By Mike Hetzel, Industry Solutions Manager
In part one of our industrial analytics series, we explored some of the oft-overlooked considerations that should precede the adoption of any advanced analytics and asset management solution. Including those considerations gives plant managers a strong foundation for moving forward with the investment. Now we’re going to explore the next phase of the investment process: evaluating potential vendor partners.
Four Characteristics of a Quality Analytics Solution
1. Speed to value
We covered this in part one of our series, but it’s worth underscoring again: your stakeholders want value from the investment, fast. Odds are that within the walls of the engineering and operational branches of the plant, your teams are well aware of how impactful tools like centralized data and predictive analytics can be to asset health and performance. As a result, operational staff may have more patience for a solution to hit its stride than stakeholders further removed from the day-to-day operations. For this reason, the first question you should ask a potential partner is, “How soon can we get up and running?” Quickly followed by, “How do we gain the most value after it’s up and running?”
Asking these questions is beneficial in two ways. First, it allows you to create a clear, transparent value forecast for stakeholders, which may make them more likely to buy into the investment. Secondly, it enables you to identify any lingering resource requirements that could impede your solution’s speed to value.
2. Practiced tools and processes
As we mentioned in part one, advanced data analytics is most successful when it empowers the following sequence: data to insight, insight to knowledge, knowledge to action. Gaps or inefficiencies at any phase of the sequence will hamper the effectiveness of your solution, no matter how “cutting edge” it is. Consider how analytics have often been managed in the past—a database for a particular system or asset kicks out a spreadsheet that an engineer needs to manually analyze and figure out what it means. From there, a report needs to be written and circulated to various parties throughout the organization so the right course of action can be taken. Then, of course, you have the process of navigating a variety of different systems to implement your improvements and perform maintenance. This entire process could take weeks!
The right solution should enable users through the entire sequence, from alerting, diagnosis and prioritization of an issue through issue resolution. Quiz potential solution providers on how they enable your team to work smartly and efficiently through the analytics sequence:
- Do they centralize asset data in the cloud?
- Can you set up custom alerts for issues and alarms?
- Are reports manual or digital?
- How does their technology facilitate quick collaboration between stakeholders and drive issue resolution within the same software platform?
Bottom line: Your analytics solution should improve your operation and enable plant managers to focus on the most impactful issues.
3. Integration and consolidation capabilities
“Data overload” is a very real phenomenon occurring across many industrial and utilities networks. A proliferation of assets isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as you have a means for managing the explosion of data coming from these disparate devices. Key to this process is integrating all your industrial assets to get a complete data picture of your network and then consolidating this data into one centralized picture. This is why cloud-based solutions are such an advantage for industrial teams. Not only does it give your team anytime, anywhere access to data and reports, but these solutions provide a single source of truth with less hardware.
A word of caution: When an analytics partner says their solution is in the “cloud,” uncover what that actually means. In some cases, you may have to use on-premises technology to access a cloud-based solution, which means that, should that on-prem technology go down, your precious data is locked in the cloud.
4. Scalability needs
One of the primary advantages of using a truly cloud-based analytics platform—one that can be accessed on any device via the public Internet—is that it scales. These platforms usually don’t require any additional hardware or software investments or implementation costs. This is essential when considering the importance of speed to value when investing in an analytics solution. The faster you can get a solution up and working, then expand it across your broader infrastructure, the bigger the advantage.
A Partner is Way More Than a Platform
The important thing to remember when evaluating analytics partners is that your solution provider should offer you more than their product. Yes, the provider should have the deep technical expertise you need to make your solution work, but they should also offer the many “soft” benefits you want in any vendor partner. Chief among these should be the domain expertise to help contextualize data, provide sound analysis, evaluate and elevate issues based on priority and provide the means to resolve issues through workflow management—all within the same software platform.
Learn more in part one in this blog series.