Industrial Internet of Things finally grows up in the Middle East

Regional companies that set up early digitisation campaigns could potentially save millions of dollars in the future
By Evangelos Alepochoritis
Fri 01 Sep 2017 09:21 AM

2017 will be remembered as a significant year for Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies.

With more and more IIoT strategies in progress and investments being made in infrastructure, technology and skills, exciting returns are being reported on initial projects. Just as significantly, we see vendors and other industry experts coalescing to build end-to-end solutions that will make IIoT easier to deploy and quicker to yield a return.

With these developments, we’re very confident that IIoT will lie at the heart of every manufacturing facility in ten years’ time.

Our optimism is underscored by a recent survey of 200 manufacturing executives conducted by KRC Research for Honeywell in North America in which nearly 70 percent of respondents said they plan to invest additional resources in IIoT and data analytics technology in 2017. What’s driving this desire is the cumulative strategic and financial value of their problems: downtime and related losses in efficiency, inadequate staffing, off-spec production and supply chain inefficiencies.

The Middle East manufacturers echo this global trend, where the source of competitive advantage is shifting away from physical machinery toward information and being able to leverage the incredible amount of data that their facilities are producing becomes a priority.

Organisations across the Middle East are looking to improve their returns on large asset investments by making the most of their data, information and analysis. The true value of IIoT can only be fully realised with a holistic view of asset management, and regional operators are quickly recognising this.

They are seeing that to be able to minimise unscheduled shutdowns and optimise product quality, they need to combine production and maintenance strategies with the power of the cloud. These cloud networks continuously collect, aggregate and model data for accurate predictions of degradation and failures and as such help limit their impact on system availability. This approach has become central to making process reliability better and has created connected systems that deliver real-time, useful data.

Al Waha Petrochemicals Company in Saudi Arabia is a great example of this. The organisation recently announced that it will be implementing an IIoT-based performance service from Honeywell Connected Plant to explore the possibilities of maximising propylene production.

Al Waha will use the cloud-based Process Reliability Advisor solution at its plant in Jubail to quickly detect and resolve issues, therefore ensuring that the plant operates at its peak capability.

This tool uses Honeywell UOP process and fault models, fed by current plant data, to provide key performance information and process recommendations.

The IIoT can also have a significant impact beyond the oil and gas sector. For example, a mining company that now optimises its operations in real time by connecting multiple plants to each other and their mine, is saving up to $2million a day.

Many early adopters have implemented digitisation campaigns as a first step. Many are reporting excellent early results, some to the tune of multi-millions of dollars.

However, there remains a significant number of manufacturers who are hesitant to take the leap. Their reasons include a lack of understanding of the benefits of data analytics and inadequate resources — specifically, people with data analytics expertise.

Increasing cyber threats across industrial sites and the need to protect customers’ assets is another growing concern across the region. While protecting critical infrastructure is a priority for industrial customers, it should not undermine the adoption of advanced technologies that lead to safer and more productive operations. In fact, effective cyber security solutions will enable growth of IIoT and its adoption in the years to come.

The fact that many such companies remain unmoved by IIoT underscores the importance of continued industry education. Many still feel that IIoT requires a sudden and wholesale change in their business, which isn’t the case. The process can be phased and scaled to a company’s circumstances. IIoT should be viewed as an evolution, not a revolution.

One trend that can likely enhance adoption of IIoT is increased partnership among industry vendors, process licensors, equipment experts and consultants to provide technology that will provide innovative solutions to industrial problems.

Cloud-based forums of experts have the potential to deliver advice and assistance, whenever or wherever it is needed. The reality is that no one vendor can do everything, and therefore we need one another to address remaining barriers and gaps, working together to make IIoT more accessible to the industry.

Despite the remaining scepticism, IIoT is in a very different place in 2017 than it was a year ago. Pilot projects are everywhere and are showing promising early results while momentum builds through industry partnerships. Our research shows that we’re at the tipping point toward mainstream adoption. IIoT has finally grown up.

Evangelos Alepochoritis, MENA Sales director at Honeywell Process Solutions.

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