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OSIsoft builds connections as OT meets IT

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” is an adage attributed to management theorist Peter Drucker, and it’s especially applicable to the world of heavy industry. Managers need to measure more than their inputs and outputs; they also need to understand how equipment performance is impacting those two variables.

Using software to improve operational technology is one of the many opportunities emerging with the internet of things, but it’s hardly a new idea. OSIsoft has been integrating machine data with user-friendly IT systems since 1980, and founder/CEO Patrick Kennedy has a big picture perspective on the current buzz around the internet of things.

“When people talk about big data analytics and the IoT, what they’re really talking about is improving the way something runs today,” Kennedy said. OSIsoft specializes in making legacy equipment “smart,” which is almost always a less expensive choice than rebuilding a factory from scratch to leverage IoT technologies.

“Our focus is on making sure we have all the interfaces down, the ability to go in while the facilities are running, put the software in and make sure the people get the benefits immediately,” Kennedy said.  “Most of the systems going in today have a data layer, a human layer, and maybe the more advanced have some artificial intelligence.” He expects future generations of factory and mining equipment to have knowledge-based systems built in, and says this will mark the true digital transformation of industry.

In the meantime, connecting machines to the internet of things means bringing the data they generate into user-friendly software. In many cases, that means adding wireless sensors to existing equipment and using software like OSIsoft’s PI System to translate the machine data into a format that can be analyzed and manipulated using personal computers or smartphones.

Kennedy said energy conservation is currently the number one driver of IoT deployments in industrial settings. “Everyone initially goes for energy because energy costs are a major part of the cost of these products,” he said.  “When these plants were built, essentially energy was considered a low-cost part of the operations and that’s not true today.” In addition, stabilizing energy use can also support operational reliability.

Reliability can be worth millions of dollars to companies that operate equipment 24/7 in remote locations. For example, Dong Energy expects to save $24 million a year by 2020 by monitoring its offshore wind turbines using OSIsoft’s PI System.

Quality control is another initiative that can generate meaningful cost savings through IoT technologies. Monitoring equipment doesn’t just mean finding failures faster; it means avoiding failures altogether.

“What most of the industry has found is that you can’t create high quality from inspection,” explained Kennedy. “Inspection just highlights that there’s a problem. The high quality comes from stabilizing the process in the first place.”

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