Digital Transformation in Process Plant Industries and the Crucial Role of Manual Expertise to Support Automation

Andy Osborne

London, July 4th, 2023. In the era of digital transformation, industries worldwide are embracing automation technologies to enhance operational efficiency, productivity, and decision-making. Process plant industries, which include sectors such as oil and gas, chemical manufacturing, and power generation, are no exception. However, amid the rapid adoption of automation, it is essential to recognize that manual expertise and effort remain indispensable. In this blog, we will discuss the need for manual expertise and effort to complement automation specifically for digital transformation projects concerning engineering data in process plant industries.

Andy Osborne Senior Industry Consultant

Andy Osborne, Senior Industry Consultant, is based in the UK. Andy began his career in engineering working for a Chemical owner operator and exploited new technologies that were available at the time to support project execution. He now has extensive experience in Global Business Development, Sales and Marketing with a focus on Engineering Applications and has worked for companies such as Alias Ltd, Intergraph, and Bentley Systems.

Understanding Digital Transformation

Digital transformation entails the integration of digital technologies into all aspects of an organization to fundamentally change how it operates and delivers value to its stakeholders. In process plant industries, digital transformation focuses on leveraging data and advanced technologies to optimize processes, reduce costs, and enhance safety and reliability.

The Role of Automation

Automation plays a crucial role in digital transformation projects for engineering data in process plant industries. Advanced software systems, machine learning algorithms, and artificial intelligence (AI) tools can efficiently collect, process, and analyze vast amounts of data in real-time. Automation enables data translation, predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, process optimization, and smart decision-making.

The Limitations of Automation

While automation offers numerous benefits, it is not a panacea. Process plant industries deal with complex systems and unique challenges that require human expertise and effort to complement automated solutions. Here are some key limitations of automation:

  • Contextual Understanding: Automation tools may struggle to understand the nuances and complexities specific to a particular process plant. Human experts possess invaluable domain knowledge and can contextualize data, making informed decisions based on their experience and understanding.
  • Data Quality Assurance: Automated systems heavily rely on accurate and reliable data. Manual expertise is crucial for ensuring data integrity, identifying anomalies, and rectifying errors. Human intervention can prevent faulty data from propagating throughout the system and misleading decision-making processes.
  • Unforeseen Scenarios: Process plants often encounter unforeseen scenarios and edge cases that are difficult to capture within the parameters of an automated system. Human experts can adapt to unique situations, troubleshoot problems, and make critical decisions when faced with uncertainties.
  • Interpretation and Judgment: While automation can provide data-driven insights, the interpretation of results and making complex judgments often require human expertise. Human professionals can analyze the contextual implications of data, apply domain-specific knowledge, and exercise judgment in ambiguous situations.
  • Human-Machine Collaboration: Automation should be viewed as a tool to augment human capabilities, rather than replace them entirely. A collaborative approach, where automation and human expertise work hand in hand, can yield superior results. Humans provide the creativity, intuition, and adaptability that automated systems may lack.

Striking the Right Balance

To achieve the full potential of digital transformation, you must strike a balance between automation and manual expertise. Here are a few ways to ensure a successful collaboration:

  • Skilled Workforce: Work with an organization that invests in training and upskilling employees to harness the power of automation tools effectively to maximize the benefits of automation in collaboration with human expertise.
  • Continuous Improvement: Embrace a culture of continuous improvement and learning. Encourage employees to share their insights, challenges, and feedback on automation tools and processes. This iterative approach ensures that automation systems are continuously refined and aligned with the evolving needs of the industry.
  • Standardization and Data Governance: Establish robust data governance frameworks and standardized processes. This ensures data quality, consistency, and integrity across automated systems. Manual intervention can be employed to validate and verify data inputs, enhancing the accuracy of the automated processes.
  • Human Oversight and Review: Implement mechanisms for human oversight and review of automated processes.
  • Choosing the Right Partner: Choose a partner with specific domain and engineering data and applications expertise. In-depth knowledge, industry experience, and a collaborative approach to ensure that organizations can effectively benefit from automation while leveraging the critical role of manual expertise and effort when appropriate and pragmatic to do so.

Working with TecSurge can enhance the success of digital transformation initiatives, enabling organizations to achieve greater operational efficiency, productivity, and decision-making capabilities based on data that is complete, correct, and compliant.

If you are interested discussing what we can achieve working together, please leave a comment below or contact us.