Process industries have hung onto old technology for way too long. Please make it stop! In our last 25 years of trips around the mountain, we’ve watched technology do some wild things to processes and data. We’ve had exposure to using coding on multiple platforms to solve problems and basically, help us with our daily work-life. It’s easy to stay complacent.

“In the era of information, ignorance is a choice.” – Donald Miller

From advances such as the typewriter to word-processor, or slide rule to the calculator, we have watched our processing plants weave themselves around “new” systems that represent everything from a Smithsonian-envied-should-be-fossilized set of programs to the spacey “Star Wars good-idea systems” that we all hoped would work. I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to make data tell me something good and accurate. Until now.

DIY Software Technology

You’ve got to love an oil or chemical company that has the desire to enter into the software development business. God bless them, they just want reliable data and easy ways to collect and manipulate data to solve problems. Many applications of technology have worked well, most, not so much.  All of them had crazy acronyms like Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), Process Historians, PSM Information Management Systems, Environmental Management Information Systems (EMIS), and Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS). Then we dealt with the bazillion software vendors that came with these programs, including the “Home-Grown R-Us,” here-today-gone-tomorrow flash-in-the-pan software development companies.

As time passed, a few of these database centered programs stuck around, such as Microsoft® Access, Dbase 4, YabadaDabada (the Database set up by your Bungee Intern), and one of the most belabored systems on the planet, the oh so yesterday, Microsoft® Excel spreadsheets.

Now, picture you’re a plant manager or any mid-line leader, who’s asking his or her direct reports for the monthly numbers.  Buried in the monthly meeting is that not-so-small voice in your head that says, “I can’t trust this data.”

The conversation in your head continues, “My systems don’t talk, and I’m willing to pay well-educated, engineering-level people to type stuff into Excel and create macros that nobody else can figure out, ever.  We love IT, but they are sometimes standing as Wards-of-Darkness, preventing access to my business information.”

Or worse, “I’ll pay millions to create the ill-fated data warehouse and hope that the gods-of-API’s will smile on the integration layers that will be needed from now until Judgement Day.” Can I hear an “amen”?

Stop the Madness

It’s time to stop the madness. There’s a better way to get what you need from data.  Just like the Uber ridesharing app put the hurt on the taxicab industry, or AirBnB the private online rental marketplace devalued and retooled the hotel industry practically overnight, we can see that kind of change for the legacy enterprise. Process industries are primed to be “Uber-ized” with emerging data science technology.

New data tools that provide the foundation for future artificial intelligence, now make it possible to get to the information that businesses need in a much more telling way. The day of asking Siri or Alexa “How’s my Cat/Alky turn around going?” is nigh unto the door.

Sensor technology now makes it affordable, maybe even mandatory, to “smarten-up” our field equipment to remove safety exposure, providing the most effective layer of intelligence yet.  Wireless technology has also become ready as location-aware, and wearable computers now give us no excuse for lack of process safety awareness.

Welcome to the New Frontier

The wild-wild-west of process industries now has a chance of becoming a bit more like the rest of civilization. It’s a time of enlightenment and a step-change in capabilities.

Let us rise up on the meter that measures our willingness to live with dark data. Create pathways to BI that light the way with AI, the blockchain, automation and every other emerging technology that drives excellence.

The InCite Logix leadership team has the process industry experience + technology prowess + data science acumen to ignite your information in ways that will transform your company.

Let’s do this.


About the Author: 

John has is a business development and sales specialist within the process industries for the past 30 years. He has an impeccable ability to take highly technical solutions and make them simple to understand. He has an enormous amount of domain expertise and was critical to the growth of our software solutions.