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  • Written by Damien McDade

Technology has become deeply embedded in almost every facet of modern-day life and plays an intrinsic role in many businesses across the globe. Digital transformation is enabling organisations, particularly in the industrial sector, to enhance their capabilities, and increase their returns across their assets and operations. The use of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) through real-time analytics has had a profound impact, by improving response times to potential issues and minimising possible damage to the environment, which has resulted in the avoidance of costly unscheduled shutdowns, while improving profits.

As we look ahead into 2021, four key technology predictions stand out for the Industrial sector. First, digitisation will continue to spread and mature within organisations – connected IIoT will go deeper and wider across the core of many businesses. Second, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) enabled technologies will continue to automate processes to deliver improved performance and agility. Third, there will be greater focus on sustainability as businesses look to become cleaner and more efficient in their use of natural resources. Fourth and not least, businesses will look to unlock critical insights from data.

  1. Digitisation will deepen and cloud usage will mature

2021 will pave the way for further digital transformation within industrial sector organisations as digital capabilities strengthen resiliency. Across industries, business leaders are also turning to technologies such as AI and 3D modelling to understand their production processes and plans. To adjust to an environment where the supply of raw materials is volatile and demand for end products is focussed on the essentials, businesses must understand their production facilities better than ever before.

Cloud is not necessarily a pre-requisite for digital transformation, but an enabler. Cloud technology accelerates time to value, increases collaboration, and reduces costs. What’s been evident in 2020 is that a cloud platform allows organisations to consolidate data from multiple sources into a central location for improved transparency and accessibility – at any time, any place and from any secure device.

The current crisis is accelerating the use of cloud and data in increasingly sophisticated ways to help provide visibility and certainty to operations. The adoption of analytics is said to be one of the greatest drivers of digital transformation, as businesses seek greater data-driven insights. Data acts as a source of truth that aids teams to focus on the critical factors that determine business resilience. There has also been a fundamental shift in mindset: customers now understand where they need to get to and how quickly they need to get there. In an age where time is progressively of the essence, an increased focus on digital transformation and data-driven insights will be a game changer.

  1. Automation will pick up pace

According to Gartner, “By the end of 2024, 75% of enterprises will shift from piloting to operationalising AI, driving a 5x increase in streaming data and analytics infrastructures.” Boosting augmented data management systems with AI, will also help to optimise and improve operations. Examining large samples of operational and historic data will become the norm.

We will also see AI applications increasingly being supported by devices and sensors connected through the IIoT. The combination of IIoT and AI has begun the next wave of performance improvements, especially in the industrial sector. Furthering this automation, AI uses the historical IoT data to analyse trends which can help in streamlining and improving the supply chain process through cutting-edge solutions such as AI-driven operations scheduling. This provides recommendations to humans as to the optimal scheduling sequence, substantially reducing error and inefficiencies.

  1. Sustainability will be embedded within businesses

Sustainability is a journey beginning by measuring where organisations are. Digitisation is the natural first step for a fact-based approach. This data allows complex businesses to develop a meaningful strategy and execute it on the ground.

Industry 4.0 will help to bring information together to build a digital twin that allows organisations to optimise sustainable processes. If we take the energy sector, in the past few months jet fuel consumption dropped dramatically, however energy consumption overall remained relatively stable, and electricity demand grew. Electricity remains the most efficient way to distribute energy around the world. In manufacturing in comparison, many companies’ supply chains could not flex at the same pace as the world was changing. Moving forward, these companies will pivot to use local suppliers to meet specialist requirements and with lower emissions.

The industrial development is crucial for economic growth, eradicating poverty, and employment creation. However, increasing resource-use efficiency and enhancing technological innovation offers real opportunities to reduce costs, increase competitiveness and employment. The industrial sector, although late to the digital transformation process, has a unique opportunity to lead the way in making a significant impact to the planet.

  1. Data repositories will acquire memory

The adoption of data analytics is said to be one of the greatest drivers of digital transformation, as businesses seek greater data-driven insights. Data acts as a source of truth that helps teams focus on the critical factors that determine business resilience. Businesses are acutely aware that they must become more resilient by using technology.

Companies are using IIoT to their advantage to securely connect, and collect data from diverse remote assets, channelling information to advanced operational applications, and closing the loop by feeding key business applications. This helps to enable optimisation, asset management, enhanced analytics, and modelling/simulation – and this ultimately means improvements in business efficiency across the entire operations.

This has been particularly true for the industrial sector, where data has had a significant impact in five key areas:

  • Real-time operational information is increasingly being used to understand what is happening in real-time and enables the condition management of asset and operations lifecycles. For example, a dashboard displaying the vibration frequency of a rotating asset such as a turbine during operation provides real-time understanding of the asset operational behavior and state.

  • Historical operational information helps organisations to understand what has happened in the past to create intelligence around operational behavior of assets. Through operational trends, display of KPIs and dashboards, you can create abstracted views of operational states. For example, a graph may be displayed on a dashboard showing the turbine’s past vibration frequency during operation. This can be compared to the real-time vibration frequency, creating intelligence on the asset’s long-term operational trends.

  • Predictive analytics is used for what-if type modeling. Integrating real-time and historical data enables your team to assess potential outcomes of operational states and behaviors, even accounting for tertiary variables. Deterministic or non-deterministic models can then be applied for open-loop simulation and predictive analytics. For example, you can now estimate how long a piece of equipment can run before it requires inspection or is predicted to fail.

  • Prescriptive analytics describes what’s needed to optimise asset and operations lifecycles. Scenario-based guidance is created and delivered through learning elements and closed-loop algorithms to enable your team to calibrate planning and scheduling across the entire enterprise value chain. For example, using a unified supply chain model, scenario-based calculations can be used to optimise maintenance schedules and performance, minimizing impact to your operations.

  • Enhanced safety is achieved through a combination of connected IoT devices, augmented and virtual reality technology, which provide real-time operating procedures and key messages to operations personnel, reducing human error for performing specific tasks.

Be bold, reflect and evolve

Uncertainty is here to stay, as well as the possibility of a resurgence of Covid-19, the length and depth of the economic downturn, trade wars, oil price fluctuations and so forth, so businesses must take lessons learned from uncertainty and create their new normal.

What lessons have we learned from 2020? Businesses require intelligent software to address industrial pain points for value creation, productivity improvement, insight discovery, risk management, and cost optimisation. With the right technology, businesses can be incredibly agile to manage costs, boost efficiency and avoid costly mistakes. The combination of digitisation, automation and data driven insights, with a focus on sustainable business can be a key differentiator and a propelling force to help ensure businesses meet their goals of today and tomorrow.

About author

Damien McDade is the VP Pacific for AVEVA, where he focuses on strategic direction, revenue management and market development of the entire portfolio across the Pacific region. His career spans more than 20 years in technical and commercial roles, having held various leadership positions in Schneider Electric which merged with AVEVA in 2018.

AVEVA Group plc provides innovative industrial software to transform complex industries such as Oil & Gas, Construction, Mining, Engineering, Marine, and Utilities. AVEVA’s software solutions and platform enable the design and management of complex industrial assets like power plants, chemical plants, water treatment facilities and food and beverage manufacturers – deploying IIoT, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to digitally transform industries


Listed on the London stock exchange, AVEVA services more than 16,000 companies worldwide with over 4,400 employees across 40+ countries. Mining giants BHP, Rio Tinto and Glencore form part of its expansive client portfolio in the AUNZ region. AVEVA delivers end-to-end value chain optimisation software, helping organisations redefine processes to enable deeper collaboration, reduce value leaks, sustain productivity and innovation, and ultimately make better and more robust decisions quicker across the operations lifestyle.

For further information visit


Digitisation and resilience

The industrial world is currently progressing through the accelerated transformation cycle that retail and finance experienced ten years ago. AVEVA is working with leading companies in energy, manufacturing, infrastructure and pharmaceuticals to increase operational efficiency, unify their data and connect their teams to realize industry 4.0. Companies like BP is working with AVEVA to optimise their value chain using predictive analytics, enabling them to accelerate decision making from weeks to hours, while enhancing energy-efficiency and performance.

Others like Schneider Electric’s smart factories or Danone or ENEL in Italy use AVEVA’s software to enable remote working and to ensure that they can flex their supply chains to continue to produce food or deliver secure power during the lockdown period.

Cloud and connected workers

Cloud and AI, both underpinning our commitment to help customers and industries shape a more sustainable future. More customers making the pivot to the cloud in response to lockdown, and over the past two years we have ramped up our portfolio capability in the cloud, from operating information analysis to complex engineering visualization, using big data and the power of Industrial IOT. AVEVA is partnering with strategic allies like Schneider Electric and Microsoft to deliver innovative capabilities, such as our partnership with Wood, which brings together ourselves, Microsoft and Wood to create a revolutionary new Industry 4.0 platform.

AVEVA is also working with customers to enable continuity of work with flexible cloud-based functionality. For example, it helped ENEL to deliver semi-autonomous plant processes, thanks to the digital twin enabled by AVEVA software. Earlier this year ENEL also transitioned almost 30,000 of their Italy-based workers to remote working overnight.


Although much has been written about the difficulties that companies have faced in dealing with the global pandemic, the unforeseen changes have benefitted the sustainability of industrial. A good example here is Henkel, a manufacturer which produces brands like washing liquid Persil. To support their customers and align with their sustainability commitments Henkel built an AVEVA digital backbone that connects their global operations in the cloud. That’s 3,500 sensors in each site providing 1.5 billion data points to meet fluctuating demand while reducing energy usage. To date, they have reduced their environmental footprint by one third by using less energy, less water and producing less waste.




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