Editorial - VGB PowerTech Journal 11/2016

How services are affected by digitalisation

Given the fact that we are undergoing the fourth industrial revolution, it is becoming increasingly important for companies to develop solutions that help their customers to increase efficiency and reduce costs.

On the one hand, technology is advancing in leaps and bounds; on the other, consumer and user behaviour have also changed. The preparation of mass data (Big Data) from system networks and control systems; intelligent sensors and drives; flexible regulation of our demand for electricity in order to optimise costs, taking into account electric and thermal storage; as well as increasing cyber-security requirements are just some of the technical factors driving the market today. The changing requirements are reflected in the statutory framework conditions and new standards. This means that processes need to be adjusted more quickly, in a more streamlined and secure manner, and that solutions are tailored more individually to what customers want.

As a result of digitalisation, the marketing channels for products, services and systems as well as entire business models and the underlying corporate processes are changing. Companies can only realise real added value through digitalisation if they combine their products and services with industry know-how and innovative technologies.

For years, ABB has been considered one of the pioneers in the field of innovative solutions for the economic optimisation of complex generating plants and industrial sites. Today, people expect decentralised generating units to be able to link up intelligently and digitally to consumers, taking power networks into account. This includes, for example, the implementation and control of virtual power plants and pools, and demand response, with greater demand-side flexibility through the coordination of generating plants and production systems. In the meantime, the use of virtual environments in commissioning and in the field of training services is also gaining in significance.

The management is responsible for the digital, system-wide provision of all of the currently relevant and consolidated plant performance indicators (KPIs) as the basis for strategically correct decisions - at any time and at any location.

And now with the enforcement of the IT Security Act and certification regulations, demand for system security is a current reality that calls for new processes and investment. For this demand we are offering a whole range of digital concepts, for each individual business sector, which encompasses, worldwide, an installed base of more than 70 million connected devices and over 70,000 installed control and process control systems.

The change in business processes also includes services, which have to be taken to the next level of evolution in this digital age. Here, individual system and operator requirements are gaining in significance.

For example, the introduction of the IT Security Act makes implementation of an ISMS – an Information and Security Management System – a requirement for everyone operating a critical infrastructure. Furthermore, different one-time and repeated measures are required, such as Cyber Security Risk and Protection Needs Analyses using state-of-the-art technology, or approved safety updates by the manufacturer. But measures such as authentication and access monitoring, system and network hardening, Cyber Security Monitoring and Patch Management or solutions for back-up and disaster recovery management including alarm and information management are among the new standards. Still the primary objective is to increase the accessibility, reliability, security and lifespan of the systems and to efficiently design an economic operation of the applied systems and achieve greater competitiveness.

Many of these solutions enable continual process optimisation and ensure a comprehensive and intelligent service in the long term. The new services should bundle different services and - in accordance with the system-specific requirements - offer a basis for modular service design. We must ensure that processes, services and solutions can be agreed on individually in order to ensure sustainable and transparent cost budgeting. The portfolio of classic services needs to be extended to include the al-ready-mentioned digital offerings.

In the process, the new digital concept solutions should not only provide, evaluate and integrate secure, fast, precise and complex data but also adjust them to future customer and system requirements, as only a maximised, individual solution is the unique solution for your plant.