Denison Consulting Group: Powering the Connected Enterprise

Denison Consulting Group: Powering the Connected Enterprise

Dianne Denison, Founder & CEO , Denison Consulting GroupDianne Denison, Founder & CEO With over two decades of experience in leadership roles working for some of the world’s largest manufacturers and service providers, Dianne Denison, Founder and CEO of Denison Consulting Group, is no stranger to the evolutionary story of manufacturing. In fact, she likens today’s next generation revolution, Industry 4.0 or the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to other periods of broad-scale next generation deployments. She reckons the IIoT is already here, with the explosion of data provided by billions of “smart” sensing devices—revamping the entire product value chain—from design to manufacturing, delivery and sales. For adaptive companies who adopt the IIoT efficiently, with also a focused proactive eye on security, great advantages can result.

In the backdrop of this technology upheaval, there is a rising need for the dynamic synergy between the Operations Technology (OT) and the Information Technology (IT) to unleash the full potential of the IIoT. “The OT world and the IT world are different in the most basic terms— with different protocols, machines, processes and cultures,” says Dianne.

The Early Planning

Recognizing the fundamental differences but clear need of understanding both the operations and information worlds in order to create a path forward for manufacturing to deploy the IIoT, several years ago Dianne contacted Rockwell Automation and the Reynolds Company. She shared her vision to build an engineering and systems integration firm focused on delivering the IIoT. Denison knew then that solving today’s technical challenges requires a close collaboration with customers, technology providers, and industry.

“When Dianne came to us, it was clear her company had solid strategy around extracting value and insights from data and turning information into action. We helped Denison better understand the plant floor space and available solutions and technology to help amplify their efforts,” says Dean Bickerton of the Reynolds Company.

The “Secret Sauce”

Denison believes their “secret sauce” is her team—each sharing a singular focus to deliver the IIoT, and creating a path forward for manufacturing to adopt the IIoT. Denison’s team offers a unique blend of technical knowledge of embedded and new technologies, business acumen, understanding of plant process and operations, security, teamwork and passion. Hypotheses are often questioned in order to reach recommended solutions. “We constantly question our beliefs and hypotheses, and have people who are willing to take risks to refute assumptions that are generally accepted. This way of thinking innately helps us improve our methodology in solving problems for our customers,” says John Berg, one of the company’s senior engineers.

Proving the Base Case—Power and Energy Management

Denison has chosen to focus its resources on addressing those “pain point” areas that cause delay in IIoT adoption.

The OT world and the IT world are different in the most basic terms—with different protocols, machines, processes and cultures

Most manufacturing executives cite the three largest reasons delaying deployment: 1) not knowing where to start or how to set priorities, 2) security, and 3) selection and integration of best technologies for the long term.

Understanding these challenges, the team created a “path forward” approach—designing and offering engineering solutions from the plant floor to the data center.

The Customer First Focus

Denison recognizes that most manufacturers are entering the IIoT “on ramp” at various stages of readiness. Some plants have basic wiring needs, others have little or no access to data often orphaned on the plant floor, while others are more advanced in their data acquisition, collection and interpretation. Denison chose to prove the “base case” by focusing first on helping manufacturers monitor and manage power and energy, as key and costly inputs in the production process.

Step One

Often important data is orphaned on the plant floor, confined within specific machines. Without the ability to monitor, measure and collect in real time, and interpret this data to the appropriate user need in a recognizable format, this important data is not “monetized” for the organization. Denison’s team currently offers an IEEE standards-based Comprehensive Energy and Power Quality Assessment to assist manufacturers reduce cost and prevent even costlier shutdown due to poor power quality. Typically the approach taken by Denison’s team is offered to serve the needs of power generation firms, not necessarily large users of power, creating a great opportunity to assist manufacturers. With the increasing use of electronics, source and management of high quality power is critical in production.

An illustrative example was when Denison worked collaboratively with a large manufacturer and OEM to address unexplained and costly production line shutdowns. Working together, the Denison team worked to identify root causes of poor power quality such as harmonics, voltage sags, surges and other distortions that reduce operations’ efficiencies, and worse, cause costly, often unexplained production shutdowns. Depending on the industry and product produced, production line shutdowns can cost millions.

By design, The Comprehensive Assessment approach assists manufacturers identify priority projects (the first reason for IIoT adoption delay cited by manufacturing executives).

Step Two

Real-time data from the plant floor is collected, analyzed and interpreted to make specific engineered recommendations.

Certainly, Denison believes without the collection of relevant data, analyzed appropriately, proactive and then preventive decision-making is not possible. So, assessment recommendations often lead to technology selection recommendations, platform configuration and working with data users to ensure that most relevant data is formatted in a recognizable scheme.

Denison recommended to large industrial distributor to “think outside of the box” and implement a securely managed, cloud-based service to manage and monitor their customer’s core industrial assets. Their strategy would change from being a distributor of low-margin products to a higher-margin service provider, capable of offering proactive solutions to their customers and deepening their supplier relationship. Denison brought forward both strategy and technology.

The Biggest Challenge—Security

“While there are many benefits in an all connected world, the “connectedness” also increases exposure to new security threats and issues,” says Denison. The company’s IT team is well-versed in security technologies and threats, and has recently chosen to focus on assisting manufacturers enhance security on the plant floor. It is imperative to not only deploy the right set of base technologies and architect the solution. Many technical platforms exist needing an architectural and security solutions approach in order to be fully useful. Additionally, without implementation of a security based framework inclusive of policies/procedures, ongoing monitoring and management, and testing, future security breach is inevitable. Without surprise, Denison’s solutions in the area of comprehensive security assessment programs are designed to assist manufacturing address ongoing security needs.

By design, The Comprehensive Security Assessment addresses manufacturers’ second largest stated reason for the delay of IIoT adoption.

Etching a Mark in Manufacturing

Denison’s team has experience working with large OEMs spanning both the OT and IT landscape—including such names as Rockwell Automation/Allen-Bradley, GE, Siemens, Modicon, Cisco, Juniper, Dell, IBM, Bell Laboratories/Lucent Technologies, Hitachi, HP and others. Additionally, the team is driven to understand how some game-changing technical solutions often delivered by innovative firms can be incorporated into the solution mix.

Denison Consulting Group strives to break the notion that the manufacturing world is “deep, dark, dirty, and dangerous,” as one that does not offer exciting and impactful career paths forward. The company is sponsoring a “Manufacturing Day” on October 4 this year with an aim to enlighten and encourage high school and college-aged students to learn about today’s manufacturing, and the multiplier effect manufacturing brings to the economy. “Many of us have benefitted from the mentoring by exceptional leaders. It’s now our time to give back and share our passion, common sense approach, and ethics to deliver to our commitments. We need the next generation to fill in when we all might someday choose to retire,” Dianne signs off.