In the past four years or so, the hype about the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0) has gone into overdrive. Everyone is talking about the progression to Industry 4.0—a manufacturing environment where machine learning will predict all equipment failures, and technologies like the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) will create a better world for manufacturing and industrial companies. Suddenly, people who’ve never stepped into an industrial plant in their lives are digital transformation experts.

But despite all the noise—and the clear imperative to transform by harnessing the power for digital—making real technology decisions has never been harder. Bombarded with shiny new products and bold promises by an expanding array of vendors, technology and business managers in industrial businesses are caught between senior executives demanding the full promise of Industry 4.0 from these new technologies, and the lack of a clear road map for digital transformation across the entire enterprise.

Embracing Industry 4.0 in Oil and Gas

In the oil and gas and petrochemical industries, the challenges are compounded by several sector-specific factors. Alongside market volatility, increasing regulatory requirements, ever closer scrutiny of their environmental impacts and intensifying margin pressure, these businesses also face and a seismic generational shift in their workforce—as millennials become the majority, and ask why the current technologies aren’t more deeply integrated into their companies’ facilities.

Yes, the answer is to embrace Industry 4.0. But that’s easier said than done. Across petrochemicals and beyond, industrial and manufacturing enterprises worldwide are wrestling with how to plan out and kick-start their digital transformation journeys. Levels of digital maturity vary widely. And while some have made dramatic progress, nobody can really claim yet to have reached the destination of Industry 4.0.

Leading the way: A new guidebook

So, what to do? Fortunately, help is now at hand, in the form of a carefully structured, pragmatic and actionable guide to digital transformation in industrial businesses. It’s been led by our resources team at Accenture in collaboration with the Manufacturing Enterprise Solutions Association (MESA)—the global community of manufacturers, producers, industry leaders and solution providers focused on driving business results from manufacturing information.

The outcome of our joint efforts is a ground-breaking guidebook on Adopting Integrated Manufacturing Operations Management (iMOM) in oil and gas and petrochemicals. Written by 25 different expert authors from a wide range of industry-leading businesses, the document takes the reader step-by-step through the key elements and initiatives involved in digital transformation in manufacturing industry—from international standards and enterprise architectures, via evolving technologies and business case considerations, to issues around change management, software strategies and how to make the leap to full digital transformation.

We think it’s the first time all these new technological advances like cloud, digital twin and decision support framework (DSF) have been captured, explained and put into context in one place for use by any executive in any business. Everything in the guide is intended to give clarity, in a logical progression, providing a great basis to plan and execute your business’s digital transformation journey. And if you’d like to visualize an end-point that we should aim for, it is a DSF—a solution that ties all these technologies together in a way that focuses on creating value for the day-to-day operation of our industrial facilities. And one where all the applications are viewed in a role-based integration of all workflows and business process that support the Industry 4.0 program’s desired outcome of business transformation.

Digital Twin

In this context, one of the best use cases is recent implementations of digital twin. The Digital Twin (DT) is a virtual representation or mimic of your actual operational plant—connecting and integrating multiple predictive models representing different parts of a complex process. These DT technologies are already integrated and deployed into a DSF at full scale in operating companies like Petrofac, operating and maintaining offshore platforms in the North Sea and other oil and gas operations around the world.

In these cases, DSF and DT are supporting maintenance planners as they plan their work orders remotely, providing them with greater clarity on issues like confined work space on the platform, and attaching critical engineering data efficiently into the work packages they create. Just as the self-driving car is the end-state for autonomous vehicles, so DSF can be the North Star for an industrial company’s journey to digital maturity, with DT as a proof case on how Industry 4.0 can be rolled out to scale.

Start your journey now

So, we’d urge you to do two things. First, check out the new MESA Guidebook to help map out your route to Industry 4.0. And second, as you start the journey, set your compass by understanding the need for a DSF, armed with use cases like digital twin that have been implemented at scale in mission-critical applications in offshore platforms in the North Sea.

The message is clear: True digital maturity for your enterprise is just a few steps away.

 Members access to the guidebook 


Michel Anderson

Industry Innovation Principal Director

Eduard Smits

Director at Accenture Consulting – Specialized in Manufacturing (MES - MOM)

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