Prepare Well For A Digital Future

Leaders in the management of buildings, machinery and assets have been advised to prepare well for a future in which digital solutions will take centre stage.

Engineering company Pragma CEO Adriaan Scheeres told attendees at the Southern African Asset Management Association (SAAMA) conference, in Somerset West, this week, that companies would need to take a fresh look at their processes, as the face of the technical workforce shifts in line with massive global change.

“Already, the speed of communication and the demand of response time, has increased. Today you report to a helpdesk. Tomorrow it will be a machine,” he stated.

With so much data generated about assets, it would be key to define exactly what is needed in a particular company.

“There’s going to be such a lot of data. We’ll need to focus on what we want to collect. We must be very specific. We’ll need to focus on the critical pieces of equipment.”

Scheeres told delegates that evolving technology trends, such as sensors, robotics, wearable and mobile technology and three-dimensional (3D) printing, would require special skills.

“We need to start thinking about how we would maintain a 3D printer, drones and sensors.”

It would also be vital to start training a workforce with the right skills.

He advised companies to keep in touch with rapid changes in technology and to identify and refine business processes for digital integration. People will need to be prepared for a future which could include driverless vehicles and drone taxis equipped with sensors.

“We should analyse our existing processes and, within those, start implementing data acquisition and analytics processes. It must be part and parcel of your business.”

The Pragma CEO suggested that it would be important to share data and to develop platforms to collaborate more on the sources of data and techniques.

“Data will become a tradable entity. People will start building up credits to buy and supply data.”

Scheeres said it was also important to work together with key service providers to integrate mobile and wearable solutions, which are expected to shake up the industry.

“I think this will disrupt our industry tremendously. It’s going to be a total game-changer.”

Scheeres cautioned that Southern Africa would battle to keep up unless connectivity was improved.

“Everything has to be connected and we’ll have to have adequate connectivity coverage. High risk or time-critical applications will need to be prioritised.

Despite challenges, experts in the physical management of assets believe there will be tremendous opportunity flowing from features such sensors, automatic identification and the Internet of Things (IoT).

“By analysing data from sensors and systems, we will be able to fix things before they break.”

Predictive maintenance is a key feature of the smart machines of the future.

“This works on sensor data. For the first time, you can predict to the minute when an asset is going to fail,” said Pragma’s Tyrone van Heerden.

“We will be able to change our business model based on the actuality of the data we get on a real-time basis.”

A simple example is that of power tools, which have digital sensors.

SAP VP of business asset management Dr Achim Krüger said technology innovation will bring a “tidal wave” of change in the world of asset management.

Cloud computing, big data and analytics, predictive maintenance are among growing trends in the asset management world.

“Imagine having streaming data from sensors, machines and other assets connected through the IoT – and then analysing it to gain real-time transparency and decision support. Companies can share this data and drive collaboration across their ecosystem through the asset lifecycle for better asset outcomes.”

Krüger said the possibilities were endless.

“Digital transformation is here and it is here to stay. It is the future of asset management.”

The SAAMA conference has brought together asset management practitioners who oversee physical assets in a range of industries, from mining to manufacturing, as well as within various government departments.