Exploring new ways of seeing data

Thomas Wilk says keep one eye open while using the IIoT to drive new value.

By Thomas Wilk, chief editor

The 2017 ARC Industry Forum, subtitled “Industry in Transition: Realizing the Digital Enterprise,” featured the annual array of keynotes, workshops, and learning sessions that make this February event a must-attend for plant professionals who want to tackle what the future holds for our industry.

Two impressions stood out to me from this year’s event. The first is the sense that cybersecurity has evolved from a tactical challenge to a strategic responsibility – one that will require the input of all plant teams to address and manage.

Marty Edwards, director of industrial control systems, Cyber Emergency Response Team for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, delivered the lead-off keynote by stressing that connectivity has ramifications across multiple dimensions. “Now that we’re connected, we have to start talking about security,” he explained, “because connectivity and security often don’t work well together.”

The other impression I took was that our industry is rapidly committing itself to new ways of collecting, processing, rendering, and applying plant/asset data, now that the internet and the cloud has put it within reach. From sessions on machine learning and augmented/virtual reality to prescriptive analytics and the impact of drones and mobility on supply chain, the message was clear: Big data is changing the status quo, and those who are already imagining the future will survive to shape it.

Edwards even mentioned this dynamic in his keynote, admitting that the upside of the industrial internet is that it is easier than ever for the same set of data to be shared and analyzed by multiple teams of users in new and valuable ways.

This combination of hope and risk reminded me of one of my favorite writers, art historian John Berger. In 1972’s Ways of Seeing, he warns that “the way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe,” and “we only see what we look at.” He goes on to suggest that without new and multiple perspectives on the things we see, we may arrive at conclusions about the world that “simply embellish such experience as (we) already possess” rather than opening the door to new possibilities and new value.

It’s as if Berger had gotten out of his studio and walked the digital factory floor, commiserating both with plant veterans tired of hearing about more proactive maintenance modes and with newer workers in positions like reliability, automation, and data analytics, who often struggle to get other teams to support their professional visions.

This issue of Plant Services continues our mission to deliver you new ways of seeing, including two takes on how reliability principles can be applied at your facility, a review of innovative video-based condition monitoring technologies that add image capture to your data arsenal, and a fresh look at the value that supplier quality management can bring to manufacturing operations.

Be sure to keep your networks secure but your eyes wide open.

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