Harnessing the Power of IIoT to Achieve Operational Certainty

By Amruta Kanagali


2017 ARC India Forum and Operational Certainty

At the recent ARC India Forum, eminent speakers from across the industry shared their insights on the digital transformation that is reshaping both the process and discrete industries. They spoke at length on how companies can leverage the latest advancements to achieve enterprise and operational certainty and excellence and improve asset performance management. This included presentations by executives from Emerson Automation Solutions, a forum sponsor, and HPCL, an Emerson customer.

ak1.JPGPeter Zornio, Chief Technology Officer at Emerson Automation Solutions spoke on “Harnessing the Power of IIoT in Achieving Operational Certainty.” Khushbu Chaplot Chaudhary, Senior Manager Plantweb Solutions India, together with Sunil Mohan Jadekar from HPCL Refinery, Mumbai gave a presentation titled, “Unleash the Power of Wireless to Achieve Operational Excellence in Refinery.”

Some of the key takeaways from the presentations include:

  • There is a massive opportunity for operations improvements in the process and hybrid industries

  • IIoT is giving rise to new value streams and business models for end users, OEMs, and automation suppliers

  • Many end users still lack clarity on the ROI they can realize from adopting IIoT

Achieving Operational Certainty

Working conditions in process industries can be quite challenging and are often characterized as being “dull, dirty, dangerous, and distant.” Assets spread across geographies, often in inhospitable environments, can make access difficult. Because of these factors, automation and remote operations management have made significant inroads in the process industries, and IIoT-enabled remote monitoring applications are rapidly gaining traction.

IIoT Brings Feedback Controls to New Areas  ak2.JPGMr. Zornio explained that, at a fundamental level, “IIoT enables sensor-driven applications or expertise to take actions to improve performance and results.” This approach is based on the closed-loop, feedback control methodology long used to control many industrial processes. However, until recently, it has been limited primarily to processes within the plant facility.

There are opportunities to achieve significant improvements in other key areas of operations such as reliability, safety, and energy management; but these too require closed-loop feedback control systems. Processes for these parameters are still largely manually operated and most of the data ends up in documents or disconnected systems without being used for real-time analysis and decision support. According to Mr. Zornio, IIoT technologies could bring the much-needed feedback control to these areas, with reliability improvement emerging as the single biggest opportunity for profit improvement in large continuous operating facilities.

In addition to improved reliability, there is huge potential to achieve operational certainty in the areas of production, safety and emissions. To explore opportunities and find the gap between the performance of top and bottom quartile companies for these parameters, Emerson compared global operations data on refining and petrochemical manufacturers. The results were astounding.

The benchmarking exercise revealed a substantial gap even between the average performing companies and the top ones across all the four domains: reliability, production, safety, and emissions.

For example, for reliability, the top companies have 4 percent higher availability and 50 percent lower maintenance cost, as compared to the bottom companies. This translated to an extra week of production in a continuous processing plant, said Mr. Zornio. The top performing companies focused on preventive and predictive maintenance activities, rather than scheduled maintenance, to minimize downtime and increase machine availability.

Operations Benchmarking ak3.JPGCompiling all benchmarks in the four domains, it was discovered that about $1 trillion could be saved if every company was transformed into a top performing one, explained Mr. Zornio. However, end users remain hesitant to take the initiative to implement new technologies and approaches. This will require cultural changes across the organization because rapid progress in internet and networking technologies, the Cloud, application platforms, and so forth give rise to new deployment and business models for companies aiming at operational improvement.

Centralized Expertise vs. Third-party Services

Traditionally, companies have had a localized approach to problem solving involving internal expertise or local, vendor-based expertise. This started changing about a decade ago. In geographically dispersed industries such as oil & gas and mining, users have implemented centralized monitoring stations to be able to pool their expertise in one place. The centralized expertise can be used by multiple facilities to efficiently solve problems in real time. According to Mr. Zornio, this meant more of an “internal IoT” deployment, as all the data analysis was kept inside the company.

The new trend is based on the outsourced or third-party connected services model, in which real-time sensor data from customer assets are monitored and analyzed by third-party experts, and the diagnosis or work instructions are shared with the customer.

However, the shift from centralized monitoring to third-party services may not be as quick as expected. Users continue to be concerned about data security. Eventually, users and suppliers will find common ground here, with each party retaining a set of skills and expertise, explained Mr. Zornio. The common model is most likely to include a centralized expertise station at the client facility, and latest tools and technology offerings from suppliers.

New Deployment and Business Models for Operational Improvement ak4.JPGEmerson is optimistic that, going forward, users are likely to opt for third-party connected services for niche and specific applications to start with. Moreover, Mr. Zornio shared that smaller companies may have a larger need for third-party services, and find it more advantageous than investing on in-house expertise and/or the new sensors and applications needed for obtaining and analyzing data. However, end users are still apprehensive about adopting IIoT-based connected services. Lack of clear ROI and tangible business benefit have been the biggest inhibitors of IIoT adoption, followed by cybersecurity concerns.

Emerson’s Plantweb Digital Ecosystem

According to Mr. Zornio, if the services segment is going to involve various combinations of internal and external expertise, a flexible platform or framework is needed that includes a comprehensive portfolio of tools, technologies, secure network, software, and outcome-based connected services. This will enable customers to choose solutions depending on their needs, and select the most suitable deployment methods and business models. According to Emerson, IIoT solutions under the Plantweb Digital Ecosystem framework would fall into three categories: Data, Security, and Applications & Action.


Leveraging a large portfolio of almost non-intrusive sensors and field devices, Emerson has put together a pervasive sensing strategy that employs a set of wireless sensors to measure operations parameters, particularly reliability, in real time.


Emerson has devised a range of solution architectures to securely connect data structures such as the OSIsoft PI System and PI Cloud Connect to the OT and IT levels, plus connect devices directly using the data diode model. To make the OT area more secure against inbound communication, Emerson is field trialing the data diode approach with Microsoft. This creates a unidirectional network and completely blocks inbound data.

Applications & Action Level

For standard and known asset classes like pumps, steam traps, and heat exchangers; Emerson has developed lightweight, “load and go” edge applications with pre-built displays and analytics called Plantweb Insight. For enterprise level solutions, Emerson has a set of advanced applications called Plantweb Advisor. This comprises energy and equipment analysis covering equipment health and reliability, equipment efficiency, and energy consumption/emission tracking. Most are deployed using the OSIsoft PI System.

Connected Services Model

Emerson’s Connect Services Model covers four specific areas: control systems, steam traps, control valves, and rotating equipment. The equipment data is sent via secure file transfer and avoids potentially insecure streaming of outbound data. Emerson has implemented connected services for Denka Chemicals, Singapore, resulting in a 7 percent reduction in steam consumption.

Pervasive Sensing at HPCL Refinery

Mr. Jadekar from HPCL’s Mumbai Refinery, an Emerson customer, explained that despite a history of good plant performance; the refinery (one of the most complex refineries in India) had identified significant opportunities to further improve its operations performance. This turned out to be accurate, with the refinery achieving return on its subsequent upgrade investments within a year.

Case 1: Enhancing Measurement Reliability

HPCL had been using traditional thermocouples to measure about 200 temperature points for process monitoring. The measurements were found to be unreliable and inaccurate. Also, the cable housings were corroded and occupied too much space.

With Emerson’s assistance, HPCL implemented a wireless network connecting 200 plus temperature points online without the need for cabling or DCS expansion and with zero disruption to the plant operations. HPCL achieved reliable measurements, improved device diagnosis, and troubleshooting. Also, it helped save approximately 20,000 Indian rupees (approximately $300) per device for installation and reduced commissioning time from 10 weeks to 4 weeks.

Case 2: Steam Trap and Flare Losses Monitoring

The plant had difficulty monitoring its thousands of steam traps and flare valves, resulting in undetectable energy losses.

HPCL installed and tested 55 Emerson WirelessHART acoustic transmitters with smart wireless gateways downstream of the big steam traps and flare valves and implemented an analytics application. The company can now monitor these assets online and quickly identify and address faulty steam traps and leaking valves to minimize energy losses significantly.


The presentations revealed several crucial insights for end users, OEMs, and automation suppliers:

  • A scalable, flexible technology and services framework accommodating requirements for both internal plant and external vendor expertise would be a good fit for implementing operational improvements.

  • New business models based on digital transformation will be accepted only if the technology creates value for both end users and suppliers.

  • Increased data sharing requires a high degree of cybersecurity to mitigate potential data privacy and system security risks.


ARC Advisory Group clients can view the complete report at ARC Client Portal on New Client Portal or Office 365 or Box.com on this website.

If you would like to buy this report or obtain information about how to become a client, please Contact Us

Engage with ARC Advisory Group