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Connecting Your Enterprise

After a busy month of exhibitions and showcases, Logistics News ME catches up with Rockwell Automation
to discover how data and connectivity will become the oil and gas industry’s secret weapon

The oil and gas industry has had more than its fair share of problems over recent years and businesses across the globe have felt the impact. But one company is looking to enhance the level and quality of data available to oil and gas companies to help them increase decision making and productivity.

Exhibiting at ADIPEC last month, Rockwell Automation showcased its ConnectedProduction solution, which allows for delivery of information from upstream production assets to midstream and downstream facilities. This means the complete scope of automation is now covered for oil and gas producers, assisting with several areas of production automation including artificial lift, chemical injection systems, power control, measurement, as well as turbomachinery and pump controls.

Users can also visualise and control production from the wellhead to the point of custody transfer, either on site or from miles away. Rockwell Automation’s Thony Brito, regional sales manager, vMonitor, explains: “There’s no doubt that oil and gas will continue to have an important role to play, but it’s also clear that with new fracking methods, ever more stringent regulatory frameworks and global commitments to more sustainable sources of energy, the Middle East’s traditional resource providers in oil and gas are under more pressure than ever before. This has all led to a change in focus for oil and gas producers who are looking less towards investment in expansion and operational growth and turning instead to improving efficiency through optimisation.”

He continues to explain that the direct monitoring the solution provides helps achieve faster time to market, lower operational costs and improve efficiency, allowing for better decision making and faster communication from the wellhead to the enterprise level.

Brito continues: “Digital remote monitoring is one of the most significant advances IoT achieves. This technology seamlessly integrates sensors, hardware, software and wireless connections to extract important operational information from multiple assets across oilfields and along pipelines.

Using information such as daily oil production and pump pressure, operators can continuously monitor current and historical operating conditions, troubleshoot any potential issues, and make process adjustments at an earlier stage to help increase uptime — all without leaving their workstation, which can be hundreds or thousands of miles away from the physical site.”

But it isn’t just traditional oil and gas that will be looking for innovative technology solutions — shale, advances in deep water drilling and the connected enterprise have advanced the industry at a time when many perceive it to be struggling. While price cuts brought output cuts ramping up production in future may not be easy due to a lack of skilled workforce and environmental and security pressures.

Brito adds: “These market forces have oil and gas producers jumping through hoops to meet the challenges. Upstream, midstream and downstream sectors are all under increased scrutiny for operational efficiency and performance. For this industry, realising the vision of The Connected Enterprise has become a business imperative.

“The convergence of automation, communications and information technology (IT) is allowing oil and gas companies to create digital oilfields, pipelines and refineries.

“Smart devices embedded in wellheads, compressors, pump stations, and within refineries are yielding a new wealth of operational information,” he says, advocating the benefits wireless technology can bring in delivering real time information.

dsc06702Automation

The Connected Enterprise was also on show at the Rockwell Automation Fair where more than 10,000 industrial professionals attended the 25th annual event in Atlanta, Georgia, hosted by Rockwell Automation and its PartnerNetwork members.

The event is the largest educational forum and trade show dedicated to industrial automation and information and delegates were looking to discover how a more connected industrial business can improve its ability to compete globally.

“The combination of technology innovation and application expertise is transforming industrial processes, making it possible for companies to become more integrated and competitive,” says Blake Moret, president and CEO, Rockwell Automation.

“The Connected Enterprise brings together power, control and information solutions to respond to the increased demand for global productivity.”

This year saw a focussing of The Connected Enterprise discussion with the need to converge IT and operations technology taking centre stage. Historically these are independent functions but today their convergence enables businesses to gather, analyse and transform data into actionable information for deriving tangible business outcomes, and making production safer, predictable and more sustainable.

Brito explains: “Rockwell Automation has expanded its information-enabled offerings. This expansion is designed to help companies connect, manage, validate and optimise manufacturing and production with scalable analytics, information-driven solutions and collaboration tools. By digitally enabling machines, lines and plants through integrated control and information, customers will be able to transform their operations, yielding higher productivity and competitiveness.”

The 2016 Automation Fair featured more than 100 exhibits showcasing the latest innovations in automation. It also included nine industry forums, 19 hands-on labs and 93 technical sessions designed to expand attendee knowledge and use of the latest control, power and advanced manufacturing and enterprise information technologies.

dsc06655The future of connection

Regardless of what the energy mix comprises in future, the need to connect engineers and other team members to their supervisors will remain key. The challenge will arrive in the form of change management of workforce attitudes. Before the first generation of digital natives is welcomed to the workforce, current staff must be trained.

As Beth Parkinson, market development director, Rockwell Automation, wrote last year: “It’s human nature to be wary of change — because change requires effort, it’s uncomfortable, and the outcome is always uncertain. That’s why it’s vital to focus on corporate culture as you build a Connected Enterprise.

“Without the engagement of executives, engineers, and front-line workers alike, you’ll never achieve all the improved productivity, security, and real-time information benefits you could via a 21st century information technology/operations technology (IT/OT) infrastructure.”

She advises to identify and form objectives for the change;  to ensure communciation is clear and regular; that the workforce is appropriately trained and equipped; concerns are addressed; and that monitoring of success and communication of achievements continues.

Rockwell refers to The Connected Enterprise and IoT as what it calls the “next industrial revolution” — and it’s easy to see why revolution is an appropriate word. But as Parkinson notes, connection cannot happen without a culture for change.

 

FactoryTalk Analytics for Machines launched

In November 2016, Rockwell Automation announced Factory Talk Analytics for Machines cloud application, a new Microsoft Azure cloud-enabled capability that empowers equipment builders with information. As part of the company’s expanded Information Solutions strategy, the application provides access to performance analytics from deployed systems in order to gain valuable insight to support their customers. For manufacturers going through a digital transformation, this capability capitalises on connected technologies to help drive higher availability and output while reducing maintenance costs.

“The sophistication of plants today has made specialization and collaboration essential,” says Axel Rodriguez, SaaS/Cloud products manager, Rockwell Automation.

“Your manufacturing operations and maintenance teams have a lot on their plates. Allowing your equipment builders – who know their machines like the backs of their hands – to become collaborators in performance analytics can free up the best minds to focus on optimising entire lines, plants or applications,” he adds.

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