Getting value from data analytics in process plants

Digital transformation offers promise for many facets of operations and maintenance. Smart analysis of patterns of process data can illustrate opportunity to improve quality, yield and efficiency. Careful diagnosis of equipment sensors, along with relevant process history, can reveal potential problems before serious damage is done. Wireless devices have extended this capability beyond the distributed control systems and programmed logic controllers to devices that do not control, but monitor and smartly advise/alarm.

The quantity of data is vast. Simply having more powerful parallel processing computers, and huge lakes of data in the cloud, simply means the needed data history can be accessible. One real challenge is: who are the right people with the necessary skills to decide what to analyze?

We come down firmly on the side of those with experience in Occupational Technology. Those with OT experience understand process and equipment data. This skill enables them to take better advantage of analytic tools that use heuristics, pattern matching and timeline views.

Next, are those with a background in Manufacturing Technology. Their MT experience in workflow, scheduling and logistics can be useful in adding value to the entire supply chain of hydrocarbon processing into fuels, lubes, chemicals.

Why do we make this distinction? Because there are many firms with background in “big data” analytics who are touting their wares to owners and operators in the upstream, midstream and downstream space. But when asked about their domain knowledge, they often revert to IT-speak.

Information Technology provides the framework for data analytics, but the lack of “subject matter expertise” too often results in sub-optimal answers. It takes SMEs with OT experience to recognize all the potential connections that can be analyzed, to ensure the issue includes just the relevant data and appropriate time span. Knowing which data to include can be supported by advanced OT analytical tools and techniques.

We do not make this claim in a vacuum. In a trusted media role, the editorial team at HP participates in many leading industry conferences, where we hear this supported by clients of experienced OT solution providers.

What do you think of this OT vs MT vs IT-led distinction to “digital transformation” staffing? We invite your comments on this article.

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