Emerson Automation Solutions VP, Digital, Brad Budde on the people propelling digital transformation

July 7, 2020
“Digital tools are about making work processes simpler.”

“Digital tools are about making work processes simpler.”

The personal experiences within digital transformations are critical to success—people embracing and benefitting from digitally enabled changes to the way they work, says Emerson Automation Solutions’ Brad Budde, who shares his perspective here.

Q: The role of people in digital transformation is very important. What do you see as the biggest opportunity for workers in the era of accelerated digital technology?

A: We want to make workers better at their jobs. New digital technology isn’t only about the operation itself. Certainly, that’s an important aspect of digital transformation— and at Emerson we have a dedicated business group that helps customers get the most out of digital solutions to really improve their operations. But an equally important aspect of digital transformation is how people interact with digital tools...their personal experiences. I often think back to (not that many) years ago, when we saw shelves of product catalogs in engineering and maintenance departments. Often, they were full of earmarks and tabs. Today, that information is digitalized. It’s online. The need for information has not changed; instead, the change is how information is delivered. Curated, relevant information can be organized in a digital form that makes it more easily accessible. We already see that change happening; more than 8 million technical documents are downloaded from Emerson.com annually. You don’t need to be an expert to move from paper to digital. Simple changes to the way we work enable faster access to information, easier collaboration with experts, 

Q: Is “making it easier” the end goal of these efforts to employ advanced tools and digital approaches to asset maintenance?  

A: In my view, there are two parallel initiatives changing the landscape of maintenance and reliability. The first is that you have analytics applications that leverage first principles and rules-based models as well as more advanced tools such as machine learning and artificial intelligence—all helping to identify the right work to do and the right time to do it. These applications work best with smart field devices in the plant. As we talk to customers who are on their digital-transformation journey, the current reality is about 50-60% of field devices are smart.

The second initiative is one of the biggest opportunities for more immediate impact—improving maintenance workflows with digital information and tools. These tools can bridge the transition by providing curated, relevant information on both smart and non-smart devices to help teams execute work. By more tightly connecting the asset view with the workflows, planners and technicians can maintain and upgrade assets more effectively.

Q: Are these digital tools eliminating asset maintenance or are they changing how assets are maintained?

A: So much of digital transformation is focused on setting up the right workflows for decision-making and actions; you add advanced applications that leverage embedded analytics to identify the right corrective actions. That’s where digital tools come in. They deliver the right information to help you execute that work faster, easier and more effectively.

Think about a maintenance planner. Once a workflow is identified, they need to plan for the work—prioritizing the task, identifying and procuring any parts that are needed, ensuring the right skillset to assign the task, and then creating a work packet for the technician. The effort of locating all the information needed just to get to the point of
workorder execution can take hours.

We see digital information and tools helping maintenance teams identify, plan and execute work in ways that improve key performance measures, such as maintenance speed and first-time fix rate.

Q: How are digital tools enabling modern maintenance of assets for both planners and the technicians out in the field?

A: Digital tools are about making work processes simpler. Things as basic as being able to search a serial number online to find all the relevant data for that specific device, including lifecycle status, spare parts lists, replacement recommendations, and technical documentation, enable planners to work an order of magnitude faster.

Think about that same information, but available to technicians directly in the field. With a scan of a QR code or RFID tag on the device, they can instantly access the technical information (think manuals or wiring diagrams) needed to complete the task.  

This is the same device-specific information technicians and planners looked for on those cluttered shelves of printed product manuals—except the information is delivered instantly and easily filtered to the exact piece of content needed.

Digital transformation remains an important journey toward improved operational excellence. Digital tools enable teams to work more effectively as you make that journey.

About Emerson

Emerson (NYSE: EMR), headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri (USA), is a global technology and engineering company providing innovative solutions for customers in industrial, commercial and residential markets. Their Automation Solutions business helps process, hybrid and discrete manufacturers maximize production, protect personnel and the environment while optimizing energy and operating costs. Their Commercial & Residential Solutions business helps ensure human comfort and health, protect food quality and safety, advance energy efficiency and create sustainable infrastructure. For more information, visit Emerson.com.