In December 2018, OSIsoft and Element jointly announced the release of Element’s Asset Framework Accelerator for users of the OSIsoft PI System. The new offering, which was developed by Element with support from OSIsoft, is a combination of software and services that are designed to accelerate the creation of Asset Framework (AF) data models at speeds more than ten times faster than what was previously possible
A Little (Data) History
For those who still think of OSIsoft as a purveyor of data historians for process industries, the above paragraph may come as a surprise. However, OSIsoft has made strides towards being a significant player in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) Platform ecosystem, and OSIsoft’s PI System is a strong suite of tools and services to find, collect, and analyze data from a wide range of sources (specializing in time-series data, which remains difficult for many analytics products, Big Data solutions, and IIoT platforms to process and analyze).
The Asset Framework model has many challenges; for example, it is one of the multiple asset hierarchies that an industrial company might use, in addition to hierarchies from the ERP/ enterprise asset management (EAM) system, the automation system, multiple point solutions, etc. Tracking and managing one more hierarchy is a challenge for companies. Moreover, while an AF for an individual device or a simple asset can be created in less than an hour and can be easily replicated, creating an AF for a complex process or an entire plant can take several months. Thus, OSIsoft has wanted to provide an advanced toolset that enables their customers to develop an AF more easily and quickly – in the case of those complex processes or entire plants, just weeks instead of months. The new offering from Element (which incubated within OSIsoft and remains closely tied to the company) appears to be precisely what OSIsoft needed to overcome this hurdle.
What’s an Asset Framework, and Why Does it Need Accelerating?
Asset Framework is the term used by OSIsoft to describe virtual versions of assets that are created within their software, which are then used for modeling and monitoring purposes. If this sounds familiar, it’s a building block of what the rest of the industry calls a “Digital Twin”; OSIsoft uses this model to add structure to transactional maintenance data.
Element jumpstarts this process with exactly what you’d expect - services from specialists who have vast experience creating asset-centric data models, lots and lots of templates, connectors, and other tools that simplify the creation, duplication, and editing of OSIsoft Asset Frameworks. The actual process typically takes two months, with the first month spent analyzing the process or plant, and the second month building out the AF.
What we like about this is not just the impact on the creation process, but the results - with easier and faster setup, a company can experiment with different versions of the AF and different conditions while remaining confident that the underlying data is an accurate representation of the company’s operations. This helps in two ways. First, Element can accelerate the process for building AF models and integrating advanced analytics (with the benefits growing with the complexity and size of the facility). Second, it helps update a perception of OSIsoft as a legacy tool and AF as a technology that invariably requires data scientists and complex change management. Moreover, it’s a toolset that can be used across a much wider range of personnel within the industrial enterprise.
It’s Just a Start
While we like a great deal about the Asset Framework Accelerator, it’s just a step - though a major one - towards making the PI System an enterprise system that supports a broad spectrum of the data requirements of an IIoT platform. The companies need to continue to build out the asset templates and innovate around ease of use, to move PI System from a monitoring and analytics platform to a solution for innovation within the industrial enterprise. Automated data connectors, hundreds and hundreds of pre-made templates, and tools for modeling and experimenting with different external conditions and situations – if delivered in an easy-to-use package – will help OSIsoft to leave behind their legacy reputation and deliver new value to their customers. This move to empower users – not just data scientists, but operational users – is a big step towards delivering the “democratization of data analytics” that has been the vision for Element, too.
Recommendations for End Users
Industrial companies in the industries serviced by OSIsoft - oil and gas, chemicals and petrochemicals, materials, mines, and metals, power and utilities, pulp and paper, and life sciences to name just a few – need to revamp their view of OSIsoft. While the company’s data historians remain a powerful tool for industry, the PI System has made significant progress towards being an enterprise data and analytics platform for these same industries. For OSIsoft users, companies like Element can go a long way to extend and support the increased value OSIsoft is able to create. Companies planning an enterprise data model or who are considering deployments of analytics tools should consider PI System a contender in this space, and Element’s Asset Framework Accelerator should enable them to revamp their timelines for deployment and ROI as well.