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By Elian Zimmermann
23 February 2023

What Is The Meaning and Value of Scalability?


We’re living in an age where digital transformation is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. For businesses small and large, across every industry, being able to adapt to economic turbulence and industry demands could ultimately be the deciding factor of whether the business continues being a success or not. When we think about digital transformation, the first thing that probably comes to mind are pilots. It’s true that pilots are easy, and they produce promising initial results. However, efforts to move past this initial pilot stage and into an organisation-wide roll-out often falter. The reason behind this is scalability, or rather, the lack thereof. Scalability by definition is the ability and capability to handle growth. Companies that scale digital solutions ensure that their short-term business needs are met and that they are prepared for where the company is headed.

Boston Consulting Group conducted an in-depth study on the benefits and value of scalable digital solutions. These include better customer experiences, a greater ability to integrate digital and data ecosystems, stronger business resilience and a more inclusive and diverse workplace. In the manufacturing industry, the values of scalability include:

  • Levering an off-the-shelf solution with traditional SCADA functionality alongside modern IoT connectivity options
  • Collecting millions of data points from multiple and all data sources
  • Reducing technical debt with easily scripted and automated data models to quickly deploy at scale
  • The ability to refresh swiftly when new devices, workstation or mobile, are added or removed from your landscape
  • Unlimited licensing to provide visibility and quick fault-finding capability securely to anyone in your organisation

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Take a recent case study by our partner, Inductive Automation, as an example. The case study centres around BHP’s Technology Remote Operations Centre (TROC) for Minerals Australia. The TROC’s purpose is to prevent and minimise safety and production impact on the assets triggered by failure or degradation of critical technology. To do this, a TROC technician worked a 12-hour shift, monitoring and responding to all issues impacting critical technology services. They had to monitor and interpret large amounts of complex data and determine if action was required. This manual process not only put a lot of strain on the technician, but also left room for human error – which could result in a shutdown or evacuation of an entire operation, and even injury.

BHP realised that they needed to make some changes. They needed a scalable solution to continue growing their business, and to ensure the safety of everyone involved. Ideally, TROC technicians would monitor a single HMI with only critical data, presented in near-real time. They chose Ignition Perspective, by Inductive Automation, to develop a complex solution that enabled them to present the data in a modern browser interface that’s also mobile friendly and provides a zero-install environment, all within a traditional SCADA environment.

This solution was implemented across:

  • 30+ sites
  • 20+ network domains
  • Tens of thousands of devices
  • Hundreds of thousands of data-monitoring points

Ignition Perspective also enabled BHP to leverage scripting, automation and modern integration to quickly deploy at scale. And with Inductive Automation’s guidance, they have configured the following for monitoring:

  • 800+ servers
  • 1,400+ switches
  • 79 GE PLCs
  • 257 AB PLCs

With Ignition, BHP was able to switch to a process that offers their TROC technicians the visibility and context they need to be aware of any issues and proactively resolve these before they have any effect or impact on operations. Not surprisingly, the HMI system results in fewer outages and IT failures, which helps BHP save significant costs that would have resulted from disruptions across their operations in Australia. The solution also enables BHP to add more context to the HMI and make updates and additions over time.

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With a scalable solution you can focus on three key business areas: workability, time and money. These three things are what ultimately drives your business and secure success long-term. The process starts with embarking on a digital transformation journey that will be unique to each business. So, it’s important to find the right solution that will suit your business needs and pain points. Inductive Automation has a range of fully customisable solutions and tools that will enable your business the scalability it needs to achieve its goals.