The Information Empowered Enterprise: Driving Operational Excellence

Martin sees himself as a futurist, but one solidly grounded in the legacy of the past. He’s been engaged in peering over the horizon while simultaneously gazing back to the past for over 20 years. This provides him keen insight on developments at Wonderware, an Invensys business unit, regarding its recent release of InTouch 10.
By Dr. Peter G. Martin December 1, 2007

Martin sees himself as a futurist, but one solidly grounded in the legacy of the past. He’s been engaged in peering over the horizon while simultaneously gazing back to the past for over 20 years. This provides him keen insight on developments at Wonderware, an Invensys business unit, regarding its recent release of InTouch 10.0 HMI, the most significant upgrade ever to the world’s most widely deployed HMI application; concurrently with release of the System Platform 3.0 software, the Wonderware integrated industrial computing platform. They have great significance, he asserts, as a pivot point between the past and the future.

Of the present, Martin asserts “we have skilled professionals and experienced labor that know more about plant operations than anybody else in the enterprise, but we’re not treating them as business performance managers. There’s a huge gap in the way enterprises are organized — and that gap represents huge potential for performance improvement.”

What’s required is redefining operational excellence — and subsequently delivering the systems and tools to empower all workers to be more effective performance managers. In the modern global enterprise comprised of multiple facilities around the world, this means having a standard platform deployed in all plants. A standard platform that enables greater collaboration across what are now deeply siloed domains and widely dispersed geographic locations. Only then can organizations begin to achieve greater operational excellence at lower costs, with increased agility.

Perfect Storm

How we got where we are, Martin posits, is the result of a perfect storm that has been brewing since formulation of “modern” 19th century scientific production management practices anchored in task and role specialization and greatly aggravated by late 20th century capital market and enterprise political pressures. The result, he argues, has been a very limited and constraining view of operational excellence. “With the reality of global business today, where everything moves much faster, the traditional view of operational excellence isn’t good enough anymore,” he states.

Frederick Taylor’s model for organizing functions of production was to specialize every role. Labor was largely uneducated and unskilled so a worker was trained merely to perform one function; i.e. turn a wrench or valve. It is a mindset perpetuated throughout the last century all the way up to specialized education at the university graduate level, such that we don’t just have engineers, but multiple, specialized versions of engineers. In contrast, today’s workers are universally educated; and professional staff are educated to the point of having very myopic views of the business. “All has resulted in highly siloed, islands of organization , where groups don’t — and can’t — talk to each other,” Martin says. “You get operations people, control engineers and accounting together in a room and they can’t communicate because they don’t speak the same language.”

Irrational capital markets fostered by the dot com bubble in the 1990s, resulted in focusing too intently on shareholder demands. This, coupled with shareholder lawsuits over management malfeasance increased the power of corporate boards, shortening the window executives are given to produce results. “CEOs have shorter tenures now than ever. In 2006, 27 percent lost their jobs in the first year. The only way to show results in that time is to cut jobs,” Martin says.

What’s required, Martin asserts, is a different way of thinking. “We need to rid ourselves of the old labor mindset and empower front line workers as performance managers by giving them the tools they need to become just that. We need to collaborate more broadly in the organization. And we need to align strategic, business and operational metrics to achieve faster results. The only way we can do that is if they’re all based on real-time — the speed at which the plant operates,” Martin states.

What You Measure is What You Get

“If you can’t get these three domains aligned, you’ll have measures that destroy value rather than create it,” Martin says. The problem traditionally has been that strategic excellence is measured quarterly, with business excellence monthly. “But the speed of business has accelerated. Strategy has to change more frequently to be effective.”

The only way to do that is to model strategies at the real-time control layer to ensure total alignment to the real-time metrics driving all three. “With real-time performance measures across all three, KPIs reflect how behavior impacts operations, business and strategy. When the strategy changes, everybody gets new priorities. When it shifts from being about cost to production, you start measuring throughput. Everybody is collaborating around the right metrics,” Martin says.

“The most critical enterprise best practice is measuring business performance the right way — allowing everybody to collaborate together in running the business. This makes them all business performance managers. This is what creates agility.”

Wonderware has always been effective at what it does, Martin says. “But System Platform 3.0 Software pulls all of the ArchestrA architecture capabilities together and puts them in a common data connection set so enterprise operational excellence can be achieved. It’s added next-generation vector-based graphics so images can be easily scaled to fit any display, down to the smallest panel. Wonderware has always delivered great technology — but these new releases are about delivering technology that supports business processes and true enterprise performance excellence,” says Martin.

“Empowering operators on the plant floor enables them to create a lot of value very quickly… and it only keeps building,” he asserts.

The robust flexibility of System Platform 3.0 software makes it easy to engineer and manage development of standard operational metrics for strategic, business, and operational performance, and streamlines their deployment across multiple locations. As business strategy changes, as best practices evolve, new metrics are likewise easy to develop and deploy.

“Empowering people to be performance managers rather than just operators — in today’s global world, that’s true operational excellence,” Martin says.