The Future of the Digital Enterprise

Never make predictions, especially about the future.

Casey Stengel


In this chapter, we review the progress the Proclndustries team has made in their quest for operational excellence and some of the plans they have for initiatives such as cloud strategy, IoT (Internet of things) sensor integration, edge analytics, the refinery and control system of the future, and collaborative manufacturing. We also touch upon some refinery specific applications that become more powerful with contextualized enterprise information data infrastructure (EIDI) data. To begin the chapter, we discuss the traits shared by companies that have best navigated their digital transformation journeys. Finally, we will share the outcome of what happens to the Proclndustries digital transformation team.

How the Most Successful Companies Achieve Success

We have witnessed hundreds, if not thousands of companies, strive to successfully transform their business using digital technology. Many of them, across all industries, are very successful. Others struggle for years and spend unnecessary resources in quest of their goals. Why the difference? The software they use is similar to their peers. Most entities have sufficient funding and human resources to succeed, but some do not.

In our opinion, there are six common traits of entities (companies) that best harness and utilize digital technology to achieve their business objectives:

  • 1. Align business goals with digital strategies.
  • 2. See operations and production data as critical strategic assets.
  • 3. Team up with strategic partners.
  • 4. Architect for the unexpected.
  • 5. Use analytics effectively.
  • 6. Create self-serve access to needed information.

Alignment of Business Goals with Digital Strategies

These companies have strategic leadership and align every technology initiative with tangible business objectives. Examples of these business drivers are to

  • • Increase production rates over a given time period;
  • • Eliminate controllable losses by process optimization;
  • • Improve product quality or reduce variability over multiple production runs;
  • • Increase product yield, eliminate waste, scrap, or rework needed;
  • • Ensure that equipment is always in peak operating condition to optimize maintenance costs;
  • • Reduce the total cost of production, including energy costs;
  • • Improve real-time situational awareness and decision-making;
  • • Make sure production is agile and efficient in order to respond to market changes; and
  • • Plan for future growth and product demand.

Notice that the preceding items do not include a technology objective. The most effective companies do not deploy technology for the sake of technology. There are always new information technology (IT) trends and technologies that are hyped by thought leadership, consultants, or in IT publications. Sometimes, the technology and the intent are plausible, but the technology is too new, too early for wide-scale deployment, or not easily integrated with existing legacy systems. The underpinning of any technology initiative should be focused on the financials; the product made; worker productivity; or environmental, health, and safety aspects of making product.

The successful enterprises undergo a digital transformation led by the business teams on the operational technology (ОТ) side. They have the most knowledge of the core business and its challenges. They also are experts in that company's work processes and where improvement is needed. IT departments provide a vital role of identifying and deploying the proper solutions, making sure they are scalable, reliable, and secure. As stated previously, business goals always govern technology initiatives. The core of what these successful enterprises are seeking is operational excellence, generally with a customer-centric focus. They generally do not overcomplicate their journey by attempting too many things at once.

Management's business transformation goals must be culturally aligned with all employees so that everyone is working together to improve work processes and reduce inefficiencies.

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