Driving High Performing Organisations of the Future with Improved Data Visualisation


I love Formula 1. Just imagine sitting in the cockpit of a Ferrari SF71H F1, racing down the track at Silverstone. Think about the host of information needed to extract the best out of the car. Now, imagine the tyre pressure information is held by one person and the engine information is held by someone else. These two individuals are not present together. It’s the last 5 laps, and you are chasing down Lewis Hamilton for the victory. You have a quick fire decision to make: can you chase him down with all of your might, or do you choose to conserve your engine for the next race? How do you make this decision?

Recently I attended a conference in Asia focussed on digitalisation in hazardous industries. The forward-thinking presentations led to discussions on how industry needs to adapt by adopting Industry 4.0, Big Data and IIoT technologies to help ensure a safe, productive and sustainable future.

Based on my early career experience in Asia and recent industry and regional trends, it came as little surprise the Q&A veered toward operational issues and problems with the management of existing systems rather than the adoption of new technologies. The common thread when speaking with frontline operations and mid-management is their impression that senior management do not fully understand the challenges faced by the work teams on the ground. The result then is only a superficial impact when adopting new technologies. But the biggest revelation, the C-suite and the frontline teams seldom look at the same set of information.

One thing everyone agreed on at the summit was the relationship between people, process and technology. Amongst other things, technology needs to provide the right information in a timely manner to identify the gaps in processes, and all of the people need to be aligned on the outcomes.

The Industry 4.0 revolution has dramatically changed how organisations are managed. Process plants are filled with equipment – each armed with sensors that monitor and provide detailed information about its health status. Enterprises have invested heavily to build command centres where sensor data comes together and is constantly monitored for any change. Every change – from a degree of temperature to wind variation to vibration velocity and beyond – is logged and flagged. Flashing lights and repetitive bleeping in the background are indications of order … or lack thereof. In fact, one of the common responses I’ve heard from plant operators is they often ignore most of the warnings they receive or switch off certain alarms when they are without a solution! Is this acceptable? “Not really, but we know which alarms to pay attention to”, is the response we often receive from plant managers. The challenge then is the information needed to ensure safe operations is within the heads of plant/asset managers. Many key operational decisions are based on personal knowledge.

In this scenario, you can’t blame the plant manager who is trying their best to manage the asset with information being thrown at them from multiple directions without the necessary tools to bring all of the information together in a meaningful manner. Companies like Honeywell, Siemens and others have developed brilliant control panel systems. The challenge now is translating this information into actionable operational decisions.

Put yourself in the role of plant manager. There is a flashing light from the heat exchanger on level 2 of the Crude Unit, a beeping sound from a fire alarm system on level 0, and a planned maintenance job for welding to support a boiler on an adjacent unit. Together, what does all of that activity mean? What actions should be taken today? What happens if nothing is done? Is the asset exposed to Major Accident Hazard (MAH) risk with the potential for an adverse event or incident?

The plant manager and frontline work teams are often overloaded with data from equipment and sensors. And all this information is just sitting in silos – or heads – and is seldom taken into account with regards to everything else happening on the plant/asset. Sometimes the detail will come together when a planned job is ready to commence and the contractor or unit manager raises concern during a job walk through. But this last-minute catch could cause a delay in planned work execution, which could lead to a loss of man-hours due to rescheduling – not to mention associated financial loss.

Companies are actively looking for solutions that bring all disparate sources of information into a single platform – so everyone across the business can make decisions that proactively manage and mitigate risks to people and the asset.

Platform solutions bring information sets together, and provide a single consolidated view of the operational reality.

Going back to my earlier Formula 1 example, most of the needed information is available on a race car’s steering wheel, including some controls to make efficient changes to the vehicle’s performance. The race engineer can offer the right information, condensed in a useful way so the right decision can be based on all necessary information.

Companies in hazardous industries need to invest in platform solutions that enable plant managers to make the right decisions by looking at a single screen. The information needs to use a common currency for senior management and front line work teams alike.

However, to ensure the right technology solutions are implemented and operationally beneficial, organisation needs to complete a thorough evaluation and answer a few questions beforehand:

  • What is the desired outcome of the technology implementation?
  • Will both frontline and senior management read off the same playbook?
  • Am I capturing the right data from my asset to make informed decisions?
  • Where can I implement it to get fast results now and gain momentum in the future?
  • Have I given my project enough time to succeed?

Share your thoughts. How can improved data visualisation drive high performing organisations of the future?

ABHILASH MENON is a Petrotechnics Business Consultant focused on solving client operational excellence and digital transformation challenges. Abhilash joined Petrotechnics with over 12 years’ of experience working as a consultant and a project manager for top tier oil, gas, engineering and manufacturing operators across Europe and Asia.

Abhilash has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Cambridge, with a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute. However, at his heart he is still a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering – where he began his career.

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