Leading the tech revolution

More than five decades later, AVEVA, the world’s most trusted and agile software innovator, is still delivering enhanced technical and commercial flexibility

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With digital transformation and Industry 4.0 taking the business world, and the entire world for that matter, by storm, it has become relevant and increasingly important that manufacturers become more flexible in reacting to changes in the market. And the need to increase the speed of innovation, which, ultimately, will lead to faster design processes, has finally been acknowledged as an enabler in assisting with finding solutions for challenges that might arise.

Incorporating Industry 4.0, and all the benefits that come with it, into current manufacturing processes, will lead companies into a sustainable and profitable future as the physical and digital worlds merge, and will drastically change manufacturing processes in the near future. Playing a pivotal role in this space is the engineering and industrial software solutions provider, AVEVA.

AVEVA maintains that its expertise and innovation drive has put the company at the heart of the world’s most ambitious projects, biggest companies and greatest challenges. The fact that AVEVA has been around for longer than Microsoft and many other major companies says it all.

The company’s Sales Manager: Sub-Saharan Africa, Hanno van Niekerk, says since the global leader’s humble beginnings (as a university programme launched to develop a 3D computer ADD design application) at Cambridge in 1967, AVEVA has a long history of market leadership in engineering, asset performance, operations management and control applications. Since the beginning, it has always been about bringing transformation to its customers.

Since combining with Schneider Electric’s industrial software business in March last year, the global leader has been in an even better position to lead the digital revolution.

“We are a diverse educated group of individuals who are passionate and excited about leading the digital revolution and digital transformation. Our goal is to make the technology work harder for the customer and to redefine what’s possible in the industry,” Van Niekerk explains.

In addition to the Schneider Electric connection, AVEVA also added the Wonderware brand of industrial software (used in automotive assembly, facilities management, food and beverage, mining and metals, power, oil and gas, chemicals, energy, water and wastewater) to its stable. This human-machine interface (HMI) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software is the primary tool by which operators and line supervisors co-ordinate and control the industrial and manufacturing processes in the plant, thus enabling operational excellence.

“Wonderware gives AVEVA a very large footprint in a number of operating companies in various industries. HMI and SCADA have also evolved with the industry. It is ultimately about a human-machine interface and understanding and giving insight into a facility or into what’s happening. It brings all the different operating conditions into context, into an environment where it’s easy to understand and easy to not only see what’s happening, but also to make decisions and provide optimisation for that.

“Looking at Wonderware from an AVEVA perspective, for us, it is all about driving operational excellence and providing a deep operational insight based on real-time performance management. It is the only responsive scalable solution for Scada, HMI or Internet of Things (IoT ) applications that basically integrate the process. So, it does not only unify people, processes and assets across different facilities, it also improves real-time decision support and provides a deep operational insight on the basis of real-time performance management,” says Van Niekerk.

Paul Albar, AVEVA Middle East and Africa – Head of Sales Middle East EPC, Marine and Fabricators, Africa and Pakistan, agrees with Van Niekerk and adds that it is all about the digital twin and the fact that their company strongly believes that for every physical asset, there must be a digital asset. “That’s a very strong message that we have been hammering on with our customers and our partners because that’s where we truly believe the industry is going and that’s what’s going to bring efficiency and reduce the risk to our customers in the long run,” Albar says.

Albar, a Mechanical Engineer who started his career at AVEVA in 2011, says the key to their success is continuously and consistently moving with the times and growing with how times change.

“There are many indications of how the industry is working and how it is evolving. We see ourselves as a consultant partner to the industries we work with and that is one of the most important aspects of our business. We are fully aligned with what our customers do and we are fully aligned with how those activities could evolve. We always need to be aware of what’s happening outside of the industry itself to know where those industries will be going over the next 10 to 15 years. Being at the forefront of innovation is of the utmost importance to us and it has ensured that we stayed one of the world leaders for so many years,” explains Albar.

According to him, AVEVA places a strong emphasis on research and development (R&D). “We actually put ourselves in the situation where we can be delivering innovations to our customers, simply because we invested in it. Also crucial to keeping abreast with the times is the fact that we are growing, not only with our own investment innovation, but through acquisitions as well.

“As soon as we have identified new technologies, new companies or new leaders within companies that would bring benefit to our business, we make those investments as well. This way, we manage to attract a lot of influences to the companies and that enables us to remain in a highly thriving position within the industries we serve,” Albar says.

According to Van Niekerk, a Technical Draughtsman and Piping Designer, the company furthermore prides itself in helping its customers speed up processes, improve accuracy and cut waste, all while boosting safety and improving sustainability.

“Our software transforms how our customers operate, helping them to identify new business opportunities, modernise operations and unlock potential. Collaboration is at the core of our products and at the heart of our business. We build enduring relationships with our customers to understand their needs and help them realise their business objectives. Our deep understanding of customer requirements focuses our R&D efforts, enriches our portfolio and delivers increasing value back to our customers,” he says.

Looking at current trends in the company, Van Niekerk says machine learning is the fastest-growing part of their business—it accounts for 10% of its current revenues. Although machine learning is not a new concept, over the last three years, the downstream industries’ focus was on driving innovation and not just building or revamping new facilities. AVEVA strongly started to look at innovation with a particular focus on how they can operate the facility at a higher operational efficiency with less downtime and better safety.

“At the end of the day, that’s really where you want to get it right. That’s where you want to drive towards from an optimisation point of view.

“The application of machine learning for us is the ability to look at large amounts of data across different data lakes or sources. However you want to define it and understand when something is going to fail before it even fails or really starts showing the signs,” he says.

From a leadership point of view, Van Niekerk says he has always promoted the idea of disruption. “Through disruption, new standards are set and barriers are exceeded—that’s a key principle that I go by,” he says.

Albar agrees and adds that he believes change management is the biggest part of a leader’s job. “We’re always trying to implement change, whether it’s internal or with our customers. And yes, there will be some reluctance in terms of getting acceptance, but that’s critical for us to succeed because that’s what makes us successful again,” Albar concludes. 

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