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Accenture's acquisition of Cimation: Q&A with Van Wilson

Van Wilson discusses the digital transformation of industrial assets and operations in chemicals.

Van Wilson

Managing Director, Accenture Asset
and Operations Services

LinkedIn - Van Wilson Mail to Accenture Chemicals. This opens a new window.

You recently joined Accenture through the acquisition of Cimation, where you were the COO. Describe the capabilities that Cimation brings to Accenture.
The acquisition marks an important step in Accenture’s strategy to move into operations consulting and field technology services. Cimation brings deep strengths in operational technologies, field experience and industrial security that broadens Accenture’s already impressive set of solutions. Together, we offer clients end-to-end services to transform industrial assets and operations through digital connectivity—from the sensors in the field and on the plant floor all the way to the cloud and systems in the enterprise.

What are Cimation’s areas of focus?
Cimation’s operations technology (OT) experts have extensive experience working in front-line industrial environments and providing process-driven, on-the-ground support for field technologies. We offer services across the following three key areas:

  • Automation: Create opportunities to collect more data and control field operations in a safer and more efficient way. This includes designing and commissioning control systems, programming industrial computers, calibrating measurement systems and implementing smart alarm management systems.

  • Industrial IT: Connect field components and enable data sharing and communications while maximizing system security and reliability. Use advanced technologies to bridge the gap between IT and OT by providing enterprise-grade technology solutions specifically tailored for process control networks.

  • Industrial control system (ICS) cybersecurity: Implement cybersecurity for process-control networks and industrial technology. This is an especially challenging area because industrial control systems operate 24X7, control hazardous environments and use systems that were designed decades ago without any thought to security.

What challenges do Cimation’s solutions help chemical companies solve? What benefits do they offer?
Chemical companies are grappling with a multitude of challenges. They are working to remain competitive in an aggressive market with tight margins while operating plants with exceedingly complex processes. In addition, they are facing regulatory pressures to reduce emissions and improve worker safety. And they are upgrading to digital technologies and upskilling their workforce to match.

Cimation’s (now Accenture’s) automation, industrial IT and ICS cybersecurity services were designed to help chemical companies address all of these challenges. In particular, correctly architected control systems can help chemical companies meet the need for higher-quality, lower-cost products; reduce emissions and power usage; and more effectively utilize existing operations personnel.

Cimation is now part of Accenture Asset and Operations Services, working to help companies in multiple industries transform their industrial assets through technology. Why should chemical companies be looking to “digitize” their assets?
Digitally connected plants are the future of the chemical industry. Connected operations allow chemical companies to exert greater control over all aspects of their operations and harness efficiencies that they could never have uncovered with more outdated technologies. Chemical companies are already making investments in digitally enabled technologies like RFID to track equipment and automated systems to more quickly identify issues. Now they need to pick up the pace of their digital transformation or risk being left behind.

What sparked your interest in automation and control systems? What keeps you engaged?
I’ve always had an engineer’s mentality. I love taking things apart and figuring out how to make them run better, which is why I’ve focused my career on automation and controls. What keeps me engaged is the continuous challenge. Even if I’m implementing the same technology, the truth is that the project is never the same. Take, for example, two chemical companies that are manufacturing the same product. Despite this similarity, every facility is still run differently using proprietary processes, procedures and combinations of technology, all of which influence the final solution.

Effective automation consulting and engineering requires understanding all aspects of a company’s operations—the way the process is supposed to run, how operators use field systems, the information that corporate needs, the way procurement processes and pricing pressures influence operating decisions, and more. It’s about really understanding the entire operation from start to finish and architecting systems that make it run more smoothly.

What are your pursuits outside of work?
I am a husband and a father to two children, a girl and a boy. I’m also a pretty regular (though amateur) athlete, and I have served as a coach for the youth soccer and football leagues in my area. Most of all, I’m passionate about disaster relief. I live in the Gulf Coast region of the United States, which has seen some devastating natural disasters. I think it’s very important to take care of those in need so I’ve participated as a FEMA volunteer since 2011.