Who owns the data at your plant?

Thomas Wilk says OEMs and plant teams are often at odds over CM data ownership.

By Thomas Wilk

During the preparation of this month’s cover story on OEM-enabled condition monitoring, it became clear that one question in particular continues to generate debate. The question relates to remote monitoring, and it centers on who owns CM data once it is collected: the OEM, another third party, or the plant?

Bart Winters, business manager for asset management solutions at Honeywell Process Solutions, says that global mining standards groups are having closed-topic discussions about who owns the data. “I think it’s going to be less of an issue in the process industries than it has been in other industries,” he says.

John Renick, director of partner solutions for Meridium, suggests that one reason OEMs may seek ownership of the data is that “the manufacturer may not want a negative light shed on their equipment based on this set of data.” He notes: “The negative light could come from a variety of sources, many of which are beyond the manufacturer’s control. An example would be how the equipment is operated.”

“From a reliability perspective, the data that we’re collecting is generally quite benign,” says Mike Boudreaux, director of remote asset monitoring and analytics at Emerson Process Management. “The data being collected isn’t business proprietary data, and it’s not generally your control-system data. If you’re talking about acoustic or vibration data, it’s not as sensitive as process, temperatures, pressures, and flows. Sometimes the data will flow up through the control system if you’re doing some of the more-advanced type of performance monitoring, but a lot of the data isn’t even process-variable-related.”

“I think it is still being sorted out,” says Glenn Gardner, business development manager at Fluke. “Fluke’s bias is toward the end user, that the end user owns their data. I think it’s oftentimes to their benefit to share it with OEMs – they can compare it to a benchmark of a lot of other assets they might not directly have at their plant. I think it’s a big benefit for them.”

Most contributors to this month’s cover story indicated that the benefits of collaboration between OEMs and end users likely will supersede any turf wars over data ownership.

Burt Hurlock, CEO of Azima DLI, sees potential for OEMs to become actively involved in identifying opportunities to optimize asset performance and endurance. In these scenarios, he says: “Responsibility for performance, maintenance, and repair will shift back to the OEM and unburden plant staff in the process. In more-expansive scenarios, the OEM’s business model may actually evolve from selling products to selling performance optimization of both assets and operations throughout the plant.”

Ultimately, this is an issue that may be best addressed up front during the investigation phase of a given project to avoid more-heated discussions down the road.