Operations Intelligence refers to an important class of information technology since it is aimed at enabling better decision-making and improved business performance of assets based on the ready availability of real-time status and performance metrics throughout an organization. This sophisticated IT-based approach typically applies to production, planning, and asset management activities but can also be used to support the internal supply chain, marketing, and logistics. Typical objectives are to achieve higher levels of production against assets, reduce the cost of production and, ultimately, improve the bottom line.
Different kinds of ‘intelligences’
Operations Intelligence should be contrasted with Business Intelligence. Business Intelligence involves the gathering and analysis of historical data that helps enterprise business analysts achieve insights for medium- and long-term planning. This approach traditionally serves financial, CRM, and Supply Chain activities that do not require quick action. On the other side, Operations Intelligence focuses on the day-to-day activities of the production processes. It answers questions such as: How does my plant perform against objectives? How is my team acting collectively? How is our equipment performing against it’s safe operating limits? What should we do in this situation, given these current conditions?
“Siemens XHQ Operations Intelligence platform enables the establishment of a continuous-improvement practice and provides near-real-time visibility of operations within process manufacturing facilities. With the tool set of XHQ Operations Intelligence, Siemens provides a proven solution for empowered decisions in order to help enterprises improve their performance with a possible reduction of up to 8 percent in operational costs and an increase in high-value product production of up to 10.5 percent,” says Peter Baldermann, Head of the XHQ Business with Siemens, bringing some impressive figures to the table during a background discussion with our editors about the potential of this management approach during the last Achema fair. Siemens is offering a set of leading tools that help aggregate, integrate, analyze, and present operational and business data from multiple back-end data sources to improve enterprise performance. The solution provides a single coherent view of all critical business and transactional information, enabling a variety of real-time performance-management and decision-support solutions. Plant floor and operations personnel, as well as senior management are enabled to monitor real-time performance against business goals. “This helps to make more informed decisions about plant performance, which positively impacts the bottom line,” Mr Baldermann emphasizes.
Well established in the Oil & Gas industry
XHQ was originally developed by a company called IndX. The IndX Software Corporation was established in 1996, in Aliso Viejo, US state of California, and in 2004 Siemens took over the company and put it to its Siemens Industry Software business. At present, Mr Baldermann’s team is involved in extending the solution for the Chemical industry. In the Oil & Gas and Refinery industry, continuous processing is usual. However: “For the analysis of batch processes, which are common in the Chemical industry, additional tools are needed to compare the different production units,” Mr Baldermann explains.
In continuous processing the documentation of the behaviour of certain variables captured over time is important, while in batch mode, besides these time dependences, the tracking of other variables such as energy consumption per batch is crucial. This allows comparison of the output of different sites in respect of the most favorable conditions for the same final product, tracking every minute and every pound. “This goes so far that batches are analyzed on shift level,” Mr Baldermann says.
Direct from the horse’s mouth
XHQ filters out and edits the most diverse kinds of technical and business-management data acquired from a company’s plant or production chain. Key performance indicators (KPIs) such as plant utilization, the availability of raw materials and additives, production throughput or product quality enable managers to compare their entire production process with other production lines. Then the process can be optimized and adapted where required in order to achieve business objectives and targets. Any changes in the market (keyword ‘low oil price’) can also be taken into consideration, as well as the influencing factors at different production locations. “XHQ Operations Intelligence is well positioned within Siemens’ product portfolio from management to field level. With its strong link between the plant design and plant operation solutions Comos and the DCS system PCS 7 the software shares real-time information and can be related with the asset metadata of Comos Walkinside, our immersive simulation, remote operations solution, respectively, for improving enterprise performance,” Mr Baldermann hints at the classification of the overall offering.
XHQ is split into several tailor-made applications. The XHQ Visual Tile Composer (VTC), for example, is the end-user tool for creating personalized dashboards utilizing a powerful ‘context model’. Running completely in a browser, this thin client allows the user to drag & drop intelligent tiles onto a dashboard canvas and arrange them in any desired order. Once created, the user’s dashboards are saved back to the XHQ server and are automatically integrated into the existing solution.
Another example is XHQ Performance Management, a comprehensive suite of Web 2.0 applications that support the continuous improvement cycle of operations. Extending the scalable XHQ framework, XHQ Performance Management provides the means to calculate KPIs, set operational goals, detect gaps, assign a root-caused reason and benchmark performance against them. Leveraging the cross-source data integration available in XHQ Performance Management enables fact-based, decision-making from all operational and business data available in the plant.
Highlight from industrial practice
Usually an owner/operator relies not only on one production site. The display of all relevant data on a screen gives him the opportunity to inspect the respective production rates from all sites at a glance. In addition XHQ is able to put in context other process and maintenance data ― for example provided by Comos MRO – to investigate issues such as: When was this drive serviced last? What bearings are installed? When is the next scheduled shutdown? These consolidated data, say from ten different systems, gives an insight like: The bearings may run out of tolerance, but this is not a problem, because in two weeks, a plant shutdown is scheduled anyway.
Compliance guidelines strictly followed
The integration of XHQ is performed seamlessly in the client’s existing IT landscape, as Mr Baldermann assures us: “We comply with the prevailing rules, in particular with regard to IT security, which is a big issue because several distributed systems with different access rights have to be connected.” (bv)