What does digitalization mean and how can companies digitize their business? Chief Digital Officer of ABB Process Automation, Rajesh Ramachandran, breaks down the four levels of digitalization, data, domain, technology, and AI. In the podcast, Rajesh focuses on the two main technologies of digitalization, 5G and AI, and how they play an important role in the IIoT industry. Rajesh gives examples and use cases of the technologies and how they will provide a safer, more sustainable work environment.

About Rajesh

Three decades of successful track record in Digital, Technology, Product, Business, Industry Domain and Organizational leadership including building and transforming world-class multinational organizations, profitable high growth businesses, strategizing and innovating successful software platforms, products & industry rich technology solutions. Wealth of Global leadership working across India, Americas, Europe, Middle East and APAC with World’s best organizations like ABB, Oracle, eBay, PayPal, Danfoss, Siemens & Rolta. Successfully transformed businesses to IP & Platform led recurring and highly profitable growth SaaS businesses. Transformed organizations to move up in the digital transformation & Industry 4.0 value chain.

Interested in connecting with Rajesh? Reach out on Linkedin!

About ABB Process Automation

ABB is a technology leader in electrification and automation, enabling a more sustainable and resource-efficient future. The company’s solutions connect engineering know-how and software to optimize how things are manufactured, moved, powered and operated. Building on more than 130 years of excellence, ABB’s 105,000 employees are committed to driving innovations that accelerate industrial transformation.xn.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(01:55) Introduction to Rajesh & ABB Process Automation

(03:10) Current landscape of digitalization

(08:26) Role AI plays in IIoT

(14:16) Impact of 5G in IIoT

(18:11) Challenges in the space


– [Rajesh] We see that 5G is going to make a big difference in both ways, right? There will be plenty of new use cases will come, which will also make it reliable. At the same time, the existing use cases using a different set of technologies will be much more enhanced and more powerful with 5G. The 5G IoT market, which is the specific market of the combination of 5G for the industrial IoT, that is growing at 90%, which means that the adoption of this 5G technology for the IoT is significantly growing in all the different areas that we see.

– [Ryan] Hello everyone, and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast presented by IoT For All the number one publication and resource for the Internet of Things. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. If you are watching this on YouTube, we would truly appreciate it if you would give this video a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel if you have not done so already. If you’re listening to us on a podcast directory, please subscribe so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out, and it helps other people find it. Alright, on today’s episode we have Rajesh Ramachandran, the Chief Digital Officer of ABB Process Automation, and he’s here to talk about a lot of interesting things. We talk about the digitalization as a whole, kind of what the current landscape looks like, what it truly means. AI and its role in industrial IoT, how data’s being used kind of in that space, what 5G adoption looks like, the potential for it in industrial IoT, and a lot of the biggest challenges that are being faced in the space and how to solve and overcome them. So all-in-all, a fantastic episode, I think we’ll get a lot of value out of it, but before we get into it, if you’re out there looking to enter the fast growing and profitable IoT market but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor, Leverege. Leverege’s is IoT solutions development platform, provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the “IoT For All” podcast. Welcome, Rajesh, to the “IoT For All Podcast.” Thanks for being here this week.

– [Rajesh] Excellent, thanks.

– [Ryan] Yeah, thank you for being here. So let’s kick this off by having you give a quick introduction about yourself to our audience so they know who they’re listening to.

– [Rajesh] Yeah, hello everyone. This is Rajesh Ramachandran. I’m the Global Chief Digital Officer at ABB. And I’m very happy to be with you today. ABB-

– [Ryan] Yeah, no, go ahead, keep going. My next question was gonna be about ABB. So go ahead and tell us a little bit about what y’all do and the role you play in the space.

– [Rajesh] ABB is one of the companies that has a legacy of pioneering all the four industrial revolutions, starting from industry 1.0 to 4.0 now. And has a history of more than 130 years. And across the globe, ABB has been bringing value on multiple different industries and ABB’s goal always has been bringing the value of how to make the operations and assets more sustainable, performant, and safe.

– [Ryan] Right. Absolutely, yeah, that’s great. I appreciate the overview. So one of the topics I wanted to talk to you about today was around just kind of your all’s perspective of digitalization kind of as a whole across industries and what the current kind of landscape means. What does it really mean when we talk about digitalization? Just kind of how do you all view it, and and what does it mean to you all?

– [Rajesh] Yeah, sure. Let me start with the company like ABB, which is bringing the combination of electrification, automation, and digitalization to customers to improve their assets and operations to safer and smarter. For every revolution there has been core products, we call as an anchor products, that drives those industry revolution, right? Going back, if you look at Industry 1.0, it was mechanical energy, right? Industry 2.0, it was electrical energy. Industry 3.0 is all about electronics and automation. So what about Industry 4.0, which we are in? It is all about digitalization that is a combination of data and bringing the value of data using analytics. And we call the core product here as the industrial IoT. The industrial IoT is the one that ensures that every element of a plant, it could be a simple equipment or it could be a complete plant or a complete enterprise, which is connected and thanks to technologies that you can effectively connect the different pieces using the industrial IoT that helps to use the data especially in the industrial context, more than 80% of the data is not used for analytics. They’re not used for making decisions. The data is coming from three different silos. It comes from the operational data that is used in the plants in terms of how the different processes work and how the different assets are working. The informational data, which is coming from the IT systems, and engineering data, which is the design operation of a particular equipment or the process. Imagine that the data from these three silos or the network of systems, if we can contextualize and integrate that and unlock the value of the remaining 80% of the data which is not used today for analytics and decision making, if we can use this data, that makes a huge difference. And we have seen that by combining this data that’s from the Industrial IoT, and using the industrial artificial intelligence together, as much as 40% productivity gain that can be achieved. And of course, the industrial IoT platforms helps to automate and contextualize this data and reduce the effort of doing that manually, which is sometimes as high as 70% of the time you spend on integrating then analyzing using the data. ABB is a very strong player for the industry 4.0 in terms of bringing the combination of the four things I believe is critical for digitalization. You need to have the data. Not just the data, but we need to also understand the domain. You need to understand the processes. You need to understand the way the assets are used in a particular industry. So, the data, the domain, and the technology, which is including the Industrial IoT and 5G technologies. And fourth being the AI. Because you can’t solve this humongous data that is coming from these different systems just by human. You need to apply the advanced analytics and AI. So as you said, Ryan, it’s about combining the data, domain, technology and AI, of course, cyber security being the paramount or we call the operate. That’s the difference industrial software companies such as ABB can bring to our customers. To get the power of the fourth industry revolution on IoT data and AI, I can cite a lot of examples on how the customers gets benefited significantly in the four major areas, which is on the operation side, assets improvement side, process performance improvement side, as well as on sustainability, which is extremely critical today. That how do you ensure that we bring the sustainable economy in terms of net zero and carbon footprint direction as well as CO2 emission directions. The industrial IoT and AI and data driven decision making makes a significant difference that we see.

– [Ryan] Right, so you mentioned AI there for a second. Can you talk a little bit more about the role AI plays in industrial IoT and the value that it really has for bringing in that data and helping analyze the data as we’re talking about them being siloed to being able to bring them better together, what is that role that AI really plays there?

– [Rajesh] The AI is now the mainstream in industrial world as well. We possibly have seen AI in a different context, in our homes and residential, even in the e-commerce for years together, maybe for a decade now. In the industrial context, AI is forming as the additional value of what it can bring to optimize and bring the value of data to the very next level that otherwise cannot be achieved. At the same time, we can’t apply the generic AI to the industries because it is here about the people’s safety. Here it is about the significant, the pitfall it can create if you don’t use it in the right way. So the AI in the context of industry is called as the industrial AI. So people ask me all the time, what’s the difference, right? What’s the AI versus industry AI? Here, the difference is you look at the AI along with the domain expertise. So imagine that you are making a prediction as a simple example, right? You want to predict a failure of a mission to ensure that we are able to apply the predictive maintenance capabilities and save a significant amount of money because you are able to identify the failure before a critical matters . But for this, you can’t just take the data that’s coming from the sensors and simply apply an AI machine learning. It’s not going to get us the accuracy of prediction because we need to know that which of the variables or the parameters that is critical for us to analyze that will influence the potential failure. So the contextual knowledge of the data is what we call as the domain expertise for the data. So the industrial AI is bringing the combination of the domain expertise embedded along with the data science which is bringing the industrial AI. And the industrial AI today is being used significantly. For instance, we at ABB have a pretty advanced and next generation platform suite called ABB Ability Genix which is highly regarded by the customers as well as the analyst. And customers have already started using the industrial AI along with the IoT in Genix for EA, the six value drivers we call EA for the remote operations. For instance, the the gold fields, which is one of the very large customer who’s looking at the complete remote operations to optimize both the operations and assets using the solution, right? The second area we see that the value of industrial AI is significantly being used is on the asset performance, asset reliability, asset performance, asset availability and safety is paramount, and I’m sure that you’ll agree, that for any asset intensive industries. Imagine if a critical asset fails, it’s not about just the maintenance time of replacing it but the entire cost of the operations and even the safety of operations is going to be in trouble, right? It’s super important to ensure that we are able to get the best of the asset performance using predictive maintenance capabilities. Capability for always continuously monitoring the conditions and performance, that’s the value pillar that again, the AI is being used. Of course the process performance is another area that we’re in, imagine that you want to look at, if you’re running a batch of chemical production, at 10% of your batch, if you can predict what is going to be the quality levels of the whole batch, then you can make a decision about whether you want to continue or you want to change the set points, you want to change the recipe and so on. That’s the same if you take it for sustainability. An example today that ABB has this analyzers that we have it for gas leakage directions across the world, we have more than 48,000 analyzers across the globe in different industries. With industrial IoT and AI, what we call as the solution Genix Datalyzer, we have this data coming from all these analyzers, the industrial emissions, which is CO2 and methane, all other industrial emissions are coming real time through the satellite data which will become today, also can be in 5G data for us moving forward, it comes here to a central ABB SaaS, which is a software as a service cloud, which is our sustainable cloud. We are able to provide real time as well as predictions on any breaches that can happen in this industrial emissions. I’m sure that you know that if the breaches of this industrial emissions, especially CO2 as an example, if it goes beyond certain threshold, even the companies need to be shut down. They have a significant penalty because it’s going to harm the people around. So the software helps on predicting real time remotely using the AI and Industrial IoT, helps the customers to get the value of the data and of course, it also helps to make the world sustainable.

– [Ryan] Sure, absolutely. Now, let me ask you, I wanna transition a second over to kind of the connectivity side of things when it comes to industrial IoT. How do you all, or I guess what is your view on the role 5G and its continued rollout is going to play in industrial IoT when it comes to making new use cases more capable or improving existing use cases that maybe we’re relying on other technology to kind of exist?

– [Rajesh] So first of all, as you rightly said, we see the 5G is going to make a big difference in both ways, right? There will be plenty of new use cases will come which will also make it reliable, at the same time, the existing use cases using a different set of technologies will be much more enhanced and more powerful with 5G. The 5G IoT market, which is the specific market of the combination of 5G for the industrial IoT, that is growing at 90%, which means that the adoption of this 5G technology for the IoT is significantly growing in all the different areas that we see. I can give few examples. Today in ABB, we have more than 1,500 marine vessels connected to us, more than 900 mines which are connected to us in what we call as a collaborative operation centers. This is a place we get the data from all these different vessels as well as mines and industrial assets and centrally we provide the insights as well as the analytics for continuously improving the assets and operations and safety. Now, one of the solutions that we recently launched which as called Genix Marine Platform, which is oversea, which is for helping the whole fleet of vessels, things even there in the North Sea that you cannot go, you are able to get the data and use that for many things right? You are able to control the energy being used on the vessels, the planning and so on. Here, we see the cost of getting the data using the different connectivity today, the latency issues that we see today, in terms of the speed that we are able to get today has certain limitations, right? With the 5G gateways that is coming with IoT and the ability for us to get the data to the cloud for making a much more deeper machine learning and AI and providing a much stronger value proposition for the the vessel operators, the pilots, as well as for the fleet operators, it’s gonna bring immense value. It’s also the people’s safety. It’s also going to bring the entire supply chain the effectiveness much broader. I strongly believe that the combination of 5G for IoT is going to be a big disruptor. It’s going take a couple of years till it becomes mainstream, but we as ABB has been also pioneering that with one of our partners, Ericsson, where we have a strategic partnership of bringing the 5G for the industrial IoT across our manufacturing sectors, whether both for the discrete manufacturing as well as for the process manufacturing and transportation such as marine, and we believe that some of the big bottlenecks today we have on cloud adoption of bringing the data for many use cases such as the realtime operations, right? How do you look at your process performance optimizations to bring it into the cloud? All these issues, some of the things that we see as limitations will go away with the 5G and IoT coming in.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. Fantastic. Last question I have for you before we wrap up here is just what are some of the challenges that you’re seeing in the space that companies are facing and what is the advice that you have for how they can be thinking about those challenges, how to prepare for them and how to overcome them?

– [Rajesh] Any transformation as you will see that, will have quite a bit of challenges, not only the technology challenges but also the change management. And companies are at a different maturity level with respect to the readiness for whether they have the systems which are securely connectable, whether the people who are there or having the capabilities, whether there’s clarity in terms of what are the objectives they have it for using the digitalization because digitalization, many of the companies are wanting to run it as an OpEx program not as a CapEx program. It’s not about buying a huge capital equipment, right? Sometimes you could make it with the standard templatization. So the companies are often struggling in terms of where do I start? And many companies are trying to do set of pilots and you cannot really see the value of digital by just doing small pilots. It is very important that we deploy the digital technologies and digitalization at scale that brings significant benefits. At the same time, how do you start? Because you don’t want to spend tons of money and then- Nothing is coming out. So what I call as a digital value engineering, which is an approach, which is a design thinking approach that helps for a given customer, for a given landscape that they have in the data landscape, the objectives that they have it for the business, what should be the value pillars? It could be the six value pillars as I mentioned, as simple as extending the automation and transforming IoT, just start from the beginning, right? If you have a DCS control system, if you have controllers in your plant, how do you bring that data in a secure way to the edge, we call us an edge computing, and make it available for the people to use it? You can start as simple as that. Then you go from there on, okay, how do I improve my process performance? How do I improve my energy management? Many of our customers that we saw have been able to start very quickly on the energy management and optimization, which gives a direct on the energy and also helps on the sustainability goals. So there is a way to adapt the value drivers of the six value pillars I have been mentioning. One is the operations performance management, asset performance, or process performance, sustainability, which includes the energy, management and operations and environmental regulatory reporting and emissions as well. External automation and OT transformation in terms of just expanding your control automation look to bring the AI and IoT. And the last but not least, the cybersecurity. And my question is that, cybersecurity is it impediment or is it an outcome for the digitalization? It’s actually both. Because if you want to really leverage the advanced security solutions today, which are available in the IT world, if we want to also leverage for the OT world, it’s important for us to connect that, we call this as the OT, IT convergent security. That helps in terms of not only making your digital roadmap faster, but also able to bring the value of security and security handling for all the OT systems. In a nutshell, my advice is that have a clear objective program in terms of A, identifying whether we want to take one of these value pillars across your units or take a specific unit of the plant and applying these six value pillars as a pilot, then pick up the one which brings the maximum value through your value engineering program and scale it. And I would strongly say that from my experience of what we have done, worked with a lot of customers, if you have clear plan for two years to select an area to implement and bring it to scale, there’s a significant benefit. If we believe that we just need to get something shown for say, three six months and decide that it’s a failure or success, it never possibly becomes a success. So that will be my 2 cents, what we have seen in the industry. I have to say that, look, I mean, I have been in the digitalization industry for more than 15 years now. Lot of companies have been significantly successful of as today, not like the last five years back.

– [Ryan] Yeah, I think that’s a big thing to note, is that the technologies have come so far and have really matured. A lot of the use cases have been proven out in many different industries to where in most cases, there are plenty of examples of successes that companies can replicate and adopt more quickly than you were able to do five plus years ago with a little bit more security in knowing that these solutions are likely to bring you the ROI that you’re looking for work correctly and so forth, which I think was always a really big hesitation. When anytime you bring in new technology or any kind of new technical solutions into any business, there’s always those concerns and hesitations. And like you said, the goal is to get to scale to really see that value, but not everybody has the ability to invest and go to scale. It’s actually most people recommend you start with a pilot and you get to scale once you prove it out. But the nice thing about what we’ve seen lately is that because there are so many more successful deployments, the time you have to spend in the pilot stages is relatively small or shorter because those technologies are more proved out, know how to be put together and know how to kind of perform in order to get that ROI. So it’s a very exciting time for sure.

– [Rajesh] As I said, even the solution providers also have learned over the years working with the customers, and that makes them also much better in terms of how do you bring this technologies and solutions easily adaptable, implementable in a modular fashion so that you see the benefits much faster and don’t need to wait for years together. And it’s also guaranteed that certain benefits are about to come when you bring the data together, I mean, energy efficiency savings as an example, productivity as an example, process performance in terms of the quality and decision making has significantly improved. We have seen that just by implementing solutions such as asset performance management, the predictive maintenance solutions, brings more than 15% savings on the operations. Not only on saving the maintenance cost by 30% but also the operations get saved by more than 10%. So I guess, a lot of case studies as just mentioned, is today available that ensures that if you implement the digitalization rightly, the benefits are guaranteed.

– [Ryan] Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more. So last thing I wanted to ask you is for audience out there who wants to learn more about ABB, learn more about what you all are doing in the space, follow up with potential questions, what’s the best way that they can reach out?

– [Rajesh] Yeah, so ABB has its operations across the world. I’m sure that one of the ABB’s account executives are always in touch with you. You can always come to the abb.com, our website in which you will be able to see the context, how do you want to look at for the different solutions? There’s a catalog of solutions that we have it for the ABB’s Ability Digital solutions that will help you to also navigate in terms of what is your interest. We are here to help you, thank you.

– [Ryan] Perfect. Well, thank you so much for your time, appreciate it and we look forward getting this out for our audience.

– [Rajesh] Excellent, thanks a lot, Ryan, bye.

– [Ryan] All right, everyone, thanks again, for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as they become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.

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IoT For All
IoT For All
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.