NOV-DEC 2017

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SPECIAL SECTION decisions can be thought of as management (IT), which, as we will see, is critically impor - tant for the future of automation. Increasing speed of business As the speed of industry steadily increased over the past decade, critical business variables that were once constant, such as the price of electricity, have begun to fluctuate quite frequently, sometimes as often as several times an hour. When we entered the age of real-time business variability, industrial businesses went from being very well controlled to being completely out of control, mostly because they have been traditionally managed on monthly cycles. Today, by the time business managers re ceive their monthly updates from whatever en- terprise resource planning (ERP) systems they use, the information is no longer relevant to the deci- sions they need to make (or should have made). In other words, important business decisions, such as how to improve operational profitability, have slowly migrated out of the transactional/business management domain (IT) and into the real-time control domain (OT). Business executives have been at a loss as to how to respond to this real-time business conundrum. Their first attempt was to seek help from their IT teams. Unfortunately, while IT teams and ERP soft- ware are well suited for managing transactional business functions, they are not equally suited for performing real-time control. That meant man- agers needed to look elsewhere, and they turned to the people in their organizations who best un- derstand real-time control and have the needed expertise and knowledge: automation profession- als. Real-time control is their domain; they are best able fill this industry gap. As a result, it is becoming clear that automa- tion professionals, who have traditionally focused strictly on improving the efficiency of the operation using real-time process and logic control, will soon become responsible for controlling real-time busi- ness performance too. However, because many of these professionals are not business trained, they are reticent to take the lead. The good news is that even without such training, by breaking down real- time business challenges into basic requirements, they are in an excellent position to succeed. That leaves many of them wondering what exactly their future looks like. Developing real-time business control Breaking down real-time business control prob- lems into basic components is rather straight- forward. As with any other control loop, the first requirement is to develop the measurements that need to be con- trolled. This might seem daunting at first, since so many mea- surements are used to manage the busi- ness. However, not ev- ery business variable fluctuates faster than monthly. Only those that do require real- time measurement and control, and there are really only three of them: energy cost, material cost, and production value. For our purposes, we define energy cost as the price of energy at the time it is consumed times the quantity consumed. Material cost is the price of the material at the time it is consumed times the quantity consumed. And production value is the value of the products at the time they are produced times the amount produced. Notice that, histori- cally, consumption and production amounts var- ied in real time, but financial values were essen- tially constant for at least a month. Today, both the quantities and the financial values change in real time, which is the core business control challenge. Once the real-time business measurements are developed for each cost and process point in the production, the next step is to provide a mechanism to control those variables. Auto- matic business control mechanisms are bound to be developed over time and through experi- ence, but until that occurs, applying manual control makes the most sense. Manual process control preceded automatic control, that is to say, manual process control evolved to automatic control. Operators used to look at gauges to determine the value of process variables. They compared that value to the desired set points, and, if there was an error between the set point and the measured value, adjusted hand valves to return the value to the set point. That is manual process control, and it worked quite well. A similar manual approach could be devel- oped for real-time business control, utilizing decision-support mechanisms that are pow- ered by real-time business measurements. If the objective of decision support is to help manually close various control loops, such as process, reliability, and profitability, it can help close real-time business control loops too. Then, as soon as there is enough manual, real- time business control experience, understand- ing how to close these business control loops automatically is bound to follow, which is how control typically evolves. FAST FORWARD l Industrial organizations are rethinking the validity of keeping IT and OT separate, suggesting that converging the two would be beneficial. l Real-time automation principles applied to control production efficiency increase manufacturing profitability. l As the speed of industry steadily increased over the past decade, critical business variables began to fluctuate quite frequently, requiring real-time control and optimization. INTECH NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 41

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