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Phil Russell

Phil Russell

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New Horizons for Digital Transformation in Oil and Gas

In the oil and gas sector, extracting valuable resources and transforming them into usable assets is the name of the game. The digital transformation of this industry is not all that different. Incorporating technologies into the oil and gas sectors is all about extracting value in areas that are either under served or reliant on outdated systems and processes. In other words, digital transformation involves using technologies to make an a oil and gas company operate more efficiently. This work leads to greater output and improved financial performance.  Digital transformation is impacting all areas of the global oil and gas industries, including exploration and production (E&P) companies that search for hydrocarbon reservoirs, drill and sell raw materials; drilling companies that contract with E&P companies; refineries that purchase and manufacture energy products; well-servicing companies that construct and maintain drilling rigs; shipping companies that transport materials to global distribution centers; and regulatory bodies that govern all of the above organizations. Basically, everyone is turning their heads toward technology to provide solutions for issues in their businesses. Here are some specific examples of how digital transformation can impact the oil and gas sector today: A new reservoir of resources Before a company can start drilling, a team of engineers must plan ahead to form a safe and operationally efficient strategy that is also cost-effective. Drilling engineers create these plans, using a combination of engineering specialties, including completion engineering, operational engineering, production engineering, and reservoir engineering. Technological advancements in drilling engineering are helping companies tap into new reservoirs of natural gas and oil that were previously inaccessible. In the past, companies were typically confined to depths of about 30 meters when drilling for oil and gas. Now, companies are using extended reach drilling and advanced stimulation technology to better understand rock and fluid interactions. As a result, companies can drill deeper and more effectively than ever — all while reducing their environmental footprint. There are two types of well stimulation practices: Matrix stimulation, which involves acidizing wellborne areas in order to dissolve dolomite and limestone formations and make the reservoir rock more permeable. Hydraulic stimulation, which is the more common approach and involves forcing open fissures in subterranean rock formations using high pressure liquid in order to extract natural resources. Advancements in stimulation software have made it possible to create and execute well stimulation projects. MFrac, for instance, is a leading hydraulic program, while STIMPRO is used commonly for matrix acidizing analysis. Fabricating toward the future In the ultra-competitive oil and gas industry, time is critical for success. Broken parts need to be fabricated and replaced rapidly — especially in something like a central delivery point (CDP), where several different operators may use the same CDP system to process gas, separate natural gas liquids and different pressure gasses, and scrub hydrocarbons. Downtime in this type of system can impact multiple operations, driving the need for fast and cost-effective repairs. Over the past few years, oil and gas companies have been increasingly relying on additive engineering or 3D printing to enable affordable and timely part fabrication; 3D printing also makes it possible to manufacture parts locally, reducing travel time, and lowering total repair costs. For example, an oil rig in the Persian Gulf no longer has to ship a product from a plant in China or the U.S. Now, that part can be manufacured on-site. Looking forward, 3D printing will play a massive role in digital transformation for the oil and gas industry.  The key idea to remember when thinking about technology integration is that it should always be agency-driven. Integrating technology into your industry shouldn't be limiting your choices, it should be expanding them. 3D printing has allowed business to create parts for themselves so there is less time waiting on others to complete jobs. Finding new technological horizons for refining While we think that adopting technologies into one's business is invaluable in this current age, that doesn't mean that industry professionals always know how or why they should do it. The refining industry is at a crossroads right now with cracking the code for how they can use digital transformation to grow their businesses. Digitization is occurring in the refinery sector, albeit slowly. According to Accenture, 50 percent of oil refiners consider themselves to be digital or semi-digital. But there is little evidence of advanced digital maturity beyond pilots and proofs of concept. “Most refineries have not moved beyond basic digital technologies like cloud technologies or next-generation advanced process control,” Accenture says. “More cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and edge computing are still not prevalent.” Right now, there are three major hurdles inhibiting digital adoption for refineries: Budgetary restrictions, a lack of strategy, and a lack of digital skills in the refinery workforce. “By failing to grow their digital operations, there is still significant potential value which refiners are not realizing,” Accenture continues. A good start for any refining business is to work through what problems they'd like to find digital solutions for. Then, begin documenting the data they currently have on that problem. No-code application development is able to start solving so many problems as long as you're able to input the data in a cleanly-formatted, and standardized manner. Machine learning improves R&D processes E&P companies need to know where to drill for oil. To determine the best locations, they rely on geophysical data gleaned from geophysicists, who conduct surveys using digital sensing instruments, which extract information from above and below the Earth’s surface. Over the last two decades, we have seen dramatic advances in geophysical software and instruments. Today, geophysicists are using advanced seismic processing solutions, prestack seismic interpretation, depth imaging, and quantitative predictive interpretation in order to figure out where to move their operations. Looking forward, artificial intelligence (AI) and similar technologies will play a massive role in helping geophysicists process the vast amounts of data they are collecting on a daily basis. In one example, machine learning is being applied to analyzing well log data. “Reliably predicting lithology becomes one of the key problems in reservoir characterization,” explains data scientist Tannistha Maiti. “In practice, combination of physical models, local geological knowledge, and experience to reduce large seismic and well log datasets into low-dimensional models of the Earth are used. Unfortunately, these simplified physical and geological assumptions do not always hold true in practice, making the inferred model highly uncertain and biased.” “This problem can be reformulated using general machine learning models,” Maiti continues. “Hence, it would be a good idea to predict the lithologies of the huge well dataset in a basin with some algorithms.” Machine learning is being implemented across industries because of its power and adaptability. Not only is it streamlining work processes, but it’s future-proofing businesses by growing with the data that is collected as opposed to only updating when a technician releases a new iteration of the software. Safety can improve with digital transformation Oil and gas companies are under enormous pressure to ensure their systems are operationally sound. This is critical for both personal and environmental safety. The BP oil explosion, for instance — which killed 11 people and resulted in one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time — was partially the result of valve malfunctions, leaks, and misinterpreted pressure tests. Technology is playing a much bigger role today in helping companies avoid this type of issue. Connected devices and sensors, for example, can now be embedded directly into various parts of a well and transmit data back for analysis. Advancements in big data and AI are also helping crew members notice trends and predict when equipment should be checked or repaired. It's easy to forget just how much new technologies play in making work environments safer, if implemented carefully and consciously. One of the first thoughts for any business wanting to digitally transform their business should be: how will this make my business and workers more safe? Conclusion We've covered a few key areas of oil and gas that have potential to improve through incorporating technology. All of these hurdles can be overcome with careful planning, and a conscious effort in trying to make your business run more smoothly and efficiently while also keeping your worker's safety in mind. The first step is always the hardest, but we hope this inspires you dig a little deeper, you'll be surprised what good things you'll bring to the surface!  

Five Tech Gadgets to Adopt into Your Construction Business in 2020

Incorporating technology into your construction business model will continue to be an important factor going into the new year. With so many different technological advancements happening all the time, it can be challenging to navigate what technology is going to prove the most valuable for your business and your workers. We’ve compiled a list of five tech gadgets that we think would be valuable additions to your construction business. Some of the key ideas we considered when compiling these five were safety, accessibility, and security. Check them out below: 1. Illumagear’s Halo Helmet Light Having proper lighting is important for your workers who are completing jobs in tough environments, especially when the work goes into the night. Traditionally, construction workers have used headlamps and stationary lamps around the site to illuminate the field. Ilumagear's Halo Helmet Light is great addition for your team because it provides a full 360 degree spectrum of light, illuminating the worker so they are visible to others while also illuminating their surroundings. Additionally, traditional headlamps burn through batteries left and right, the Halo light uses a rechargeable battery that lasts over 5 hours! It might seem like a trendy addition, but this head light isn't just sleek, it makes your workforce more safe and saves you money. 2. Kespry Construction Drones Adding a drone to your construction fleet might seem like a costly way to have visual documentation of your groundwork, but Kespry has designed a drone that does a lot more for construction. One of the first hurdles your workers might cross with drones is learning how to fly them. Kespry has made it simple. You can plan out a flight ahead of arriving to the site and the drone will follow your route, documenting the site as directed. It can produce survey-grade field data in less than 30 minutes from the air, and all of the data it collects it automatically stored on the cloud. That's right, not need for SD cards or data transfers; the drone does it all with a few directives to get it going. The Kespry drone reduces field surveying hours by 30 times and allows workers to complete jobs quicker with more efficiency. 3. Sonetics Rugged Headsets Sometimes half the battle on a construction site is making sure that coworkers can hear one another over loud machinery. Sonetics offers a great option to keep workers connected out in the field with the headsets. The headsets offer a rugged design that is completely hands-free. And it can withstand the demanding environment of construction. Sonetics offers one-way and two-way communication options that work wirelessly on the site, and on top of that, the headsets protects workers hearing with great noise reduction technology. The headset comes with a rechargeable battery and when fully charged it offers a whopping 44 hours of battery life before needing to be charged again. Sonetics is a great addition to any construction team, it makes workers lives safer and more connected. 4. Pillar Risk Management Technology One of the hardest aspects of managing any construction site is securing your assets and making sure the site remains safe for your workers and the public. Pillar offers a great product with their risk management technology. Hang that green sensor in your construction zone and it monitors your site for environmental hazards, gas leaks, asbestos, and more. The best part? It will automatically notify you view text message if there are any unexpected changed on the site whether you're away or present. All the data that your Pillar collects is stored in the cloud and accessible through their software so you can keep track of data collected by workers on the site, floor plans, building history, and more. The Pillar has a year long battery life too, so you won't have to worry about charging it every couple of days. 5. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active2 8.0" Today, any construction site can benefit from having tablets deployed at the work site. The hardest part about utilizing tablets in construction though is their durability. Samsung's Galaxy Tab Active2 is a great, affordable choice to bring into your workforce. The Active2 offers a ruggedized design that is also water-resistant, so your workers don't have to be afraid of getting it a little dirty. Samsung has also developed technologies that allow for security on the tablet while also acknowledging that construction workers are often wearing gloves and other headgear. Active2 offers a "glove mode" for gloved hands to navigate it, as well as a facial recognition software. The Active2 also comes equipped with a stylus for more precise actions on the touch screen, and has a camera so your workers can take on-site photos for documentation. One more thing With the addition of any tablet into the construction workforce, it's worth noting that you can start utilizing that mobile interface to design apps to automate workflows, better document work history, and more. AppSheet is a no-code platform that allows you to design powerful, agile, and flexible apps specifically for your work-related needs. All you need is the data organized nicely in GoogleSheets or Excel spreadsheet, and our software will start populating an app for you to build out. Check out our sample apps and get started designing your own! Conclusion Technology is changing the way we engage with our work in a number of ways. The construction industry is the perfect place to incorporate the latest in wearable tech, drones, and other IoT (internet of things) technologies to make work sites not only smarter, but safer. This is only a short list of the possibilities that are out there, but we think it's a great jumping off point to start thinking about concrete ways construction can benefit from digital adoption.

Four Concrete Ways Digitization is Transforming Construction

The construction industry is changing immensely through the adoption of digital technologies that provide solutions to tough problems at the job site and beyond. Construction companies are launching all kinds of digital transformation initiatives to automate workflows, connect construction sites and workers, provide better security and safety, and much more. In this post, we'll explore four tactics that are spurring technological change in the construction industry.  Construction management software With the advent of the cloud came an explosion in off-the-shelf construction programs that help professionals manage projects, finances, clients, and more. Today, most construction companies are using platforms like CoConstruct, Procore, RedTeam, and others to oversee daily operations. These solutions, however, typically lack flexibility and customization. No two construction companies are exactly alike. It’s unreasonable for a company to expect to find a program that can meet its exact needs. What’s more, these types of programs are also typically expensive to purchase and deploy. Beyond that, companies often get trapped and confined by the construction software that they use. It’s common to start using a program and become so reliant on it that you stop innovating and experimenting with other digital solutions. Out-of-box programs can pigeonhole a company into working a certain way. Teams will often shift the way they work to accommodate a new type of software — instead of utilizing software that matches the way they want to work. Biometric security sensors Another leading digital technology that we’re seeing in construction is biometrics, which is increasingly being used to help provide increased security for remote construction sites. Biometrics is a technical term that means body measurements and calculations. Basically, it’s using physical and behavioral characteristics to identify human beings. Construction sites are finding added security and protection through the use of biometric sensors such as fingerprint readers, as well as facial and voice recognition technology. “The construction sector has really woken up to the significant advancements that digital technology such as biometrics can offer them,” says Nick Wilkinson, head of human recognition systems at Workforce Management Solutions. “Not only does it help to improve site security and training compliance, it can provide management with a significant amount of useful data that can improve site efficiencies for future jobs. Biometrics was the first part of the jigsaw in the digital construction picture for many main contractors and will remain at its heart as the industry moves forward.” Internet of Things (IoT) In addition to software, we’re also seeing more connected devices coming to market in construction. Over the last decade, IoT has been steadily growing as more and more devices have become IP-enabled. As a result, construction sites have emerged as a leading IoT arena. For example, workers now wear a variety of sensors that collect and deliver data about their environment and performance. Sensors can be used to collect information related to air quality, body and surrounding temperature, location, heart rate, and other important factors. At the same time, companies are using IoT devices to track their fleets, streamline safety inspections for vehicles and machinery, assess construction quality, and anticipate project completion times.  Additionally, IoT devices make it possible to keep key stakeholders and customers informed with project updates. Using the IoT can also significantly boost the customer experience, leading to more projects and contracts in the long run. Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) The rise of the IoT and the ultra-connected, modern construction site has increased the need for reliable remote connectivity. Downtime, after all, can lead to lapses in data, system monitoring, and communication — grinding operations to a halt until service is restored and delaying projects. Now, construction sites are starting to use software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to establish virtual, fail-proof remote networks supported by link aggregation, centralized management functionality, and enhanced security. Conclusion The construction industry is barreling toward technological advancements to provide solutions to tough problems. We are already seeing plenty of different digital avenues that are changing the ways in which workers engage with the job site and beyond. Whether it be added security through the use of biometric sensor, the adoption of remote connectivity, utilizing software to streamline certain processes, and much more. Failing to hop on to the train now can lead to significant setbacks for your business. Best of all, adopting digital technologies doesn’t have to be daunting. And we promise that the hard work it takes to get the ball running will be worth it in the end.

How Mobile Apps Can Increase Your Construction Site Productivity

Finding ways to increase productivity at the work site is a major concern for many construction company owners. Often, there is a lack of standardization across construction teams; workers complete tasks differently, find shortcuts to get things down quicker, and record data often by hand. Adopting mobile apps is a great way to solve a lot of these problems while also offering powerful and flexible tools for workers to add to their tool-belt.  Many contractors are using (or building their own) apps for project management. One benefit of project management mobile apps is reducing the amount of paper needed on a job - especially drawings. Mobile apps are not only reducing the need for so much paperwork, but they also are centralizing your data. In the past, workers might need to fill out paperwork after visiting a site, and then deliver it, fax it, or scan it, when they get to the site office or back to their own. Using Mobile apps allows them to store and send data to everyone who needs it wherever there is a mobile signal. Many existing processes can be automated and provide important information for everyone involved on a construction project. Applications can be designed to track progress of projects to help save time and increase efficiency. Here are some ways mobile apps can help your construction company stay productive and agile in today’s fast-changing market: Better tracking of your job site Adopting a mobile infrastructure for your business doesn't just get rid of paper, it also allows you more flexibility and agility in tracking your workers' work and your assets whereabouts. Theft is a common problem on construction sites, particularly of valuable materials like tools, copper, and aluminum. Using radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices to track assets via mobile apps can help recover missing or stolen articles, while mobile surveillance can help reduce job site theft and increase employee productivity, especially at remote sites. In addition to the added protection over your job site, mobile tracking allows you to make smarter decisions when allocating resources between multiple sites and workers. Power to your payroll One of the biggest headaches of any business comes from tracking and recording of your workers' hours. Accountability can prove difficult when you're working systems that don't properly document the time in and out. Using mobile apps to file times sheets and process payroll can help boost efficiency, since workers can clock in on their mobile devices and report to work immediately on their mobile devices. Your apps can also give GPS tracking and bio-metric capabilities can also help reduce time fraud. And real-time information can be immediately processed via mobile apps, reducing response time and increasing efficiency. One example of this type of app is SurePayroll, which allows employees to access paychecks and other payroll details at their own convenience, and allows employers to access their payrolls even on the go. Whether it’s paying regular employees or independent contractors, employers can enter payroll, preview, and submit payroll at the touch of a button. Project Management and Collaboration Mobile apps can connect everyone involved on a construction project, from architects to engineers to project managers. Adopting these mobile technologies can help manage activities, employees, information, and processes associated with a given project and even control scheduling. Mobile apps allow project managers to download blueprints, sync information in real-time, and communicate with the job site even when they aren't on-site. One popular app for project management  is the Photo Measures App, which allows users to measure dimensions captured in photos. It has a user-friendly interface, and users can quickly record and save measurement on a frequent basis. Another app that helps reduce planning time and boost efficiency in construction projects is Plan Grid, which allows project managers to easily share plans, markups, photos, and reports with the entire project team from anywhere. PlanGrid can be used with or without an internet connection during construction to track revisions, document progress, and manage issues in the field while keeping everyone on the current set. Mobile Apps Reduce Constructions Costs The construction industry has been seriously challenged by rising costs and declining opportunities, placing increasing pressure on companies to make their processes more cost and time efficient.  According to Go Canvas, statistics show that 50 percent of a worker’s time while on the clock is devoted to wasteful activity caused by poor communication, inadequate management, or over-staffing. Meanwhile, construction companies are losing some $6.9 billion in inefficient processes among operations and maintenance staff, and $1.7 billion to outdated communications like paper forms. And large construction companies can waste some $3.5 million searching for information or recreating documents they couldn’t find. AppSheet can help you customize apps to boost your construction job site productivity and efficiency. Built with Google Sheets and AppSheet, the app automatically captures GPS locations, collections images, and allows customization of the collected data. Here are a couple sample apps that you can play around with to get started: Quote Calculator enables contractors to calculate payment owed based on services rendered, and is a useful tool to quickly and easily calculate costs of services. The app allows users to input numerical data in to the app, calculate and display the results, and save the entry for future recall. Repair Manual is a useful app for any business that needs to provide an instruction manual to employees or customers. This app has step-by-step instructions for repairing dry-wall, with helpful images that demonstrate each step clearly. Timesheet is an app easily tracks log times in and out to compute hours and calculate total wages, providing all necessary information for accounting or human resources departments. This app uses information capture via forms, app formulas, virtual columns, references, and image display. Let AppSheet help you raise the roof on your construction job site with custom mobile apps!  This post was updated on December 9th, 2019.

Five Great Gifts for the Construction Worker in Your Life

The holidays are quickly approaching and with them comes all the anxieties of finding the perfect gifts. It can be hard to figure out what sort of present to get loved ones whose job you’re not too familiar with, especially in something like construction. How do you pick gifts for your favorite tech-savvy construction professional?  We’ve got you covered with a list of some great tech related gadgets to check out, so you don’t have to buy your special someone a hammer or tool belt for the hundredth time! 1. ISOtunes PRO Bluetooth Earplug Headphones One thing that all construction workers are conscious of is their hearing. Working construction is not only a physically intensive job, but often a noisy one. ISOtunes earplugs are great because they not only function as traditional Bluetooth headphones so you can listen to music or podcasts, but they also utilize advanced, heat-activated memory foam technology to expand in the ear, providing a great reduction in outside noise. On top of that, the battery will last the whole workday and they are sweat and water resistant.  2. Cobra Portable Power JumPack There’s nothing worse than a worker’s vehicle or equipment dying while out at construction site. Cobra offers a variety of portable jumper packs — all waterproof and ready for a variety of weather conditions — that can get equipment up and running again. The portable device comes with detachable heavy-duty jumper cables, an emergency flashlight, and multiple USB ports. When this little guy isn’t jumping equipment, it can be charging portable devices like phones and tablets, so you never run out of battery. 3. OTYTY Rechargeable Portable Work Light When the job calls for a late-night assignment at the construction site, getting the proper lighting is always a struggle. OTYTY offers some great, affordable, work lights that are rechargeable and portable. Offering a rugged and waterproof design in addition to bright LED bulbs with three modes (Full brightness, low brightness, and flashing) these are perfect gifts for any person who is working into the night. 4. Milwaukee M12 Heated TOUGHSHELL Jacket Construction workers not only face long hours outside, but also a plethora of adverse weather conditions, especially the cold. Milwaukee Tool’s offers a great line of heated jackets that can keep workers warm even in the coldest conditions. The jacket is heated in both the chest and back, has a rechargeable battery, and offers a sleek design that workers can wear underneath any safety attire that’s required for the job site. 5. Runner Mobile Tech Gear Tablet Belt As the construction industry continues to adopt mobile technologies like tablets into its everyday practices, protecting these devices will save businesses and workers a lot of headaches. Runner Mobile Tech Gear offers a wide array of work belts coupled with case to keep tablets protected and easily accessible while out in the field. We really like their “Heavy Duty Tablet Belt” that offers a sturdy belt with a heavy-duty belt clip and security cord that prevents tablets from dropping. Conclusion The holidays are stressful enough to get through even without thinking about gifts. Gifts for construction can be more than traditional tools if you're willing to think a little outside the box and explore some cool new technology. We hope some of these ideas will help you out in checking off some presents from your shopping list. 

Tips for Inspiring Digital Change in Construction

  It's easy to get stuck in a "business as usual" routine, but the construction industry is seeing a lot of growth though through the adoption of innovative digital technology. Digital transformation, however, can take a bit quite a bit of work. That’s because digital transformation isn’t a typical IT purchase or upgrade but an ongoing process. With that in mind, here are some tips that you can use to inspire digital change in your construction company: Make it a team effort  At most companies, technology decisions are made by IT administrators and distributed across the company. Digital transformation, however, is much more comprehensive. It involves breaking down barriers between technical and non-technical workers. As such, close collaboration and communication is required for success. All department heads and managers should therefore be brought together to discuss digital transformation, identify needs and goals, determine project leaders, and form a game plan. Don’t attempt to go it alone when implementing digital transformation. If you do, you will almost certainly encounter push back from employees and department heads along the way. And the point of implementing these changes isn't just to make your business more efficient, but to also allow your workers more options and connectivity between each other. Focus on change — not outcomes Another reason why construction companies tend to struggle with digital transformation is because the process is fundamentally different than that of construction. In other words, construction projects always come to an end with a finished structure. Digital transformation, however, is a process that is never complete.  That might sound like a downside, but it's actually a benefit! The end goal is not a finished product but rather a state of agility where the company is constantly collecting data, analyzing its processes, and looking for better ways of doing business. With digital transformation, you have to have a growth mindset. Not everything is going to be perfect, but that just means you can be flexible in how you deal with problems. Target small wins The phrase digital transformation always sound great around a boardroom table. But beyond that, the term can be vague and confusing. Digital transformation projects can drag on for months or years with limited results simply due to a lack of cohesion — and a lack of action. For this reason, administrators are encouraged to start small with digital transformation. Set up “lighthouse” projects and assign teams to explore various departments, identify challenges, and experiment with digital projects. Here is an example of what this might look like: A lighthouse team could meet with a site manager and ask for a complete rundown of how the department operates. Then, once the team has a clear understanding of every process and individual involved in the unit, they can drill down into potential areas of waste or inefficiency and identify possible ways of automating the process. The key thing to remember is that implementing digital transformation into your company, while incredibly value, is not a quick process and you must take your time going through the proper steps to make your efforts worth the investment.  

7 Ways Digitization is Transforming the Manufacturing Industry

Early industrial automation systems, first deployed in the 1970’s, used integrated circuits — or microchips — to power miniature active and passive devices like transistors and capacitors. Today, most manufacturing companies are using automated manufacturing systems that integrate software and machinery, enabling computers to automatically control production.  Read on to learn some of the ways that digital transformation is impacting manufacturing. Artificial Intelligence (AI)  We hear a lot of scary stories about how AI will replace jobs. The flip side of fear around AI is that the technology should be a collaborative tool for workers to not only complete work more efficiently, but also to focus more on tasks they historically haven't had the time or resources to achieve. As the manufacturing industry seeks ways to automate workflows, increase productivity, and efficiency, companies are looking to AI. Through the adoption of AI machine which are able to perform complex tasks and, through repeated performance, learn better, more efficient practices over time in the field. AI combines a plethora of different methodologies, including deep learning, machine learning, neural networks, natural language processing, and more. Basically, AI is a lean, mean, learning machine, revolutionizing the ways workers engage with their work. Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) For the better part of the last decade, the IoT — a global network of connected, IP-enabled devices — has been steadily growing and advancing. In the manufacturing sector, there’s the IIoT, which specifically refers to intelligent devices and sensors that collect data from the manufacturing floor for use in AI, machine learning, and predictive analytics systems.  To give you a sense of the magnitude of this transformation, the IIoT market is expected to reach $124 billion by 2021. And by 2030, IIoT could add $14.2 trillion to the global economy. Open process automation Until now, the manufacturing industry has been using programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and distributed control systems (DCSs) for process automation. A PLC is a ruggedized digital computer used for controlling processes like assembly lines and robotic devices. DCSs, which typically interface with PLCs, are used to control operations of large plants using GUI screens. The main downside to these systems is that they are usually proprietary and, as a result, are difficult to maintain and update. In search for a better way, the manufacturing industry is starting to migrate to open process automation solutions, which are easier to use and more cost-effective to manage. Additive manufacturing Commonly referred to as 3D printing, additive manufacturing involves using computer-aided design (CAD) and object scanners to layer material and form geometric parts. 3D printing removes many of the costly and time-consuming elements of manufacturing, such as carving and shaping. As a result, companies can design products faster and more affordably than they could in the past. In this day and age, who has time to wait around for a replacement part to be processed and shipped out to your business? Additive manufacturing is putting the power in your hands to print what you need, when you need it.    One of the most exciting aspects of additive manufacturing is its potential to transform the space industry. Thanks to additive manufacturing, astronauts can print objects and assemble units in space without having to transport materials from earth. Additive manufacturing is also proving to be helpful for companies that have workers in remote, hard-to-reach areas. What’s more, additive manufacturing can reduce expensive shipping costs, and it can allow construction projects to be completed much faster. Asset management A manufacturing company depends entirely on the quality and availability of its operational resources. In the past, these assets were managed manually using staff members, paper, and spreadsheets — a system that opened the door for error, abuse, safety hazards, and system errors, among other pitfalls. In the spirit of digital transformation, the industry is moving toward asset performance management (APM). According to Gartner, APM “encompasses the capabilities of data capture, integration, visualization, and analytics tied together for the explicit purpose of improving the reliability and availability of physical assets.” In short, APM involves automating asset control, providing a streamlined way to manage and control everything from fleets to assembly lines to forklifts, and everything in between. Edge computing As manufacturing environments become more connected and cloud-based, companies are being forced to find new ways to move data. Transferring large amounts of data over long distances to a centralized server can lead to data bottlenecks, latency, and other problems. To solve these problems, manufacturing environments are moving data towards the “edge” of the network. An edge computing framework leverages distributed, open architectures to process select data locally — vastly improving performance. Through edge computing, manufacturing companies can reduce resource-intensive long-haul data transfers and latency. For example, imagine a sensor recording anomalies on a milk bottle assembly line. Instead of taking photographs of every single milk bottle, a sensor can instead be trained to identify broken or deformed items — transporting less information and reducing data bottlenecks along the way. Connected systems and devices The influx of connected systems and devices in manufacturing has increased the need for fast, scalable, and reliable networks. Many manufacturing facilities are integrating SD-WAN as a way to augment or replace their expiring multiprotocol packet layer switching (MPLS) networks. SD-WAN involves separating the networking hardware from the control plane, enabling multi-site manufacturing facilities to create a centralized virtual network that can be deployed and managed from a single location. In doing so, it’s possible to allocate network resources, control costs, improve security, and reduce downtime across a global private network. Conclusion Manufacturing is an incredibly complicated process that is made harder with out-of-date software. Thankfully, the industry is coming out of the dark and embracing the light. Through digitization, manufacturing is collaborating with artificial intelligence that not only automates processes, but also seeks to continually learn new ways of increasing productivity, efficiency, and safety in the workplace. We’d love to hear how you’re implementing digital solutions to your manufacturing business, and we’re always here to answer any questions you might have. Can’t wait to hear from you.

What Manufacturers Can Expect From Going Digital

We live in a time where technology is leading the way in the ever-changing ecosystem of major industries such as oil and gas, healthcare, construction, and of course, manufacturing. Today, so many companies are undergoing digital transformation, and manufacturers must modernize their operations in order to keep up with the competition. Automation of workflows, data recording, agile management, and cutting-edge technologies are all critical for success. These improvements save companies from obsolescence. But let's get down to the good stuff of digital transformation. Here are the benefits that manufacturers can expect after going digital: Cost reductions One of the top reasons why companies implement digital transformation is to identify wasteful processes and curb costs. Often, companies will discover areas of waste that they weren’t previously aware of thanks to the various data-driven tracking mechanisms digitization offers. As a result, digital transformation can result in a leaner and tighter manufacturing environment. A manufacturing company may implement statistical process control to identify faulty products on an assembly line. Using sensors and cameras, it’s possible to disseminate individual anomalies from large-scale errors that could lead to recalls once products are shipped to distributors. Improved accountability Manufacturing facilities are fast-paced environments where hundreds of workers may collaborate on a single project. Aerospace engineering, for instance, requires impeccable communication and strong accountability. Tasks must be sequentially signed-off on and completed in order to ensure safety and compliance. This is something that’s easy to overlook when using paper and spreadsheet management systems — especially if they are all operating across disparate channels. In the past, it was easy to lose paper-based spreadsheets and field reports. A worker could forget or misplace important data while navigating within or between warehouses; someone’s handwriting might be illegible. There are a variety of issues that can arise when you’re allowing so much variance in how data is tracked within your company. To increase efficiency, many companies are now using digital apps to accelerate approvals, improve accountability, and ensure regulatory compliance. During automobile assembly, certain processes need to be checked at various stages of production. For example, manufacturers need to make sure lights and horns are installed correctly. By the time a car gets to the final inspection process, all systems should be signed off on by an authorized technician. By using an app, a team can see who inspected a certain process, when it was approved, and by who. Increased visibility Productivity can be difficult to track in a manufacturing facility. Managers might have reduced visibility into what happens on a production floor, on the road, or in a warehouse, for example. Using new technologies — like wearables, apps, cameras, and sensors — can give managers a centralized view of what’s happening across all of their facilities and teams. These technologies enable autonomy while making it possible to keep managers informed about progress. They also keep workers engaged and focused on their jobs. Consider this: According to IDC, about 40 percent of technology spend across all industries will be put toward digital transformation this year. Suffice it to say digital transformation is something that almost every company is taking part in. Hard work, planning, and communication Now is the time to form a sound digital transformation plan and become an early adopter of next-generation technologies. It’s better to act now than to fall behind as competitors continue to move digital transformation initiatives forward. There is a massive digital divide emerging. We expect this will get even larger in the years to come. So, what does it take to turn your company into a digital-first organization? Hard work, planning, communication, and teamwork are all necessary to advance digital transformation projects beyond their pilot phase. Businesses often underestimate the process and wind up abandoning their digital transformation projects before they reach maturity and see the true fruits of their labor. But we promise that taking the time to implement these digital assets into your business will not only make your work easier, but it will also give you more power to make your ambitions for your company become reality.  

Five Ways Mobile Apps Boost Field Service Productivity

Are you a field service provider contemplating jumping on the mobile bandwagon? Are you stuck on the fence, wondering if it will provide ROI and actually be worth the effort? Do you want to make your company a mean, lean, providing machine? The good news is that mobile apps empower field service agents to boost productivity, improve service quality, and increase customer satisfaction. These factors combined help provide a higher, more efficient return. Mobile apps are transforming the efficacy of field services across industries. As companies invest in mobile service applications for remote workers, they are seeing excellent results, and mobile apps are now a main IT concern for field service industries such as construction, equipment manufacturing, and other service-focused fields. Here are five reasons to equip your field service technicians with the appropriate mobile tools to help them get the job done right the first time. Use real-time data to make key decisions, and track and assess tasks. Using real-time data with your mobile apps in the field allows techs to collect and sync information with the back office to create an immediate response. Mobile apps provide transparency and accountability in real-time at every step of the service process ensuring customer satisfaction, efficiency, and better outcomes.  Schedule the right technician for each job and connect the team. Using mobile apps that connect to centralized visual scheduling software boosts field service management efficacy. Schedulers can more easily send the best tech for the assignment based on real-time technician location, availability, and skill set, and allows all agents in the field to be connected to each other and to the home office. This real-time connection allows for a more informed, accountable team. Maintain lean spare parts inventory. Using mobile apps to track inventory and compare it to client product needs allow organizations to maintain a leaner spare parts inventory, thus reducing investment in stock that sits around. With a connected mobile app, spare parts consumption is visible from anywhere in the organization: service vans, offices, warehouses, and more. Improve customer relations. Mobile apps provide easy access to field service history, and equipment and repair information, thus helping insure better communication and services with clients. Mobile apps provide records in real-time, on location, resulting in better customer service relationships. Techs using mobile apps can report on-site equipped with the appropriate parts and knowledge of the service history of the equipment, allowing them to do the job quickly and correctly. Enable verification and consistency of completed work. Verify on-site work via photos and signature collection and utilize centralized inspections and field forms to insure consistency. Mobile apps allow techs to document completed work by taking photos on mobile devices and can capture customer signatures for work orders, billing, and other authorizations. By creating mobile apps with standard field forms including checklists, audits, and other fields. Organizations can ensure that their field techs are carrying out their duties in a consistent and efficient manner. The future of field service is digital. Field service management is being revolutionized by mobile apps. These applications provide simple, trackable solutions to workflow such as managing field data and equipment inspections to transporting materials. The oil and gas industry are prime examples for showing the immense growth of  service through the adoption of mobile apps to their platforms. A recent white paper from CDW stated, these companies already face a number of dynamic challenges in their efforts to produce, sell, and distribute energy, and “energy businesses are reviewing their IT strategies and solutions, including their field service mobility strategies. According to Oil and Gas IQ, an energy website, employees in the oil and gas sector are already ahead of this trend, with 71 percent of workers using mobile devices for work purposes. Ultimately, the CDW white paper concluded, “With a choice of mobile devices, capable of anytime, anywhere access to data, IT decision-makers view field service mobility as the perfect vehicle for improving field operations, increasing customer satisfaction and transforming it from a cost center into a differentiating asset – or better yet, a profit center.” And creating unique mobile apps, designed for your specific needs, can take your company further. AppSheet can help develop custom apps to fit your needs. See how you can get started today! This blog post was updated on November 7th, 2019.

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