Paths to Autonomy
With process industries moving closer to being autonomous, many operating companies are implementing unattended operations. This is especially true for highly complex, remote, and hazardous facilities. But there are other ways for companies to adopt industrial autonomy, such as building greenfield autonomous plants and deploying autonomous technologies and components in existing plants.
Not only can production processes be made autonomous, so can higher-level functions. Autonomy could expand beyond its traditional focus on controls and efficiency to include safety, reliability, margin optimization, compliance, supply chain management, and other manufacturing functions.
Several mixed states or levels of autonomy will be possible in the future, but plant personnel will need to be part of operations to work with industrial automation and autonomous systems. Their roles will change as they take on higher value-added activities and use real-time production information to make timelier and better decisions.
The Road Ahead
Achieving autonomy even on a small scale in the process industries can bestow benefits. Increased integration of automation and domain applications, for instance, will eliminate human error, provide uninterrupted operations, and remove people from remote or hazardous environments.
In the short to mid-term, completely autonomous plants will be unlikely, but expect to see some functions becoming autonomous to some level based on the application, needs, and cost-benefit ratio.
Most companies in the process industry operate at the Automated level or below on the autonomy scale, while those at the Semi-Autonomous level may remain in that state for a long time as they wait for technology, trust, and workforce dynamics to advance. In these cases, human intervention and decision-making – augmented by industrial autonomy - will remain important as plant personnel learn to work alongside autonomous systems.
Digital Transformation Leaders Need to Move to Autonomy
Digital transformation leaders have the challenging and complex task of transforming operations, getting people, processes, and technology to work together, and leading their organizations on the journey to a successful digital transformation that will make operations sustainable, smart, and autonomous. To have a better understanding of IA2IA and succeed in this journey, read our IA2IA eBook, A Digital Transformation Leaders' Guide to Industrial Autonomy . In this eBook, you will learn more about IA2IA and how Yokogawa can help you with your journey towards autonomous operations.
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