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Collaboration holds the key to driving effective connected plants in EMEA

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

Honeywell recently held its annual Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) Honeywell Users Group (HUG) conference in Madrid, Spain. HUG is a platform that allows the company to engage with customers and partners to discuss the latest thinking and developments around process control and industrial automation. It is also a forum for customers to exchange technical information and offer feedback on their equipment and service needs.

Front of mind at this year’s conference was digital transformation.

The process industries have seen significant benefits through digitisation over the years with introduction of digital control systems and software applications that enable better throughput, yield, reliability, and safety. While these benefits have been substantial, by harnessing the power of data and digital transformation, we are at the forefront of a new era of opportunity. This new era will be built on three fundamental pillars. First, the power of software and automation will facilitate a move away from mass customisation to mass standardisation in capital project execution, speeding up project implementation while lowering risk by eliminating a significant amount of manual and custom tasks.

The second pillar concerns the ability to transform the lifecycle of the control system into one of infinite longevity. Control systems will upgrade in place never again requiring a costly rip and replace migration during their lifespan. The ability to buy a control system once and evolve it in place for decades is a dramatic departure from the traditional approach of replacing the entire system every 20 to 30 years. Doing so protects customers’ intellectual property indefinitely while also enabling the system to utilise new technology as it emerges. With infinite longevity, systems in the field will have seen their ‘last migration’ as they are now can be upgraded solely through the power of software.

The third pillar involves connecting operational data to knowledge. Providing an opportunity to make industry knowledge more uniform and accessible will increase the ability to sustain and improve process performance, enable more predictive management of equipment reliability and unlock the potential of people. This last point speaks to an increasingly pertinent issue – the expanding knowledge gap that process industries continue to face. Around 50 per cent of the oil and gas workforce, for example, is expected to retire in the next five years, representing a massive and sudden loss of experience.

Adopting a Connected Plant approach is key to addressing this challenge. By harnessing the power of data stored in many disparate sources, and enabling it to be shared uniformly tailored to the needs of individual users, plant leadership can now identify new opportunities for improvement. This is the power of digital transformation, seamlessly integrating process, assets and people, converting data into knowledge with actionable benefits. Enabling every day to be the best day of production and every user to be a world leading expert.

Honeywell demonstrated on stage how data can be used to identify and sustain process control performance, proactively identify equipment issues, and dispatch field personnel to address those issues flawlessly and safely. Honeywell Connected Plant’s enterprise visualisation portal presents all this information in one spot and provides direction based on the analysis of multiple digital twins that continuously monitor process and asset performance.

With the increasing evolution of technology towards software, cybersecurity was another prominent topic throughout the users group. As the risk it poses to businesses continues to develop, staying on top of threats and vulnerabilities is growing more complex. Securing plants as best as possible demands a holistic approach, and we recommend organisations incorporate external support to assess their cybersecurity maturity level, which helps to identify immediate improvements to reduce risks. Best of breed technology and expertise is essential, including dedicated research facilities to identify threats and counter them before they have the opportunity to penetrate networks. Using software and services helps to automate, simplify and scale multi-site security as industrial control system (ICS) threats evolve. In addition, adopting an externally administered 24/7 service will help many industrial firms to address the lack of cyber expertise within their own organisations, providing access to professionals and bespoke training. At HUG, we talked in-depth about Honeywell’s CyberVantage™ Consulting Security and Managed Security Services as well as its own network of centres of excellence, which are expanding to provide worldwide support, including the ability to model threats and run accurate simulations.

Presentations and panels at HUG featured contributions from ExxonMobil, Lukoil, Sarlux Refining and Power, Saudi Aramco and Tecnimont, amongst others. Their involvement ensured attendees not only got to learn about new technology, but saw and heard first-hand how digitisation projects are actually working in the field. In an ever increasingly competitive marketplace, success depends on realising the opportunities that digitisation offers sooner rather than later.

Written by Jason Urso, VP and CTO of Honeywell Process Solutions.

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