Industrial gas companies are making progress toward digitisation, but they are only beginning to scratch the surface of the opportunities that it offers, says former Linde-BOC Managing Director of UK, Ireland & Africa, Sue Graham Johnston.

Having left the industry last year, Graham Johnston is now President of 128 Technology, a Massachusetts-based company that offers a breakthrough approach to networking.

The company’s software platform improves the quality of data transmission and speeds up networks, while making them more secure. Companies can more reliably connect branch locations or data centres without the need for expensive and complex hardware.

In an exclusive interview for the sixth and final instalment of gasworld’s Smart Industry Series, Graham Johnston explained the role and importance of such a software platform in the smart society of tomorrow, her enthusiasm for Industry 4.0 as a whole, and shared her observations on the gases business and its digital aspirations.

sue graham johnston

“I am a firm believer in the rapid innovation that Industry 4.0 promises for the industrial gas industry and other industries,” she enthuses. “The most exciting opportunities are around the potential for smart sensors to further optimise production and manufacturing so that businesses can maximise their plant performance and uptime more intelligently, with minimal human intervention.”

“People, machines, sensors, and devices communicate and work together via the internet of things to enable the smart factory, which includes methods of self-optimization, self-diagnosis and self-configuration to optimise production.”

“For me, I’m most excited about the transformational role that networks will play in Industry 4.0 and the necessary digital transformation. One of the ways this will happen is by enabling industrial enterprises to better manage remote sites, improving safety and quality of life for many people.”

There are opportunities for our industry to re-imagine itself

Graham Johnston had always recognised the importance of the gases industry as a critical component in so many other industries and applications and with that, the unique position from which it could champion and lead change. So now, having stepped out of the gases industry, what are her thoughts on the digital transformation within it?

“Companies are making progress toward digitisation, but they are only beginning to scratch the surface of the opportunities that it offers both in terms of offering new revenue sources based on digital services, to improving internal operating efficiency,” she reflects.

Digitisation – Are we ready?

“Plants today are being designed as digital twins, where companies develop 3-D models to create a virtual model of the physical plant in software. The digital twin model represents the exact conditions of the physical plant. This enables companies to use augmented reality (AR) with workers onsite to assist with plant repairs, or digitise P&ID’s to be able to identify parts in real time.”

“There is a long way to go before the industrial gases industry could exhaust ideas around new innovations and business models related to digitisation,” she adds.

128 Technology will be ‘right in the thick of it’ with digitisation across industry, due to the key role that networks will play in enabling this smart industry transformation.

gasworld will publish Part 6 of its Smart Industry Series, titled Technology underpinning a speedy, secure industrial transformation, in its November 2018 edition.