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Sustainability in the Age of Disruption: How Industrial Companies are Adapting

July 3, 2024
As artificial intelligence unlocks the true value of digital insights, industrial companies are building connected ecosystems to foster more sustainable ways of doing business, while getting a head start on their competitors.

Even as the global economy heads to a soft landing, concerns over disruption and fragmentation remain dominant business themes this year. Renewed geopolitical tensions are affecting supply routes, while mounting fragmentation is influencing both trade and climate issues.

How does a chief executive prepare for abnormal events?

Some disruption is normal, and even expected in the course of doing business, but the scale of recent events necessitates more agile responses to more frequent disruption.

Supply chains and consumer demand now react more strongly than we’re accustomed to—abnormally, you might say—to potential events.

At the same time, the impact of climate change is something we must take into account as we plan for the future. Extreme weather events can take out power grids and slow logistics operations. Global heating is already driving up the cost of raw materials, and climate-related regulation continues to evolve as the world looks to cut emissions to 43% of 2019 levels within just six years.

To turn these challenges into opportunities, emerging technologies that span the entire business ecosystem will be key to enabling crucial business transformation and agility in 2024.

Learning from Others’ Success

Companies that invest in cutting-edge digital technologies today will begin to pull away from the rest of the pack. Conversely, those who don’t, run the risk of being left behind. Most recently, companies that amplified investments in cloud, AI and other technologies during the pandemic were growing revenue at five times the rate of late adopters beginning their digital journey just a year later, according to Accenture.

Across the industrial spectrum, businesses are turning to digital twins, artificial intelligence, and ecosystem-wide industrial intelligence to build competitive advantages. In a challenging business environment, these technologies can help achieve profit targets while also supporting positive outcomes for people and the planet. In fact, industrial players are already seeing significant results.

READ MORE: Using AI and Edge Computing for Supply Chain Engineering

SCG Chemicals in Thailand, one of the country’s largest petrochemical companies, gains real-time, end-to-end visibility into engineering, operations, and maintenance processes with a virtual three-dimensional plant with immersive, touch-based visualization tools. Through better understanding and tracking of data and KPIs, teams can find the information they need in less than 10 seconds. Plant reliability rose to nearly 100%, and the company achieved 9x its return on investment in just six months.

Syscom has worked with Dubai Municipality to design and set up a system for overseeing hundreds of remote sites. By offering predictive data, analysis, and monitoring and control capabilities, the solution has boosted productivity and efficiency by 21%. Notably, the heightened visibility has enabled Dubai Municipality to achieve daily savings of $2 million through water reuse initiatives.

RHI Magnesita relies on performance data to carry out predictive maintenance for its customers’ high-temperature industrial furnaces around the world. A global connected-machines architecture enables the refractory materials supplier to predict refractory consumption for up to six months with an accuracy of more than 80%. It shares these benefits with its client network, advising on when to repair units and reorder new materials, increasing coordination and efficiency for client and supplier alike, while reducing energy, downtime and waste.

As we see industrial players increasingly embrace innovative technologies to enhance sustainability and profitability, the significance of technology in shaping industrial ecosystems becomes increasingly evident.

The Technology Transforming Industrial Ecosystems

Taking a cue from nature, it’s clear that success lies in an ecosystem-first approach to data and insight. Built around the integrated digital twin and overlaid with AI, a connected industrial ecosystem delivers tangible benefits to all members of the value network.

By bringing together data from across the industrial lifecycle, these trusted applications drive meaningful insights and efficiency. The cloud enables teams to view this integrated data in context, anywhere. This visibility empowers teams to collaborate and operate from a common reference point, giving them the confidence to make decisions quickly.

READ MORE: How Generative AI is Improving Information Retrieval for Engineers 

This common reference point relies on the use of a digital twin. Defined as a virtual representation of a physical asset or process, it serves as the single source of truth for authorized stakeholders at every step of the product or process lifecycle. It can be used to forecast potential maintenance issues; find ways to use fewer resources; and can even be used to tackle the skills shortage by way of virtual training, optimized workflows and remote maintenance.

Bringing industrial and generative AI technologies to this golden digital data thread strengthens these capabilities. Indeed, this combination supports optioneering, predicts maintenance and optimizes operations in real time. The result is a perpetual state of iterative improvement arising from the use of automated processes.

Extending these benefits to the entire value chain—internally, such as across a company’s distributed geographical network, or externally, including partners, suppliers and other stakeholders—builds a set of continuous feedback loops that spark ingenuity at every level. Seeded by data and backed by generative AI, these connected intelligent networks can be the key force-multiplier to advancing the development of Industry 5.0 and, consequently, foster a more sustainable global environment.

A More Sustainable, Profitable Future

As industrial companies navigate through a landscape marked by disruption and uncertainty, the integration of innovative technologies and digital insights emerges as a pivotal driver of both sustainability and profitability. AVEVA research shows that currently 84%  of companies are making decisions with incomplete data. Yet, almost as many—78%—know that enabling data sharing drives the highest value.

That’s why we expect to see more industries adopt digital twin and AI solutions in order to start to actively blend digital insights with knowledge and experience from human, environmental and social sources. By embracing an ecosystem-first approach to data and insight, companies can harness the full potential of these technologies, not only to gain a competitive edge but also to foster a more sustainable future for generations to come.

The convergence of digital innovation, human creativity and environmental consciousness will continue to shape evolution, paving the way for new sustainable opportunities and resilient business models. In this age of disruption, the journey towards sustainability is not just a necessity but also a remarkable opportunity for growth and innovation.

About the Author

Sue Quense | Chief Commercial Officer, AVEVA

Sue Quense is chief commercial officer of AVEVA. Quense has more than 35 years of experience in the industrial technology space. 

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