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Four Ways Digital Transformation Can Help Mitigate Risks at Your Facility


The safest process is one that is running smoothly. This is a simple principle that would seem easy to follow, but unfortunately equipment in manufacturing plants doesn’t always operate that way. From electrical or mechanical failures to build-ups in heat exchangers, there are all kinds of reasons why your facility may not be running the way it should.

When there are upsets in your process, that’s when things get risky. Not only do these problems make your process more dangerous, but addressing those failures can add risk factors like dominos waiting to topple over. Some days it may feel like you’re constantly putting out fires at your facility.

Fortunately, technology can help. Here are four ways that digitalization can help you mitigate risks in your process.

1. Reduce the Number of Shutdowns You Experience

By utilizing digitalization tools, you can avoid relying on assumptions and instead make informed decisions that will help prevent unnecessary losses and failures.

Digitalization combines different signals from installed sensors and utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to compare your current state with the past to determine if anything looks unusual. This gives you better insight into your processes. For example, it helps you determine what went wrong with a bad batch or identify early warning indicators before total equipment failure.

Knowledge is power – there are many accidents and losses that can be avoided by making your process more predictable through digitalization.

2. Use AI for Predictive Maintenance and Planned Shutdowns

While an unplanned or emergency shutdown is never good, sometimes a failure is unavoidable.
Forcing a shutdown means you’re caught between a rock and a hard place. You must act quickly to prevent a serious outcome such as an explosion or severe equipment damage. No one wants to be forced into quick shutdown decisions in an emergency situation.

After an emergency shutdown, the cleanup starts. Batches have to be dumped, vessels drained, lines purged. Then all hands are on deck, scrambling to get the process up and running.

While emergencies aren’t 100% avoidable, digital twin models help you plan shutdowns safely and deal with problems on your own terms. Based on real-time data, your AI tools can predict how many days of runtime are remaining. This means you can plan shutdowns at optimal times in between batches or based on manpower availability.

3. Present Operators the Information They Need Using Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Screens

Another aspect of digitalization is addressing what data to show and when to show it. Operators need the right information so they can make informed decisions without being overwhelmed by too much or poorly organized data. It’s easy to miss important data when hidden in screens of numbers.

That’s where KPI screens come in. They allow operators to easily visualize what a steady state looks like, which means they can monitor the system more effectively. AI tools alert operators of potential process deviations before issues snowball. This allows the operator to be proactive in addressing process problems.

4. Utilize Digital Training Tools to Help Operators Make More Effective Choices

Not only do your operators need the ability to visualize how the system is running and be alerted when problems arise, they need to be properly trained to resolve the situation when alarms go off. Training is an often overlooked component of digitalization.

Augmented reality can be used to train employees and for remote support. Going beyond a boring PowerPoint, augmented reality training lets your operator ‘walk’ through a digital version of your actual facility and experience what it’s like to remove and replace parts, operate equipment, and work with their system. Augmented reality can also allow a remote expert to more effectively engage with your on-site staff.

In an emergency, if your operator only has a few seconds to make a judgement call, there’s a higher probability of a poor decision. The more training and experience you can provide your team to prepare them, the better the decisions they will make.

Starting Your Digital Transformation Journey

Wondering where to start in your digitalization journey? Read this article.

Regardless of where you are, Hargrove can create customized solutions that mitigate your risk and provide the greatest return on your investment. To learn more about Hargrove’s digitalization capabilities, contact us .

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