Over half of industrial process organisations not yet prepared for successful digital transformations

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Schneider Electric and Omdia, the technology market research firm, found that while digital transformation is critical to business strategy, many industrial process organisations are still not ready.

The finding was part of a study conducted by the two companies to better understand the pain points and specific challenges faced by companies in the process industry when embarking on their digital journeys.

Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents to the survey, which focused on the efficacy of distributed control systems (DCS), stated they are actively deploying digital transformation initiatives at one or more facility. However, just over half (55%) are only ‘somewhat equipped’ to effectively carry out these activities. This deficit poses a huge challenge, as almost all organisations (94%) expect that digital transformation will have a significant impact on their operations over the next two to three years.

Building successful digital journeys

The research surveyed hundreds of buyers and end users across North America, Europe, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region, in six industries: water, chemicals, oil & gas, refining, pulp & paper, and power generation.

A full 88% of respondents said their control vendor’s expertise to support DCS upgrades or modernisation was excellent. Yet despite this confidence in vendor support, customers identified three top qualities they are looking for in control vendors to improve their DCS:

  • Better system performance and functionality
  • Greater system integration capabilities
  • Proven return on investment

Implementing advanced DCS solutions, such as Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS process automation system, is high on the agendas of many organisations. EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, in particular, supports industrial processes and plants to consistently deliver safe and measurable operation and profitability improvements, enabling 100% return on investment in less than a year.

Blurring the line between IT and OT 

The study also found that more collaboration between Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) is needed for successful digital transformation. The convergence between IT and OT is happening in organisations but with mixed levels of behavioral alignment and shared prioritisation.

The research showed that OT and IT departments collaborate most in addressing enterprise IT issues and collaborate least on network security strategy and oversight. Meanwhile, the top three areas with the most influence over defining control system digital transformation specifications are IT, corporate, and production/manufacturing.

Ensuring an open ecosystem and scalability for success

According to the report, open automation and interoperable architectures associated with distributed control systems are considered ‘relatively important’ when implementing new technologies or working with new vendors. This supports solutions like EcoStruxure Automation Expert which demonstrate clear efficiencies in open industrial environments designed for engineering automation.

Improved scalability—a key value of an interoperable architecture—ranked third among the most important influences towards implementing control system digital technologies. Plus, open ecosystems ranked as ‘very important’ to 88% of respondents when selecting control system vendors.

Nathalie Marcotte, SVP and President, Process Automation, Schneider Electric, said: “For industrial companies worldwide, it is business critical to put the right tools in place to effectively implement digital transformation and stay effective and resilient. This research has highlighted the readiness issues many companies are facing. Ensuring that vendors have the right expertise and are using open and scalable ecosystems is critical to customer readiness and can enable OT and IT collaboration.”

“With EcoStruxure Foxboro DCS, which features built-in flexibility and scalability, organisations can harness future-proofed technology that preserves investments, and measures and controls every point of the process consistent with their overall business objectives,” emphasises Michael Martinez, Ecostruxure Foxboro DCS Leader, Schneider Electric. “Only with these capabilities will buyers and end users enjoy the foundation for an effective digital transformation.”

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