Digitalization is all about taking data, turning it into information, turning that information into knowledge, then providing decision support on how to act. Digital transformation, on the other hand, doesn’t give you the ability to make better decisions—it helps transform the way you work and to operate with better access to the right intelligence. “The thing we need to do in digital transformation is digitalize and transform the way we work,” said Tim Sowell, in charge of the digital portfolio strategy at AVEVA.
This is the basis of AVEVA Connect, a digital services platform that provides opportunities to drive down IT costs, improve scalability, enhance operational performance and increase focus on core business activities. It is essentially a platform for digital transformation, Sowell said, and can provide the hub to bring products and teams together.
AVEVA Connect was introduced at the AVEVA World Summit two years ago. But just as digital transformation has been an evolutionary journey for industrial companies, so too is AVEVA Connect, with new capabilities and applications rolling out continuously. At the AVEVA World Conference North America in Dallas this week, Sowell joined Thierry Vermeersch and Michal Postula to update attendees on how AVEVA Connect can help manufacturers move from siloed work and assets to team collaboration in the cloud.
Much of the collaboration capability is driven by a move to role-based information. The reliability engineer, for example, is enabled by data coming from operations, machines, structural information, etc. A maintenance manager might want to know what maintenance had been done previously on an asset or get analytics on how it’s been performing over the past month. A plant engineer has the ability to look at a plant and see how it’s running and get the contextual information to drive his decision-making process. All of that information can come through AVEVA Connect as the digital hub.
The need for ready information is exacerbated by the changing demands from the workforce. “We’re going to a dynamic workforce,” Sowell said, noting that most workers will be in a role for less than two years by 2020. “We’re seeing it down to less than a year in a lot of places. The younger environment is going to continuously rotate. Do not assume they have previous knowledge.” The digital platform will need to provide the awareness and knowledge to empower the workforce.
“They’re all looking at the appropriate information they need through the lens they’re working with,” Sowell said. “It’s about them being able to make timely decisions.” The information is coming from the same piece of information—a living digital twin.
AVEVA has been saying for more than 20 years that for each physical element in a plant there needs to be a digital counterpart, Vermeersch said. But now, that digital asset contains not only geometrical data, drawings, etc., but information that is being fed back by the operating unit. “It’s giving us a much, much bigger picture,” he said.
Engineering information, operational information, the product that’s being produced and the smart worker all need access to the data to be more effective. “The digital twin is all about capturing information to a point where it actually becomes a reality,” Vermeersch said.
AVEVA Connect is not just geared toward putting products and services in the cloud, Sowell said, but how those products and services will act as a digital twin. “You can feed information up into the cloud and get a digital representation,” he said. “If I need to do maintenance, I can understand the physical aspects of how I go about doing that.”
There are three main pillars of information that AVEVA Connect now supplies: engineering, simulate and operate. Customers can get to AVEVA Connect through AVEVA.com, through Digital Exchange and other places, Sowell said. From AVEVA Connect, there is a wide variety of things that can be done, with access to training centers, development tools, collaborative workspaces, navigation through assets and more. “We will be making more and more capabilities available as we go,” Vermeersch said.
AVEVA Connect can be seen as actually three products in one, Postula commented. It provides augmentation to AVEVA’s on-premise products, augmenting existing plant systems with digital services, and it enables solution builders and OEMs to build new marketable products.
Though digital transformation can seem like an overly hyped term, Postula said, it’s actually an evolution. “It doesn’t mean we throw away all the best practices we’ve developed over the years,” he said. “They need to be preserved; we feel very strongly about that.”
AVEVA does the work of connecting the products to its operational cloud. “We publish all the meta data and additional standards data. By the time it reaches the cloud, it’s ready to use.”
Postula also noted the ability to move to the cloud in steps. “It’s not on premise or cloud; it’s on premise and cloud,” he said. “It’s up to the customer to decide how much of each.”
Sowell echoed these sentiments. “Our job is to build a platform that enables work we’ve already done in the Wonderware world, the traditional AVEVA world, the traditional SimSci world, and bring them all together,” he said. “We are seeing an evolution from on premise to cloud. We’re empowering extra value, making it affordable. It’s a journey you can take piece by piece.”