The importance of cloud to digital transformation
We use the cloud every day in our personal lives - from email, to GPS technology, social media, video streaming and even home automation; and the corporate world has embraced cloud for software (e.g. Microsoft's Office 365) file storage, chatbots, eCommerce platforms and more. So why is the adoption of cloud lagging in industry?
One of the reasons I hear most frequently is that large investments in existing automation systems and infrastructure are acting as a barrier to change. Many believe that including cloud in their digital transformation strategy will automatically mean a 'rip-and-replace' of their current equipment. However a hybrid approach - combining your existing, on-premise systems with cloud solutions - means you can take advantage of new technology, without the expense, or the hassle of major CAPEX projects. And because cloud is flexible, and scalable you can easily try it, and expand as needed.
When you look at the benefits it becomes clear why cloud is such a critical component of industrial transformation. Let's take an industrial operations management solution as an example:
Unlock your trapped data
Cloud-based solutions such as AVEVA Insight allow you to consolidate your operational data sources - HMI, SCADA, and even IIoT devices - into one location. Effectively enabling data democratisation i.e. everybody can securely access the data when and where they need with no barriers, or gatekeepers. This means everyone not only has the same information, but a complete picture of your operations, so it is much easier to determine the cause-and-effect between seemingly disparate activities. And unlike control systems which are typically closed, cloud solutions allow you to add new users to the system easily. The ultimate flexibility and scalability of the cloud means that you could potentially combine millions of tags and unlimited users to the one system.
Make industrial analytics accessible
Once you have all of your data together in one place, the vast computing power of the cloud allows you to take advantage of powerful analytics - previously only available to the 'top end of town'. Solutions can now automatically detect anomalous behaviour and flag it to users. But its not enough to just have the processing capability, users must be able to easily understand and make data-driven decisions with the information provided. For example, AVEVA Insight monitors system performance and over time learns when something is acting out of character – say a pump is cycling faster than normal, or wind speeds are higher than normal. These changes are flagged to users via the automatic newsfeed so that they can investigate before changes affect operational performance. And because it is familiar to use (think Google-type search, attractive user interfaces) cloud solutions also mean that even casual or business users can derive value from the system.
Unlocking data from the control room also unlocks better collaboration and breaks down operational silos. Suddenly people can access and share insights with each other quickly and easily so everyone is looking at the same information, all the time. Whether this is a one-off, such as operations reporting a fault to maintenance, or a regular occurrence such as dashboards and KPIs, AVEVA Insight allows people to get the content they need - without having to wait for I.T. or ad-hoc reports.
The cloud offers incredible technical and commercial flexibility and you can scale deployments to meet your needs. This helps to reduce costs in a number of ways - first there is no need to buy expensive hardware or servers since the computing is all done in the cloud. Secondly, most cloud offers are delivered as SaaS (software-as-a-service) so all the hard work of maintaining and upgrading a system is managed by the vendor. This also means that costs can be shifted from CAPEX to OPEX budgets, making it much more affordable for operations than the expensive projects of old.
New, flexible work practices
Since the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, anytime and on any device, your people can work wherever it makes sense - whether that's in the control room, out in the field, or even at home while playing with the kids. For one customer, AVEVA Insight was introduced as a remote monitoring system so that on-call operators could investigate alarms and alerts, without having to drive out to site - dramatically decreasing their windshield time. In fact the system proved so popular that it grew from the night shift operators, to the supervisor, to the device calibration contractor and even to maintenance!
Improved operational performance
All of this means better, data-driven decisions and increased efficiency. Users have reported up to 30% performance improvements and 50% energy savings in the first year of ownership - all due to better visibility.
Learn more in our webinar: Enable digital transformation with cost-effective, cloud insights. Register now!
Fiona Straton is the senior marketing lead for AVEVA's Cloud and SaaS software portfolio. With over 12 years of industry experience, she is an advocate for digital transformation and the positive impact it can have on businesses of all sizes.