Digitization vs. Tradition

Digitization vs. Tradition

November 11, 2020

Digital technologies and Brownfield

Werner Worringen

Werner Worringen

Digitization is a must for companies who want to be competitive. There is no ‘Shall we’ or ‘Shall we not’.  Ask yourself: Where are you right now in your digitization journey? Are you an early adaptor or maybe even a disruptor? Or do you belong to the average group of traditionalists, adopting slowly to new changes?

Maybe that’s our fate. As a brownfield provider, we are a little attached to Industry 1.0. We can’t deny the fact.  But at the same time,  we want to enjoy the advantages of Industry 4.0.  You cannot ignore the tremendous possibilities of digitization and digital transformation. Can we go digital and traditional at the very same time? 

Excursus: What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is one of the keywords which always comes up in a discussion about industry 4.0 or IIoT. Or, in other words, you can not imagine industry 4.0 without digital transformation. Digital transformation means that digital technology is integrated into all areas of a business. It changes the way how employees operate, how they walk the extra mile for customers. Of course it’ our all goal to make customers happy and ensure the well-being of all. Digital transformation is not only a technical change. It supports a new culture of questioning why we do the things that we do. Are there better, smarter ways to obtain the requested results? How can we achieve even more insights?  For the process industry, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is a significant milestone. Now our task is not only about automating technology, but to create machines that are able to work autonomous and to communicate with each other.

Memories of Industry 1.0


My old model railroad steam locomotive

Please have a look at the picture. This is my old model railroad steam locomotive. Meanwhile, it’s over fifty years old and it is a well-loved and cherished part of my childhood. Okay, to be honest, it sits in a suitcase in the basement. This locomotive is definitely industry 1.0, but I won’t give it away.

Can you think of technology which is more analog than this model? Hard to imagine, right?

You put it on the rails, regulate the traction current at the transformer, and then it runs. And then all the other trains run as well. And if the express train threatens to run into the freight train in front and there is no signal to brake it, you quickly set the traction current to zero. Then everything stops. That’s something you can’t even imagine at Deutsche Bahn (Germany’s rail operator).

The early days of digitization

But to make playing more realistic and fun, model train manufacturers invented digital model train operation decades ago (Industry 3.0). From then on, each locomotive could be controlled digitally and individually. With a retrofittable decoder, even a brownfield model understands the commands and runs in digital operation, even if not quite the full range of functions is available. Well, there you go.

One should not overstress comparisons. There are many reasons not to use steam locomotives today. But our tens of thousands of installed and proven analog sensors and analyzers do not want and cannot be replaced immediately. We can only do so when it makes economic sense. Until then, it is enough if they can play along with their digital colleagues.

 Concepts for digitization

Which insights did we receive for transformation concepts? A very useful tool is a data management system. With a data management system that is used as a gateway, the worlds of analog and digital systems are combined into one system. For example, they can be elevated to OPC UA communication. The evaluated data delivers further insights and measurements which have to be taken. So Brownfield is moving towards digitalization without having to wait for completely digital systems.

digitization data management systemAre you ready? Seatbelts fastened? Let’s rush towards digitization at full speed!

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