The accelerated uptake of digital technologies, expedited by the coronavirus pandemic has transformed the way business is conducted around the world. Business strategy is now underpinned by cloud services, with their role in enabling new use cases having been proven repeatedly in recent months.
Around the world, industrial businesses have benefited from cloud’s resilience, scalability, flexibility and speed. In practical terms, cloud software and software-as-a-service (SaaS) models are delivering value dividends for industrial enterprises by way of efficiency and productivity insights, enhanced innovation and agility, and lower energy and resource use.
By 2030, cloud applications could deliver a $1 trillion run-rate in EBITDA for Fortune 500 companies alone, according to estimates by the consulting firm McKinsey. The evaluation is based on cost-optimization levers and value-oriented business use cases. The companies that most aggressively pursue cloud opportunities will likely benefit the greatest, the firm says.
However, deploying cloud applications without a strategic approach to data interconnectivity is little more than simply staying abreast of market developments. True competitive advantages arise from leveraging the cloud to eliminate data silos between information technology, operational technology and engineering technology in order to create a powerful network effect.
Simply put, industrial data multiplies in value as different parts of the business use and contribute to it, with additional value accumulating from information from partners, suppliers, or customers. Together, information and insights deliver an immersive living digital twin that companies can use to visualize and accelerate business goals.
This is industrial intelligence as a service (IIaaS).
When preconfigured with artificial intelligence technology, this unified industrial data can be viewed in context, giving remote and cross-site teams the ability to collaborate and make faster decisions at every level – even beyond traditional enterprise boundaries.
Thanks to IIaaS, data can be shared with trusted vendors, suppliers, and customers to create a connected industrial community, enabling enterprises to collaborate on new opportunities and on solving the most critical value and sustainability challenges.
Improve collaboration with a single source of truth
Perhaps the most familiar use of cloud computing is its ability to bring together teams within a single enterprise. With IIaaS, geographically dispersed teams can collaborate virtually on all aspects of designing and building capital projects. A single source of truth is available to everyone across the organization, resulting in projects being delivered on deadline and within budget.
Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS), a start-up spun out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works to commercialize fusion energy to deliver clean, limitless power to the world. Implementing a centralized, cloud-based environment enables CFS’s engineers to share vital 1D, 2D, and 3D engineering data, so remote teams can design and build simultaneously. Accuracy has improved, the need for re-work eliminated, and project times reduced.
Unlock performance and productivity gains
Beyond engineering, cloud apps deliver productivity and performance gains. As supply chain pressures begin to impact business performance, IIaaS offers seamless flexibility, agility and scalability by streamlining processes and providing consistent access to essential information for real-time, data-driven decisions.
British multinational energy major BP implemented a cloud-based solution to simplify and standardize its oil and gas downstream business. Access to real-time market information supports complex modelling and analyses, in turn optimizing refinery processes and improving margin capture. Improved calculation speeds have cut model from seven hours to three minutes. Meanwhile, decision time on feedstock purchasing and planning has been slashed from two days to two hours.
Enable optimal asset performance
Sharing documents with customers and suppliers over public cloud services such as drives and drop boxes is commonplace in today’s business world. Similarly, industrial businesses can use IIaaS to share contextualized operations data with their partners to optimize production processes and improve asset performance.
The Renewable Energy Group (REG), a biodiesel producer in Iowa, works with an external vendor, South Carolina-based Allied Reliability, to detect performance anomalies in its centrifuge units for timely maintenance. But these asset maintenance recommendations were often out of date because the centrifuge data was shared manually. Adopting an advanced data management platform enabled the two companies to work with real-time performance information. Consequently, potential equipment downtime declined by as much as 90%.
Drive innovation around sustainability
At a time when businesses are increasingly being asked to make a positive contribution to the environment, cloud-based tools can play a strong role in supporting corporate sustainability goals. For the industrial enterprise, benefits include more energy-efficient infrastructure, lower resource use and enhanced innovation as a result of improved collaboration.
Veolia Water Technologies, a French transnational utility, deployed a next-generation cloud-based engineering platform to enhance operational insight and improve process efficiency. Almost immediately, a fifth of its resources were quickly freed up by way of improved IT agility. Improving cross-border international cooperation within its workforce allowed the company to proactively develop new software applications to address customer needs. And because processes and monitoring were optimized, Veolia has helped clients reduce their water footprint while saving on energy and chemical consumption.
Harness transformative benefits at every level
The World Economic Forum forecasts that 70% of new global economic value created over the next decade will likely be based on digitally enabled business platforms. Cloud solutions are central to that value, with estimates that it will drive significant transformation in every industry, sector and domain over the next five years.
IIaaS applications will be integral to reducing traditional barriers to collaboration and scale. The technology’s powerful network effect simplifies the availability of organizational data into a single, coherent digital source of truth. As a result, industrial businesses can expand collaboration, unlock innovation, and contribute to building a more efficient and sustainable future.
By Rob McGreevy, Chief Product Officer, AVEVA