Digitalization - the critical enabler for Industrial Automation By Rajesh Ramachandran, Global Chief Digital Officer - Process Automation & ABB Ability, ABB

Digitalization - the critical enabler for Industrial Automation

Rajesh Ramachandran, Global Chief Digital Officer - Process Automation & ABB Ability, ABB | Sunday, 03 July 2022, 13:08 IST

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Rajesh Ramachandran, Global Chief Digital Officer – Process Automation & ABB Ability, ABB, in interaction with CIOTechOutlook, shares his views on how the industrial automation market is evolving in India and how digitalization impacts automation.

The global industrial automation market is projected to reach USD 395.09 billion by 2029. How do you see this market evolving in India? What are the major factors driving the growth of this market?

The industrial automation market is certainly growing faster in the last couple of years and with the pandemic, the need for automation also has significantly increased. Furthermore, a couple of key elements including the energy transition and sustainability, as well as looking at bringing more operational excellence and pressure for reducing the cost of operations, all lead to improving the automation market. In India, we see that growth is higher than global growth. From different analysis we see strong double-digit growth of more than 14% over the next seven years taking to a market size of 33 billion as well.

How does digitalization impact automation?

Digitalization and automation go hand in hand. What is changing in the market on the automation part is the significant change in the end markets, where the automation has been deployed. There are certain industries where it has been at a peak or it's depleting. This includes the coal industry with a focus more on sustainability and carbon footprint reduction.

The second element is the new industries that are more energy and asset-intensive, where the need for automation and digitalization has to go hand in hand. To achieve both it is important to ensure that how you automate the processes and keep them running safely? At the same time, how do you keep optimizing the processes? How do you bring operational efficiency? How do you bring the optimization of energy consumption? How do we find new methods of improving sustainability and reducing emissions and so on? 

Therefore, there is always an intersection of automation and digitalization that goes hand in hand, which is also evident in terms of how even the technology is evolving. The technology evolution of automation with digitalization is coming seamlessly together as a technology and digital revolution. And even the consumption of this has been converging as the workforce changes. Whether you talk about the new millennials who are looking at the value of automation and digitalization in the same sense, whether it is for operations or process or quality or even sustainability, asset performance, and so on.

Automation brings you the stability and control loop closer to the process. Digitalization sits above automation and brings the power of data by combining both data domain as well as the technology with the artificial intelligence technologies that possibly brings the best of how you automate the process and how you get more value out of the data as well.

How does ABB seamlessly extend the automation to digitalization?

ABB has been serving industries for more than 130 years. ABB is one of the very few companies, which has been serving all the four industrial revolutions from industry 1.0 to 4.0. Therefore, we have a very large customer base and are the number one DCS automation solution provider for a variety of industries. Customers looking for digitalization and digital transformation, look up to ABB on how it protects the existing investments that are done on automation and on it we extend that with digitalization.

We have invested in the last four years in terms of looking at how we make you extend the automation loop to an outer loop which is the digital loop by bringing innovations, a new portfolio, and new platform suites including the ABB Ability platform, the ABB Ability Genix Industrial Analytics and AI suite that shows on how do you integrate with our DCS systems. Even the non-ABB systems provide a secure way for "edge to the cloud", which means that you get the data that is coming from the operational data securely from the ABB automation system.

Combine that with the engineering data coming from the different engineering design systems and also bring product asset management data, quality management data, financial data that's coming from other IT systems such as the IBM Maximo, and so on.

We combine this thereby unlocking the value of the operational data and truly achieving this OT/IT and integration which you call operational systems, IT systems, and engineering systems which are integrated in terms of data that is coming from all the systems that are contextualized for a specific process, for a specific asset, for specific business outcomes. That has immense value. However, 73% of the data that is generated in the industries is currently not used for decision-making.

Through ABB’s DCS along with our digital platform and solutions such as Genix we unlock the value of the 73% of data that is not used. By automating the whole contextualization of integration by 80%, thereby applying industrial analytics and AI to brings as much as 40% productivity gains when you apply at scale. That's the power of combining automation and digitalization. As a provider of both the technologies together, we are able to seamlessly extend our customers whom we have been serving for years on automation but extend that securely for digitalization as well.

Please elaborate on how cloud-based industrial analytics software help organizations in optimizing their businesses and facilitate informed and strategic decision-making?

The cloud-based industrial analytics software also what we call as cloud-based brings the capability of deploying anywhere. It can be deployed at the edge very closer to the DCS or the process or it could be also at the plant level. And customers are seeing the value of moving through cloud-based solutions, while you do a lot of data manipulation, data mining, as well as looking at analytics to be done on the cloud, but bring back and run those trained models closer to the process to the edge as well.

In the hybrid cloud, you run, you train and you bring it back to the edge that has been becoming a lot more prevalent now. But from ABB's perspective, we have launched ABB ability Genix, which is the next-generation native Software as a Service offering for the cloud-based industrial analytics and AI suite. It is unlocking the value of the data which is not used today, not limited to only operational data, but also bringing the OT/IT and engineering data together. Thereby, we bring the value of the data that is extremely important with a contextualization to drive the business insights.

Secondly, why are the organizations struggling? They are struggling because integrating this siloed data from different systems is difficult. Imagine that for a water utility, or even an oil and gas plant as many as 25 to 30 different systems should be connected.

You can't just achieve it by putting sensors on machines to get the data. The context is coming from all these different systems. This data needs to be contextualized and it needs to be also integrated into an automated fashion that is achieved by the platform that ABB ability Genix.

The third aspect is a lot of use cases, and a lot of specific value pillars, and we have these value pillars from ABB in six major areas. First is sustainability. How do you cut down on emissions? How do you optimize energy? And so on. The second is asset performance management. How do you improve asset reliability? And third is process performance. How do you keep improving the process quality and process performance? Fourth is looking at how do you bring the extended automation software? This means how you bring the same DCS software output but use it as quickly for digital operations and the mobile operations that you would like to manage. How do you control that?

And we look at bringing these different value pillars. And to make it all safe and smart, you need to have cybersecurity which is how you reduce the risk management, and finally, achieve operational excellence which includes the manufacturing operations management, but also a digital layer that achieves the operational excellence across a fleet and enterprise.

So, these value pillars are built as the applications or value pillar applications on top of the industrial analytics and AI suite that is helping to provide an immediate return on investment on the value.

No wonder why the asset performance management market is growing at more than 31% CAGR today because it is so critical for any asset and energy-intensive industries that we bring the highest utilization reliability as well as predictive maintenance for the critical assets.

How do you see the market for Industrial Automation & Digitalization growing in near future?

Industrial automation is still going to be the nerve, an indispensable layer and will be the critical enabler for digitalization. So, the market is going to grow and industrial automation is growing on multiple fronts. Why is industrial automation important? It is because there are a lot of new industries that are getting more and more prevalent and these have complex facilities.

Each of these complex facilities needs a significant amount of automation systems. Secondly, even the existing plants are becoming more and more complex. An example could be unmanned oil and gas platforms. We have been serving a very large customer in Europe to make it completely autonomous, unmanned oil and gas platforms.

It becomes a significant place for automation and digitalization together. And the third is the end markets such as sustainable transport, and process electrification, wherein we now see that not only automation and digitalization but automation, digitalization, and electrification. All three are converging. So, this electrification convergence towards sustainability is bringing new different dimensions to growth.

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