The workshop hosted by Stratus Technologies at the ARC Industry Forum 2021 focused on rationalizing cost, payback, and criticality of edge computing for digital transformation initiatives. Jeffrey Young, Head of Business Development for the Americas, Stratus Technologies, gave an overview about digital transformation, introduced the speakers, and moderated the Q&A session.
Jeffrey discussed how digital transformation is now coming into sharp focus and companies are concentrating on business outcomes. Edge computing is happening throughout the digital ecosystem in both discrete and continuous process applications. Edge computing is a distributed architecture that helps devices to connect with people by providing real-time analysis and educated decision making. Companies are leveraging edge computing on assets, machines, and production lines to improve plant reliability and overall equipment efficiency through applications like HMI/SCADA, machine analytics, and asset performance. Edge computing enables people to focus on production, and production-centric outcomes are creating the payback for digital transformation initiatives. Jeffrey explained how this is done while keeping remote operations in mind with distributed edge computing. Benefits of edge computing include decreased technology costs and increased IT/OT productivity. The metrics that Jeffrey presented as examples illustrate the value of edge computing, including 237 percent average ROI, 7.6 months payback, and $50K+ average annual benefit.
Market Trends Accelerating Digital Transformation
ARC’s Craig Resnick said that without edge computing and digital transformation, companies will not have the flexibility and agility to maintain a competitive edge in the new normal. The pandemic forced organizations to restructure work processes through measures like remote operations and social spacing, and the subsequent problems of visibility and supply chain flexibility accelerated the demand for edge computing. The pandemic also fueled concerns about plant operations, maintenance, and fulfilling market demands.
During these tough times, operational resilience has become all-important. Operational resilience is about staying afloat, creating an infrastructure to survive another catastrophe and provide robust cybersecurity. Craig explained how an edge platform can help in these areas. Edge platforms can be deployed relatively easily and changes the way that work processes are handled and how information is gathered, stored, and executed because it is at the device level and maintains real-time status, providing operational visibility to remote workers. Companies and processes cannot be effective unless there is an edge strategy included as part of the digital transformation process in the new normal.
The audience asked the panel about their thoughts on how leaders are prioritizing digital transformation in 2021. According to Craig Resnick, the dividing line was March 2020. Before that, digital transformation was nice, but not mandatory. After March 2020, the focus shifted to operational resilience and that accelerated digital transformation programs, bringing edge devices to the forefront. Digital transformation moved from a long-term strategy to a short-term tactic.
Edge devices are one of the fastest growing areas of industrial automation and are used across industries, on both fixed assets and mobile devices. To work on an edge platform, IT programming skills are not always necessary, as those from the OT side can often support them as well. IT/OT convergence is one of the enablers of edge technology. Converged IT/OT architecture provides critical capability to manage assets both on premise and in the cloud. Companies have further accelerated their digital transformation journeys through IT/OT fusion.
According to Craig, digital transformation is a whole new way of doing business, supporting customers, leveraging the available services, and adapting to a changed business environment. Customer relationships have become more dynamic. It is important to understand where these changes and nuances are in the marketplace and how best to respond.
Edge Devices Bring Intelligence to the Cloud
Streamline Innovations is a provider of advanced technologies for water and gas treatment and related processes for oil and gas, utilities, and other industrial applications. In a brief introduction to the company, Peter Photos spoke about Streamline’s Valkyrie natural gas treatment units that remove H2S, purify CO2 streams, and remove NH3, H2S, and CO2 from water streams. Peter explained the Valkyrie process and the challenges of maintaining its two chemical reactions within tight tolerances. Much of this is done from locations where monitoring of flow rates and other variables must be done remotely. Elimination of unplanned downtime is crucial in these applications, and budget constraints also exist.
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Keywords: Stratus Technologies, ARC Industry Forum, Workshop, Edge Computing, Digital Transformation, Pandemic, New Normal, ARC Advisory Group.