Digital transformation is crucial for automation, mobility, industrial workforce education

Digital transformation is vital for companies, but a clear business path and plan is needed to make it viable.
By Gregory Hale December 11, 2018
Courtesy: ISSSource

Courtesy: ISSSource

It wasn’t that long ago when the oil industry was in dire straits with prices crashing from over $100 a barrel to about $40 and things looked bleak, but there was an answer in the form of digital transformation.

“One year ago, we were in the grips of the oil price drain and now prices are up,” said Mike Train, president of Emerson and chairman of Emerson Automation Solutions during his keynote presentation at the Emerson Global Users Exchange in San Antonio, Tex. “Scheduled capital projects are now increasing over the next three years.”

Across the board, industries are moving forward to implement new technologies and projects.

“Industry optimism is on the rise,” Train said. “Metals and mining, food and beverage, and power and energy are all increasing. Engineering contractors are not getting much sleep these days, which is probably the way they want it.”

To Train’s point, digital transformation is one of the hottest phrases out there right now, but “without a clear vision or path, a lot of companies can be frozen.”

He said end users need to make technology decisions based on business outcomes. That comes by establishing a vision.

Emerson surveyed their customers about digital transformation and they found there were plenty doing pilot projects. Many, however, had no real vision on how to get to the point where they were drawing benefits.

The catch is, said Lal Karsanbhai, executive president at Emerson Automation Solutions, it really is not as difficult as it might seem.

“Despite all the confusing hype in the industry about IIoT and digital transformation, it’s actually pretty simple,” Karsanbhai said.

“Start with a measurable business case, such as an important metric or key performance indicator (KPI) the plant is not consistently hitting,” he said. “Target the ones that matter most, make improvements, then scale investments step-by-step, based on value. And make sure that the investments are in people as much as in infrastructure.”

Embracing change and new roles

The move toward a more digital environment will rely upon how workers can embrace change and handle new roles moving forward.

“It is all about people,” Train said. “You and your people are a critical factor in your company’s success. Each worker can make a difference.”

One of the key factors for digital transformation is to have traditionally strong adversaries, information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT), able to work together.

“IT and OT have to collaborate,” Train said. “There has never been a time where they have been more mutually dependent.”

In this intense environment, there is an urgent need for collaboration.

OT needs to understand IT and IT needs to understand OT. IT is a master at scaling solutions and are masters at security. Having OT and IT work together is one thing, but when it comes down to migrating to a more digital environment, there needs to be a clear vision for the end user–and often that is not the case.

How to create digital transformation

That is why it’s crucial to put together a framework on how to build that roadmap to a successful digital transformation. It begins by understanding capabilities in safety, reliability, productivity and energy, and also understanding where the organization is at and what technology is out there.

“We see opportunities for improvement in four main areas: safety, reliability, production and emissions—which includes energy efficiency,” said Peter Zornio, chief technology officer at Emerson Automation Solutions during a press conference at the exchange.

By making improvements it is possible to move manufacturers to a top quartile performer.

Bringing industry players to top-quartile performance represents a $1 trillion opportunity, Zornio said.

There are five essential competencies of top quartile organizations:

  1. Automated work flows
  2. Decision support
  3. Mobility
  4. Change management
  5. Workforce upskilling

By creating a roadmap with measurable metrics, it will be possible for users to join in on the digital future.

Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector. This content originally appeared on ISSSource is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, CFE Media,

Gregory Hale
Author Bio: Gregory Hale is the editor and founder of Industrial Safety and Security Source (, a news and information website covering safety and security issues in the manufacturing automation sector.