Prevent Mistakes With the Industrial Internet of Things

With fourth-generation HMI/SCADA and the digital thread of information, you can guide operators through the right steps and verify their actions to address workforce training issues and the real threat of mistakes that come with a new generation of employees.

Alicia Bowers, Senior product marketing manager, automation software, GE Digital
Alicia Bowers, Senior product marketing manager, automation software, GE Digital

You’ve likely heard the old saying: “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.” This is very true in the industrial environment, where the same mistakes happen over and over, even though improved quality, efficiency and revenue are real expectations.

A big reason for this is that it’s difficult to prevent operator mistakes with a drastically evolving workforce.

Today, 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job less than three years, according to a survey by Future Workplace. A new job every three years or less makes for a lot of jobs in a lifetime, and a lot of employee turnover and inexperienced workers. This creates a real problem for businesses when we have 65,000 people a day reaching retirement age—a trend that is expected to last 10 years.

So what happens when people change jobs as frequently as Millennials are expected to do? It means constant training, higher risk, errors and waste. How can you meet organizational goals and stay in compliance with regulations when your employees don’t know their jobs? How can you prevent the same costly mistakes from happening over and over again?

The bottom line is that you can prevent many mistakes by using today’s Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology. With fourth-generation HMI/SCADA and the digital thread of information, you can guide operators through the right steps and verify their actions. Real-time data, captured across systems, provides the triggers for execution of electronic standard operating procedures, with instructions sent to mobile workers, at the right time and place.

The Industrial Internet and decision support

Simply put, IIoT helps to enable our workforce. We can use software to capture critical best practices before our most experienced workers retire and guide new workers through the right steps to do their jobs properly. This is a method that works.

Younger operators, who grew up with electronics, easily interact with dynamic task instructions through intuitive screens. Additionally, GPS technology is powerful in the industrial environment, enabling delivery of the right information to the right operator at the right place. This is a natural extension of electronic devices in our operators’ personal lives and helps them be successful at work.

As for all of those mistakes related to alarms, fourth-generation HMI/SCADA based on IIoT technology takes you beyond alarm acknowledgement to drive the right actions by your team. With a guided and consistent real-time event response, you can reduce troubleshooting time and emergency phone calls. Fourth-generation HMI/SCADA provides decision support to operators, technicians and managers, spanning the full operational team.

Additionally, tracking and reporting on work processes allows you to hone your operations for continuous improvement. You can identify and eliminate nuisance events, compare operator performance, and evaluate opportunities across people, equipment and systems.

Operations and maintenance systems

Fourth-generation HMI/SCADA also bridges the gap between operations and maintenance to achieve real-time, condition-based asset performance management.

When an out-of-spec event takes place in the SCADA system, you can trigger a work process to interface with the maintenance system, secure a work order number, send specific instructions—including GIS location information—to an operator and facilitate the corrective action to remediate a problem.

Then you can close out the work order with the maintenance system and record the actions taken for historical records and optimization.

Stop making the same mistakes

With modern technology, we can meet the challenges of our modern workforce. Today’s operators can have the information they need—in their hands or in front of them—letting them know what they need to do and how to do it.

It’s time to turn that old quote around to sound much better: “Sanity is repeating the same correct actions and expecting the same results.” That means consistent operations, fewer mistakes, and better business outcomes.

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