Different Strokes for Different Folks: Data Analytics Deployment Options

More and more manufacturers are incorporating data analytics as part of their strategy for plant- and enterprise-wide optimization. For years process manufacturers have been collecting and storing their production data. The value proposition behind growth of advanced analytics solutions is that manufacturers can sift through the data and uncover new insights that could be worth their weight in gold. So, while there’s little debate over the potential value of data analytics in manufacturing, there continues to be a debate over how best to deploy these solutions.

If you’re exploring different data analytics offerings like control loop performance monitoring (CLPM) technology, then it would be worthwhile to contemplate the different deployment options that are available and choose the one which best suits the goals and resources at your facility. Consider the following three (3) options:

  • Owning It All

    Most manufacturers tend to purchase all of the hardware and the software that’s needed to deploy a data analytics solution. There’s the financial benefit of owning the technology assets and depreciating the associated expenses over time. Additionally, a purchase links the manufacturer directly to the technology providers for support. There’s no ‘middleman’ to go thru when something goes wrong, and a site’s internal staff are often the best equipped for applying technology to the unique aspects of their production processes.

For some manufacturers, the downside of owning technology is the need for resources who can fully capitalize on the investment. Once a data analytics solution is deployed and configured, someone – maybe several staff – needs to be both trained to use the technology and committed to doing just that. For manufacturers with smaller staff, this can be the factor that puts a limit on the technology’s ultimate ROI.

This option seems to work best for manufacturers who have a strong bench of dedicated resources.

  • Maintaining Flexibility

A growing number of manufacturers who purchase CLPM software or other data analytics technologies combine services with their license agreement. Most services agreements are flexible in nature, committing the manufacturer only to the amount or type of support that’s needed. Since many analytics offerings can be accessed via remote means, vendors are able to supply services via the Cloud as well as via a more traditional on-site model. The services can vary from running reports and prioritizing opportunities to performing advanced root-cause analysis and implementing solutions.

The Achilles Heel for some technology vendors is the depth of their application team. The process industries are broad, and a vendor may lack subject matter expertise within a particular manufacturer’s market segment. Someone with rich knowledge of Mining may be limited in his/her ability to supply an Oil Refinery with nuanced insights.

This option can be ideal for manufacturers that need a modest supplement to their existing team.

  • Staying Focused

Some manufacturers approach data analytics and software-based solutions differently. They choose to focus on their area of operational expertise, engaging either the vendor or a certified system integrator to apply the technology on an appropriate basis. This approach allows for services to be delivered as either a compliment to a perpetual software license agreement or as part of a lease to the associated technology. The key benefit to the manufacturer: Someone trained in the use of the tool is always on the job.

While this approach assures that the technology is applied by experts, it binds the manufacturer to the vendor for the long-term – an aspect that can be either advantageous or disadvantageous. The production facility’s staff are dependent on the services provider. Without training and experience, they’re unable to tap into the technology’s full capabilities.

This option is good for manufacturers that focus on their core competency as a business strategy.

Understanding your facility’s ability to implement and use technology is key to a successful, long-term data analytics initiative. When investigating the different technologies available in the market, be sure to inquire about the different services options each vendor offers. Whether it’s a CLPM solution like PlantESP or another analytics platform, matching the services model with your particular services needs is a good place to start.

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