Digital Transformation in the Process Industries

By Sharada Prahladrao

Technology Trends

At the  recent ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, ARC’s Greg Gorbach, Vice President, discussed digital  transformation in the process industries with Laura Coates, Head of Process Automation at Siemens.  “Digital transformation is happening everywhere, but is it really happening in the process industries?” was Greg’s opening query that formed the crux of the interview.  This blog encapsulates the salient points and quotes of their discussion.  You can watch this here and/or on YouTube.

Digital Transformation in the Process Industries

Laura explained that over the last couple of years digitalization and digital transformation have transited from buzzwords to really taking root in the industry.  Siemens’ customers want productivity, flexibility, and speed in their operation and process.  To help them achieve these objectives, the company is developing digital solutions for small and large applications.  Laura cited examples of valve monitoring applications with DuPont to extremely large-scale applications in greenfield factories with some of their global partners.

Siemens Approach to Digital Transformation

“Siemens is putting together a holistic offering around digitalization,” said Laura. The company is putting together a comprehensive suite of different applications, different hardware, different software, and services.  Additionally, the company provides consulting to help and support their customer base in the end-to-end digital solution, depending on their requirements.

Cultural Dimensions of Digital Transformation

Technology is only one side of the coin, the other side - the cultural dimension – is a very important aspect.   “In order to drive digitalization, it requires breaking down a lot of silos, both within our own organization and collaboration between different parts of the businesses, software, hardware, or consulting services,” said Laura.  These groups have to be brought together and work with OT and IT to provide apt solutions to the customers.  She said that it’s been a learning experience for all about collaborating effectively and driving digital transformation.

Siemens Co-creation Strategy

Siemens works very closely with their customer base, solution partners and providers, and distributors to ensure that they are developing products and transformations that best suit the needs of their customers.  For this, customer feedback is essential.  There is an open loop communication, explained Laura.  This results in agile development to make sure that every part of the development process meets the needs of the end customers.  Citing a real-life example, she spoke about an application that had the product name on it.  The company and the developers believed that this is how the people want to see it; turns out that they were wrong.  What was most relevant was a special coding that as a non-user of that application, you would never know, but when Siemens worked in co-creation in a collaborative development effort, it became clear.  “Little things like that make products and offerings much more usable and are part of the benefit of co-creation,” said Laura.

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