Digitalizing: A brief introduction to a handy term

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Posted on May 16

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Digitalizing: A brief introduction to a handy term

“So are we digi-tizing or digi-tal-izing?” That’s a question I was posed way back in 2015, and I explained they are the same thing, grammatically speaking. Like flammable and inflammable both mean “able to burn.” English is a funny thing. There was some hem-hawing, but we decided to go with “digitize” in our communications, videos, white papers, etc., as it was easier to say. I suspect a version of this conversation played out in product marketing meetings throughout every industry.

That was seven years ago, and the term “digitalize” has shifted in meaning. Like I said, English is a funny thing; it evolves to meet the needs of its speakers. So let’s discuss the new, cool way we are using digitalizing.

In  brief, hooking a digital thermometer up to an asset that sends measurements back to the control room is digitizing. Using the readings from that thermometer (data) to improve processes associated with that asset is digitalizing.

Let’s digitize 

Digitizing is creating a digital version of an analog artifact. This can be as simple as creating a digital form to replace a paper version (and HUVR is a great way to go about doing that) or as complicated as creating a digital twin of an entire plant and testing out various improvements to predict how they will perform. Moving from the analog to the digital world on a systemic level is called digital transformation. You have, no doubt, heard that phrase a time or two at this point.

Digitization, when you zoom in just a bit, involves data. Not exactly a world-shattering statement, but one that bears remembering. Even though we see a picture of a cute puppy, a cool guitar or Theodore IV, the Patriarch of Antioch from CE 1185-1199, it’s really just data tricking our brains into thinking it’s Teddy the Fourth. Or a digital inspection report, I guess, which may be more on brand for this blog.

The point is, digitization goes hand-in-hand with data of all sorts: measurements, images, videos, text--it’s all data.

Asset Management

“Great, but what does this have to do with asset management?” A fair question. You probably didn’t think an asset management blog would lead to you googling who or what a Patriarch of Antioch is.

Asset management (in the context of the physical asset) is the process by which you maintain an asset to safely ensure maximum output with minimum downtime—and for as little cost as possible. While this once involved banging on things with wrenches and listening for the subtle change in sound that indicated a bearing wearing out, we have more sophisticated methods these days.

Because we were all so patient with the Patriarch-talk, I’m not going to beat you down with different styles of maintenance. We’ve done plenty of talking about that already. But it’s important to remember that the end-goal is predictive maintenance. And that requires data.

Finally, the digitalization of asset management

Digitalizing is the use of digital technologies, including data, to find new ways of safely improving processes. Essentially, digitizing something (our friend the inspection report) facilitates digitalization.

So when we talk about digitalizing asset management, we are discussing the processes by which we use new, digital techniques to the way we manage those assets to safely improve production. 

And by digitalizing asset management, we are stepping into a larger world. It is the difference between receiving an alert when your phone is low on power so you remember to plug it in and trying to gauge how long you have to scroll Insta with a stopwatch.

Conclusion: More to come, plus some stuff is already out there

Digitalizing asset management and its many benefits and challenges is the topic of hundreds of past and future blogs; we could not begin to scratch the surface in this entry. In a way, it’s what we’ve been talking about for years. We just have a proper name for it now. Like I said, English is a funny thing.

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