José Rivera is the CEO of the Control System Integrators Association, and has been working with the CSIA members on the role of the system integrator in digital transformation. One of the data points in this year’s Plant Services PdM survey indicated that data collection via remote, mobile, or otherwise internet-connected devices has risen dramatically in the past 18 months. Plant Services editor in chief Thomas Wilk caught up with José to learn how new technologies are changing the role of system integrators. Here is an excerpt from the podcast.
PS: One of the trends that Plant Services is hearing this year is that IoT devices, like sensors or wireless tools or even network assets, are past the emerging technology stage. Yet plant teams don’t always have a plan in place to bring the data that’s being collected from all these devices into a single location or platform. What are your thoughts on the role that system integrators can play to assist plant teams with this?
JR: I think that, overall, it’s very exciting and encouraging to have manufacturers investing in IoT and getting started in their transformation journeys. I will nevertheless stress that, for a true digital transformation to take place, deploying technology is great, but it needs to be part of a bigger plan that includes the process and the organization.
What needs to be on everyone’s mind is, if this (IoT) experiment that I’m doing works, how will we scale? This is very important because it may be a solution that you’re delivering now on a motor, and then, by the time you start counting how many motors you have in your plant, it’s a big number and it’s no longer just a single point of data acquisition.
Also, you need to think from the process side: what are you going to do with this information? Are you going to help your maintenance crews prioritize all their assignments? And how are you going to train to get your workforce engaged and embrace this new approach? Because this may be very different from what they were doing before.
I like to recommend a having holistic view of the plant. What are the real challenges that this plant is trying to solve? Are they seeking to have more flexible operations? Are they pursuing a small batch production strategy, to be able to deliver to highly customized needs? Technology could be a part of it, but before technology gets brought into the picture, it’s this much bigger holistic view of what your company wants to do that needs to be addressed.
It is here where I would like to see our system integrators playing a leading role when manufacturers are in their ideation or brainstorming process, trying to figure out what they can do, trying to meet their needs with potential solutions. Most system integrators have a vast experience integrating technology, and they could provide their input and explore various options before a decision is made.
We hear about digital transformation very often, and from a marketing perspective it’s almost a buzz, but I think it’s important to take a step back and realize that this is a real opportunity.