Sandwiched between the worlds of OT and IT, Gabriel Gonzalez-Alonso of ZF Group (center) makes a point to Allen Pertuit of Shell (left) and Collin Masson of Microsoft (right) during the general session’s panel discussion on Feb. 7 at ARC Industry Leadership Forum 2023 in Orlando.

ARC forum turns digital into sustainable

March 15, 2023
About 1,000 visitors take in 70 sessions and 200 speakers in five tracks

Back in its usual early-February slot, the ARC Industry Leadership Forum once again filled about 1,000 brains to the brim with the latest intelligence on digitalization, cybersecurity, sustainability and energy transition. The 27th annual event in Orlando featured 200 speakers and analysts presenting 70 sessions in five tracks.

This knowledge will be crucial to end users, system integrators, suppliers and everyone else striving to cope with today’s profound and accelerating technical, economic and environmental changes. In a Feb. 6 press conference, ARC and Microsoft presented the results of their recent, global survey of manufacturing executives in OT, IT and engineering technology (ET), which found that:

  • 43% in North America reduced costs by implementing digital transformation (DT) programs;
  • 20% in North America identified all relevant sustainability reporting standards and requirements;
  • 55% in Europe reported measurable quality improvements due to DT;
  • 90% in Europe have completed or are currently establishing emissions and energy targets or goals;
  • 73% in Asia/Pacific anticipate deploying factory, artificial intelligence (AI) model building to off-premises cloud platform in the next three years; 
  • 94% in Asia/Pacific are presently tracking and executing sustainability actions plans;
  • 60% in OT experienced improved quality after deploying DT technology;
  • 76% in ET plan to deploy AI technologies using a cloud platform in the next three years; and
  • 55% in IT report that DT increases productivity. 

Coping with epic change

“There are a lot of new feedstocks, our industries are transforming, and we have to manage these changes carefully,” says Allen Pertuit, VP of downstream projects at Shell (, in his Feb. 7 keynote address. “We also aspire to net-zero emissions by 2050, so we’re positioning Shell to decarbonize in many sectors, such as pursuing renewable natural gas at a Kansas farm with 30,000 cows that creates feedstock for digesters, or converting vegetable and animal oils into gasoline and jet fuel. Dairies report they must show they’re becoming sustainable, or consumers won’t buy milk, cheese and other products.

“Sustainability is becoming a huge value driver. We’re in an intense transition now, and imagining the tools we can use to drive the sustainability the world needs in our chemical products. These tools include our Powering Progress strategy that we launched in 2019-20 to produce cleaner energy and more sustainable products, and even repurpose a closed refinery into a biofuels plant.”

Likewise, Gabriel Gonzalez-Alonso, senior VP for production management at ZF Group (, reports it’s establishing smarter, more sustainable plants with its Digital Manufacturing Platform (DMP). This includes using OPC UA networking to connect existing plants. “This isn’t just working together. It’s creating and training one team, replacing equipment with digitalized versions, and making data management transparent for decisionmakers in each facility,” says Gonzalez-Alonso. “We’re going to roll this out at 100 plants this year.”

Briefings and exhibits

 To help users digitalize and improve their sustainability, ARC Industry Forum featured its usual series of press conferences and exhibits, such as:

  • Hexagon presented its Smart Digital Reality platform that reportedly merges the physical and digital world by using intelligent sensor-software systems for real-time data capture, integration and analysis, and enabling autonomous digital twins and a digital reality feedback loop, so users can be proactive, preventative and predictive.
  • Inductive Automation presented its Ignition Cloud edition software, which allows integrated systems to function more quickly by adding cloud-computing capabilities to its Ignition web-based HMI/SCADA software. Inductive adds that Ignition is now fully Sparkplug-compatible and has added an IEC 61508 driver.  
  • The OPC Foundation welcomed Procter & Gamble ( as its 900th member, added it’s been retooling production lines with OPC Unified Architecture (UA) protocol to enable P&G’s “constructive disruption” concept, and enable its Integrated Work System (IWS) at more than 100 manufacturing sites and more than 450 non-compete manufacturing operations.
  • Phoenix Contact reported that it will release a 24-port Ethernet Advanced Physical Layer (APL) switch in June, which will let users skip using traditional I/O, go directly to sensors and power sources, and bring loop power to intrinsically safe (IS) and hazardous locations.
  • Schneider Electric unveiled its specialized, global, end-to-end Industrial Digital Transformation Consulting the Deployment services to help users accelerate digital transformation planning and implementation for projects, such as sustainability, performance, digital operations and energy management.
About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control.