Don't fear digital change, you're making it already...
2 Sep 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the uptake of digital tools in the process industry, says Endress+Hauser’s Steve Sherburn...
The whole world has just been part of an enormous digital training programme. People who’ve never taken part in a video conference before are now comfortable working from home, using new software, buying products online.
The benefit of this is increased acceptance: people have started to realise that the technology isn’t overly complex or inaccessible.
Covid-19 pushed us to market these digital tools more proactively and clearly demonstrated that there is a real appetite for them. We enabled live chat on our website, which was a first for Endress+Hauser in the UK, because we found that people wanted to contact us at all times of the day. We’ve seen a significant upsurge in people signing into our website, and the number of customers making purchases online has increased by more than 70% since last year.
There has been a definite shift towards e-commerce, and people have also started to show more of an interest in IIOT (Industrial Internet of Things). In terms of process automation, it’s becoming clear that being able to access process data and, more importantly, use that data in a meaningful way is the key to long-term success.
Building on the present
Most of the measuring instruments our customers have on site are already IIOT-ready in that they’re intelligent devices that hold a huge amount of data. Unfortunately, most of that data goes to waste. Of the 40 million instruments installed worldwide, 90% have digital capability but 97% of the data remains unused. We want to help customers to unlock the potential of their instruments and ultimately optimise their processes by giving them access to information such as obsolescence and device health.
The whole world has just been part of an enormous digital training programme
Digital services, such as Endress+Hauser’s Netilion ecosystem, allow you to make informed judgements about your plant. Rather than reacting to an instrument when it fails, you can continuously monitor how your device is performing and schedule predictive maintenance. Rather than having to be on site at all times, from any location you can see if an instrument goes into fault, what that fault is and how to fix it.
That insight is useful to anybody who uses instrumentation in any industry, whether it’s a single level sensor on a container in the middle of a field or hundreds of devices all connected in a state-of-the-art Profibus plant. Because it’s cloud-based technology, the possibilities are endless.
With most companies streamlining their processes and their workforce, there’s a knowledge gap on site and automation is becoming more important. It’s not just about taking the measurement but about knowing what to do with it. Endress+Hauser has experts around the globe, so no matter what or where the project is, we have people who can help both to capture the data initially and then to use it for optimisation. Nevertheless, many of our customers are finding that digital systems are intuitive and easy to use.
There can be a fear of digital processes – a fear that something will disappear into the cloud and you won’t be able to retrieve it. The reality is that we all use cloud technology in our everyday lives, whether we’re working from home or even just using an iPhone. Our shared experience during the coronavirus pandemic has shown us that we can embrace digitalisation and it can benefit us all.
Steve Sherburn is responsible for driving digital sales at Endress+Hauser