Key innovation concepts to impact frontline engineers in 2020

Mike Edwards   

Features Industry 4.0 Yokogawa

Across North America, there are more than 2,500 processing plants in the gas processing, oil refining, bulk petrochemicals, and chemicals markets. This plant population represents a large number of frontline engineers and technical managers whose professional lives will become increasingly impacted by the growing adoption of disruptive digital technologies and digital platforms.

Why focus on frontline engineers?

Frontline engineers and managers represent the large cohort of people who are, and will continue to be, impacted the most by Industry 4.0 shifts and trends. They constitute a large proportion of the overall labor pool and in many countries are a big influencer of competitiveness of domestic manufacturing.

Senior management has the biggest ability to orchestrate major change in these plants. However, the implications of such changes are felt the most by operators through the actions of frontline engineers and managers. It is crucial that these 12 key areas for effective operations are given appropriate consideration and then matured accordingly.

Can plant management get a head start on how to advance these key areas?

The much-publicized Gartner hype cycle for graphically representing the maturity, adoption, and social application of new technologies is a neat and simple source of insight. However, it is not helpful for assuring frontline engineers of what their workplace will look like in the future. It is also not helpful for future decision-makers who are trying to allocate resources to build, buy, or make purchase decisions around materials, equipment, hardware, software, and services.

These decision-makers – human or machine – are trying their best to make optimal decisions on the best, albeit imperfect, information at their disposal.

The hype curve adds yet more noise and cloudiness into what is already a fast-paced decision space; one that is only getting faster. It is called a “hype” cycle – sometimes fad cycle – for a reason: lots and lots of innovations, driving huge expectations, existing on the up-slope, with only a few making it through to the trough of disillusionment and out the other end for mainstream adoption.

To help cut through the noise and smoke/mirrors, there are five key innovation concepts for 2020, that will be essential to understand and adopt, giving those that do, a head start on delivering effective operations.

This article is excerpted from a white paper by Yokogawa.

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