Distributed control systems have come a long way from their beginnings in the 1960s. But many of today’s legacy systems, which exist in plants all over the world, are yet to take advantage of digital platforms such as the cloud to leverage data and generate predictive business insights.
What’s more, the manufacturing worker model has reached an inflection point. Those workers who have spent decades with manufacturing equipment, control, and process systems will be reaching retirement stage and are being replaced by younger, less experienced but more digitally savvy workers.
Industrial software vendors working in manufacturing process automation are now using this turning point in the market to bring in the next generation of digital platforms to automate processes, improve operational efficiency, and generate business insights.
Many of the legacy manufacturing production systems still in use, contain traditional HMI-SCADA interface systems, that rely on deep process understanding. These are not likely to be suitable for the incoming generation of digital savvy workers.
Workers who have spent decades with equipment, control, and process systems are reaching retirement stage
As HMI-SCADA systems have evolved, leading vendors are focused on user-experience and now provide centralised visualisation and situational awareness to operators in a manufacturing environment. The HMI helps the manufacturing shop floor operator understand plant operations in real time, increasing their visibility into what is happening around them, and aids decisions to adjust the working of any machines and processes.
These HMI dashboards that are more intuitive, have user friendly interfaces, rely on digital data transparency, provide business insights for decision making, will be more intuitive to use for incoming generation of digital savvy workers.
The way digital transformation works in a manufacturing plant is to capture industrial data through HMI-SCADA systems, integrate it further with data attributes from other systems to add context, add to the data platform or historian, and then use analytics for predictive business insights and forecasting.
Services provided by industrial software channel partners include design consulting, integration, automation, security, support
Such solutions create a democratisation of tools throughout the manufacturing plant, improvement in operational performance, reduction of operational costs, transformation of mindset amongst employees, and a culture of continuous improvement.
Another driver that is boosting the movement of industrial enterprises towards digital solutions is the Software as a Service subscription-based licensing model. The transition from perpetual licensing to subscription has lowered the barriers for adoption of digital solutions, in the form of much lower first-year costs and expenses being funded as operating costs rather than capital expenditures.
Industrial channel partners providing digital transformation solutions for manufacturing enterprises must be able to provide a full range of operational and value-add services. Typical services provided by the industrial software channel partner include design consulting, integration with hardware, automation, security, and support services.
Transition from perpetual licensing to subscription has lowered barriers for adoption of digital solutions
However, for the enterprise end user the ability of the channel partner to build a software layer that integrates all the data, and converts their data into business insights, specific to their business, is also a critical and important differentiator.
Manufacturing enterprises will always have their unique data requirements, and the ability of the industrial channel partner to build this customised software service layer, will determine their position in the vendor-partner-customer value chain.
Industrial channel partners providing transformation for manufacturing enterprises must be able to provide a full range of operational and value-add services.