Let’s face it, we live and work in a world that's uber-focused on sustainability and digitalization. Increasingly, that focus centers on how those two goals are intertwined in the name of efficiency (and profitability, of course.) At this point, one wonders if it’s even possible to have sustainable industrial operations without going through a digital transformation? The smart answer is “no.”
Don’t get me wrong, true sustainability would back us up to before industrialization even happened, but none of us have the stomach to live a never-ending episode of “Survivor” or “Naked and Afraid.” I shudder at the thought.
A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Charlotte, N.C., to join a host of other global journalists at Honeywell’s new-ish, “smart” tower in the heart of the city. While I focus on processing plants for a living, there was a plethora of information to be gained from hearing and seeing how the company works with partners to forge sustainable buildings and cityscapes that are sustainable and efficient. Incidentally, my colleague, Jim Montague, joined Honeywell in the Chicago area around the same time, and you can read his report on the plants he toured on page 22 of this issue.
Whether an office building or an industrial plant, the cost of downtime and inefficient safety controls is increasing. One hour of downtime for any mid-sized or large company can cost about $1 million or more, according to Manish Sharma, chief product officer of Honeywell’s connected buildings unit. Meanwhile, there are constantly changing and increasing cyber-threats that the FBI says have cost Americans $10 billion or more. That’s why smart buildings, plants and factories are increasingly embracing digitalization, automation and electrification efforts. It just makes sense.
Becoming a “smart” plant is an intricate dance tween OT and IT. It’s a refrain I’ve heard time and again from those I talk to in the process industries. In addition, sustainability goals, particularly as regulations and change from industry to industry, add to the formidable task. So where do you begin?
Instrumentation and software suppliers are increasingly up to the task, and updating their technology with digital transformation and sustainability in mind. Meanwhile, they also realize the need for expert help in setting up smart facilities. These days, the vendor experience goes beyond supplying products. It requires becoming a partner in transforming industrial operations and plants, especially for those companies without the resources to embark on these transformations on their own.
So, getting there is becoming easier and there’s no time to waste. So, check with your suppliers, I’m sure they’d be all too happy to help you get on your way. After all, it’s the really “smart” thing to do.