Invensys: People Keystone to Growth

Tuesday, November 8, 2011 @ 03:11 PM gHale


By Gregory Hale
Technology is an enabler, but people are the keystone to keep manufacturers moving forward and growing.

With the rapid change in technology hitting the industry from all angles, there is definitely a surplus of important data going out to users, but understanding that information can often be overwhelming.

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“Once we get the information on a dashboard, we need to figure out what we can do with it,” said Kevyn Renner, vice president of central marketing for Invensys during today’s Invensys OpsManage ‘11 executive panel discussion on “The New Pace of Business” in Nashville, TN. “We all learn technology only takes you so far, it is the people that take it much further.”

People, though, can only go so far unless they can make decisions in real time and not have to wait for the chain of command to kick in from the top.

To date, “we have failed in educating the people in giving them the ability to make the quick decisions,” said Bob Baird, vice president of downstream operations at Husky Oil Ltd.

With advances in technology, empowering workers is a final linchpin in for a total automation solution.

“We are doing a lot of automation projects, but people need information,” said Rick Van Dyke, supply chain engineering director for Frito-Lay Division of PepsiCo. “There are a lot of hidden tasks out there people do and automation doesn’t pick them all up; the need to empower workers to keep the process moving. Instead of keeping score, workers are empowered to change the score.”

The goal is putting the incredible amount of data into the proper context and make sure it goes to the right people.

“We have taken so much money out of the control room in the past and you now have to put dollars back in the control room,” said Travis Capps, vice president of energy and gases at Valero Corp. “You need to put all the information into the hands of the people that can do something about it.”

With that in mind, with empowerment comes responsibility. “When we empower people, we often forget to talk about being accountable,” Baird said.

Empowerment and accountability all ends up being an education experience, which is easier for some of the industry gray hairs, but what about the younger engineers walking into the industry?

“We need to do the work to put everything in context, the next generation is used to finding information at their fingertips,” Van Dyke said.

That means the old way of doing things may end up going the way of the fax machine. Yes, you have it around, but it does not see a ton of use.

“We are the barriers,” Baird said. “I tell younger workers today ‘don’t listen to me.’ We have to embrace the young people they will get up to speed a lot quicker than we did.”

In the end “we need flexibility and nimbleness,” Baird said.

What are the keys moving forward? The three executives were almost in agreement.

“Just one person can’t have an impact on his own. If you are in IT you need to go to the plant. If you are in the plant, you need to work with the business end,” Van Dyke said. “You need to collaborate.”

One of the other areas is to develop trust, Capps said. People rely on technology, but “we have lost trust; we need to move past that.”

“I tell people they have to build their networks and that allows them to collaborate. You need to learn the business; just follow the money,” Baird said. “You do that and you will go far. A lot of techies have trouble doing that.”



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