Profit-driven operations require IT/OT integration

Maximizing process plant profits requires close integration across all levels of an organization.

By Yasunori Kobayashi November 4, 2019

Optimization at the operational technology (OT) level requires sharing results with and receiving feedback from higher levels of the organization to achieve best performance. Integrating IT with OT is required to share data and information among all levels of the manufacturing organization to achieve a profit-driven operation (PDO).

PDO helps process industry companies deliver more profitable operations through real-time production performance improvements aligned from the management level to the plant floor. For example, a PDO takes production performance indicators monitored weekly or monthly by plant management and breaks these indicators down to the technical and operations levels using industrial best practices to create synaptic performance indicators (SPIs).

These SPIs are calculated and displayed in real time by using Big Data from the distributed control system (DCS). This information helps operators, engineers and upper management stay aligned to improve production performance by providing performance alarms, guidance messages and a performance balance score. By using IT technologies such as the cloud, consulting services can be incorporated to uncover additional production performance improvements via the analysis of historical production performance parameters.

This requires the merging of expertise in OT with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and other IT technologies, along with process industry best practices, to enable production performance optimization over a process plant’s lifecycle.

Some process plant personnel, when first introduced to PDO, may confuse it with advanced process control (APC) and optimization. In reality, plants should implement all three of these technologies working in concert. APC is used to control multiple control loops for partial process optimization, such as increasing throughput or reducing giveaway loss. Optimization is used to manage multiple APC instances for entire processes.

APC and optimization are very powerful technologies, but they may not work if the model is not updated, and each is often turned off by operator turns due to a lack of deep understanding.

PDO addresses these issues by helping operators understand the effectiveness of APC and optimization through the visualization of relevant SPIs and tradeoffs. This allows them to make the decisions required to maintain timely updates.

Managing SPIs across an organization

PDO solutions leverage real-time and accurate plant big data from a DCS and integrate this data with domain knowledge to create SPIs. These SPIs are synaptically connected from plant operation to plant management, much like the human body uses synapses to connect nerves.

SPIs encompass five main management objectives and span four levels of a process plant organization (Figure 1). The high-level management objectives are production, profit, energy, reliability and safety. The organizational levels are leadership, management, technical and operation.

SPI creation also requires extensive domain knowledge of the process plant’s operation. For example, by applying hundreds of years of collective experience and expertise, one process control system provider structured more than 2,800 SPIs for refinery operations and 800 SPIs for ethylene operations. This requires correlations to be drawn between macro-level plant management objectives and micro-level SPIs to create lasting value. These SPIs must be customized for each situation because each process plant is different.

Some of the SPIs commonly used across many different types of plants, broken down by management objective:


  • Feed and products complying with the plan
  • Capacity utilization
  • Minimization of off-spec products or reprocessing of slopped products.


  • Maximization of higher value product yields
  • Minimization of quality give away
  • Loss and flaring.


  • Energy consumption (fuel, steam, electricity)
  • Energy performance (furnace, heat exchanger, distillation column, pipe)
  • Carbon emission.


  • Plant availability
  • Equipment availability and efficiency
  • Critical operating points of each piece of equipment.


  • Safety risk factor of critical equipment
  • Violation of environmental regulations or loss of containment
  • Lost time and first aid injury frequency rates.

Once the SPIs are created, the next step is to configure dashboards.

SPI dashboard configuration

PDO software uses SPIs to configure many different types of real-time SPI dashboards (Figure 2). Each process unit’s home dashboard gives an overview of performance related to the five management objectives of production, profit, energy, reliability and safety. This dashboard helps users visualize SPI balance among the five management objectives by showing what objectives are in an alarm or alert state, and what SPI trade-offs may be required to address each issue.

Clicking on a role level leads a user to another dashboard appropriate to his or her level of responsibility. These dashboards can then be used to improve operations as each provides an indication of current status as well as advice for making improvements.

PDO software links all of these dashboards to coordinate actions among all levels of a plant’s organization. By providing performance alarms, guidance messages and a performance balance score, the PDO helps leadership, management, technical and operation personnel stay aligned to improve production performance.

Operation and technical personnel rely on OT to view dashboards and take actions; management and leadership often employ IT to view dashboards and provide advice. IT/OT integration is therefore crucial because it allows information to be communicated in real-time across all levels of the organization.

IT/OT integration is also essential for enabling consulting services from external experts located remote from the plant. Cloud, digital twin and other IT services allow plant data to be communicated worldwide. Experts analyze these data and provide the plant with advice to make additional improvements.

PDO is being applied worldwide to help process plants improve operation, as described in the sidebar. 

Additional applications

Although the sidebar example indicates, the concept can be implemented with any type of control system, with OPC used for data exchange between the control and PDO systems. This allows PDO to be implemented in a wide range of plants worldwide.

The PDO approach supports web clients, providing real-time access from any device capable of hosting a web browser. The gas processing plant example restricts use to in-plant networks, but worldwide access could be added in the future by connection to the internet.

The left half of Figure 4 shows how a PDO system can be connected to the cloud, allowing external access by remote experts, along with access by remote company personnel. For these types of implementations, a PDO web human-machine interface (HMI) server is installed in the cloud and connected to a cloud-hosted data historian. In addition to remote external access for expert advice, a cloud-based structure enables a company to manage multiple plants simultaneously and optimize profits across a fleet of sites based on site-specific variables, such as current energy and raw material prices.

A final feature currently implemented at a number of installations worldwide is an optional data analysis tool using AI machine learning technologies. This allows plants to quickly sort through very large amounts of data and uncover opportunities for improvements.

Process control to performance control

PDOs help end users shift from process control to performance control by applying real-time management of SPIs. In addition to real-time profit maximization, it can also be deployed as a training tool for plant operations and technical personnel as it shows them management perspectives for driving operational profitability. PDO can be applied to any process plant through an approach of exploration and co-creation, with implementation accomplished in a matter of months.

Sidebar: PDO in action

A plant in Asia separates natural gas received from offshore wells into five major products: methane, ethane, propane, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL).

As shown in Figure 3, 589 SPIs were created for the plant, distributed among the five management objectives spanning the four levels of the plant’s organization.

SPI creation was a rigorous process, beginning with a template of SPIs for gas separation plants. Through the consulting stage led by subject matter experts (SMEs), potential improvement areas and relevant SPIs became clear.

The SPI selection workshop was then held, and engineers used the results of the workshop to finalize the SPIs and input all the parameters and information into the PDO system, which took about one month. The PDO system was installed and at the site, and plant personnel began using the PDO dashboard. The entire implementation took only two months from start to finish. The PDO system is connected to the existing DCS for high-speed two-way data exchange (Figure 4).

The plant monitors all PDO dashboards in real time on the operator console screens, and on any laptop or PC connected to the company’s IT network capable of hosting a web browser. There is no connection to the cloud at this time, although this feature may be added later. The SPIs are managed by plant personnel to stay within HI/LO performance limits.

According to the plant’s product control supervisor, “The production division likes using PDO on our DCS because it helps our operators understand how their key performance indicators (KPIs) are reflected to management KPIs, and because it helps them realize more profitable operation with less support required from our technical division.”

Real-time SPIs are automatically stored in the PDO system for long-term access, and these SPIs are shared with remote experts manually or automatically. These experts also analyzed the historical SPIs using a process simulator, and then conducted consulting workshops with plant personnel to suggest quick win improvements. Through these workshops, $500,000 of potential improvements was identified based on energy savings and relaxing of operational limits.

Yasunori Kobayashi is a senior manager and executive consultant at Yokogawa Electric Corp. Edited by Chris Vavra, production editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media,


Keywords: profit-driven operation, PDO, IT/OT integration

A profit-driven operation (PDO) helps process industry companies deliver more profitable operations through real-time production performance.

Integrating information technology (IT) and operations technology (OT) is crucial for maximizing PDO’s potential for the plant floor.

PDO can be applied to any process plant through an approach of exploration and co-creation.

Consider this

What specific benefits could your facility derive from a PDO and where do you think the biggest savings would come from?

Author Bio: Yasunori Kobayashi, is a senior manager and executive consultant at Yokogawa. He has 30 years of consulting experience in process automation, and over 10 years of management experience in R&D, marketing, sales, operations, and services. He has led projects developing new solutions, including procedural automation using AI (Exapilot), software sensors using Neural Networks (Exaneuro), real-time alarm browsers in DCS (CAMS), automation benchmarking (CEA), knowledge-based graphics using ergonomics (AOG), and remote monitoring and consulting using cloud technology (KBC Co-Pilot Program).