in current power plant operations, industrial software efficiently and constantly collects and condenses data from various sources. These channels include everything from EPC operations and management to employee safety and cybersecurity processes. Crucially, industrial software also supports the generation of actionable information and analysis, providing additional context and guidance for staff.
In a broad sense, plant managers, maintenance and reliability engineers, and others who may need to consider a wide range of information in their decision-making processes can count on accessing a single source of truth whenever required.
HSE teams, in particular, can benefit from the DX process and the industrial software that supports it. By moving from paper-based management of change forms and environmental reporting to a digital alternative, common workflows become more efficient and less prone to error.
For experts who focus on specific, individual tasks and do not play critical roles in generating strategy, optimized digital processes reduce the burden of data collection and retrieval, saving valuable time each shift.
Increased Communication and Visibility in the Control Room and Field
Under current conditions, control room operators frequently encounter alarm floods and nuisance alarms — concerns that can draw their attention away from potentially serious problems threatening the plant. Complications with shift-to-shift communications can also arise during handoffs that depend on written notes and brief conversations to relay critical safety details. Even the paper-based nature of documented work processes can make it challenging to efficiently review essential information in a time-sensitive situation.
Paper-based processes invite human error for field operations staff due to the repetitive, frequent need to log important data. An inability to access critical information while in the field leaves these staff members with an incomplete picture of current circumstances. In addition, the lack of a mechanism to easily capture and upload relevant photos and videos while completing rounds means reporting will lack valuable context beyond notes and any hard data recorded.
Industrial software can transform how control room operators and field operations personnel carry out their duties, making the process easier and more efficient for individual employees. At the same time, the plant benefits from streamlined processes that emphasize collecting rich, consistent and actionable data — and in a variety of formats when needed. In addition, communication becomes more thorough, as each shift can quickly and reliably access all necessary documentation whenever needed.
Situational awareness improves and reliable standardized processes emerge, which ultimately encourages a culture of continuous improvement and consistent employee confidence and faster resolutions to problems ranging from false alarms to the potential need for a plant shutdown.
Enhancing Visibility and Oversight for Safety and Cybersecurity
Protecting personnel and assets from the potential dangers that can arise in an industrial work environment is crucial. However, so is ensuring the entire plant has effective and comprehensive digital security measures in place. A safe and secure work environment makes it less likely that major accidents and incidents will disrupt key functions while priming plants to focus on continuous improvement and operational excellence across all areas of operations.
HSE personnel face various difficulties with the manual, paper-based nature of current operations in many plants, including the issues previously reviewed. Additionally, serious concerns can arise related to poor overall visibility into the deficiencies and warning signs found and noted during operator rounds and by professionals working during off-hours. The limitations of manual systems also make it difficult to determine the specifics needed for genuinely effective and safe work permits.
Employees who focus on IT and cybersecurity have to deal with inefficiencies and limitations that can create vulnerabilities on both the enterprise and plant levels. For example, addressing enterprise security needs, such as visibility into operational technology (OT) and industrial control system (ICS) assets and endpoints, is a more difficult process due to a lack of complete, consistent and readily available data. Likewise, the success of crucial plant-level security tasks, such as securing and ensuring uptime of the OT/ICS network, are similarly harmed by a lack of accessible and actionable data and insight.
Industrial software offers practical solutions to address these common problems. HSE staff benefit from digitalized and connected documentation for operator rounds and shift handovers, increasing visibility and ensuring that necessary information is captured and communicated. Ultimately, industrial software and the DX process it enables lead to accurate, timely HSE incident reporting, quickly addressing critical concerns for mitigating follow-up investigations.
For IT and cybersecurity staff, industrial software enables effective endpoint management and supplies critical data and insight that supports safer and more robust operations. Additionally, these software solutions identify and assess existing vulnerabilities, providing valuable context that helps power producers mitigate emerging issues. Staff can also utilize forensic analysis of configuration changes to understand the composition of an incident better and reduce mean time to recover (MTTR).
Tying It All Together
A digitalized organization, one that embraces DX and positions itself for continuous improvement, can leave a complex web of systems for collecting data, tracking compliance and sharing information behind. Instead, by leveraging innovative industrial software, that same organization can begin creating a digital backbone, providing a single version of the truth shared across all departments, unlocking data to be best utilized by teams. This cohesive digital thread can save valuable minutes for numerous employees each shift, adding up to days of time savings annually.
Hexagon's solutions are designed for digital transformation by addressing industrial challenges in practical, cost-effective ways. Stimulate operational efficiency and safety in your facility by putting the power of information in the hands of your facility workers.
With 50 years of experience in delivering the leading industry software, Hexagon's solutions are carefully designed to help you digitally transform your work processes, leading to greater productivity and return for our customers. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings for the power and utility industry today.