Honeywell on its digital journey transforming into an industrial software-centric company – my key takeaways from the Honeywell User Group Conference HUG 2019

On September 24-25, 2019, Honeywell Process Solutions (HPS) held its media and analyst event along its 31st Honeywell User Group Conference (HUG) 2019 at The Hague World Forum, in the Netherlands. During this event, I had the opportunity to talk to HPS’s key executives and to participate in customer sessions and experience a digital transformation tour through Honeywell’s demo area of the event. Here are my key takeaways.

First of all, visiting the HUG for me always feels a bit like diving deep into another world. This is mainly because the modernization of industrial processes is lagging behind in process industries (e.g. oil, gas, chemicals) compared to less complex production environments such as discrete industries (e.g. automotive, mechanical engineering).

Investment decision cycles in process industries tend to be much longer because the potential risk attached to making changes to a running production system is often perceived as too high due to process interdependencies. Modifications might impact a complex system of processes and, for instance, lead to serious incidents, i.e. hazardous events such as an explosion at an oil rig or a chemical plant. Besides, no plant operator would want to make changes to a running system unless the expected benefits clearly exceed the risks.

But, given the competitive global environment and the resulting pressure to increase the efficiency of industrial operations, new technologies will play a major role, enabling the digital transformation of industrial processes.

What are some of my personal highlights presented by Honeywell at HUG19?

Honeywell Forge: platform-based software solutions for OT-related enterprise performance management

In 2019, Honeywell announced the launch of its Honeywell Forge platform. On this platform, Honeywell has integrated all its existing connected plant applications, which now enables customers to get a holistic view on real-time data, enhanced with analytics and enriched with recommendations.

Honeywell Forge for Industrial provides role-based dashboards displaying digital twins of industrial processes by giving an overview of defined KPIs and their current operating performance. If certain KPIs show that there is a deviation from the optimum, Honeywell Forge will make appropriate recommendations on the best role-based actions to take. Honeywell Forge is an enterprise performance management platform with SaaS-based modules available covering process, asset, and control performance. This pricing structurefits with Honeywell’s overall strategy of moving to SaaS models in order to ensure that customers can more readily leverage new capabilities and software is kept up to date more easily.

From teknowlogy’s point of view, this new platform totally makes sense and is particularly interesting due to its ability to make concrete recommendations for tasks to be carried out, based on Honeywell’s extensive knowledge base and domain know-how. However, given that Honeywell operates in a very conservative market, we believe that this is also quite risky because the typical stakeholders in process industries are still rather reluctant about cloud-based SaaS models. However, Honeywell Forge for Industrial is available in multi-mode deployment options to fit with customers’ cloud or data-center deployment strategies. What’s more, what might work for some of Honeywell’s very active user group customers and agile early adopters might not work for the broader target market. However, we also see this changing slowly, and some of our recent 2019 CxO Survey results show that manufacturing companies in general are becoming more open to using SaaS not only for horizontal applications such as HR or CRM, but also for industry-specific applications.

Cybersecurity – it’s all about simplifying, strengthening, and scaling industrial cybersecurity operations

Industrial cybersecurity was another major topic throughout the entire event, and from teknowlogy’s point of view, Honeywell is very well-positioned to support its customers in this regard, with deep industrial process know-how and 200+ cybersecurity experts worldwide. Honeywell’s value proposition is also strengthened by the claim that they use their own OT cybersecurity solutions in their own factories. Moreover, some customer references were shared, among others:

  • An international food & beverage producer that uses Honeywell’s cybersecurity solution at 100+ sites;
  • A consortium of 4 major producers of crude oil that uses Honeywell’s secure remote access and asset management solutions;
  • A major oil company that uses Honeywell’s cybersecurity solution in its 25+ upstream and downstream plants.

A new aspect of Honeywell’s proposition is that its cybersecurity solutions are now also available on the new Honeywell Forge Cybersecurity Platform. With that, Honeywell aims at enabling asset-intensive businesses with critical infrastructures to use software solutions that improve OT cybersecurity performance across an enterprise, strengthen multi-site OT cybersecurity by providing a unified single platform to manage cybersecurity operations, and offer vendor-neutral solutions that help strengthen cyber defenses, regardless of control system.

“Infinite longevity” - modernizing legacy infrastructures without replacing existing equipment

A major challenge in process industries is that they have to work with legacy production equipment in plants that are very often decades old. What Honeywell calls “infinite longevity” is about enabling customers that want to increase the efficiency of their production processes to move forward and modernize the control system infrastructure without having to replace their existing production equipment, which is often considered as robust and reliable. For this purpose, Honeywell offers solutions that enable the decoupling of hardware and software. Therefore, back in 2018, Honeywell launched its Experion LCN solution portfolio, which allows the virtualization of decentralized control systems.

While a few years ago, Honeywell was very much considered a hardware-centric company, today the strategy is to become an industrial software-centric company, an approach we have been observing with other industrial players in the market for quite a while.

Some customer proof points at HUG19

There were also several Honeywell customers presenting at the event, two of which I can share here:

  • Remote Preventive Maintenance at British Sugar: In order to increase operational efficiency, British Sugar implemented a remote preventive maintenance strategy from Honeywell at their four sites from 2015 onwards. As this pilot project is still in the early stages, no figures regarding cost savings were disclosed, but both Honeywell and British Sugar were positive about the favorable impact of this project with regard to increasing operational efficiencies at their sites. Also, Honeywell is currently testing this with 20 more customers worldwide.
  • Energy Management at Lundin Norway: By leveraging Honeywell’s energy management solutions, Lundin Norway is able to monitor energy generation and consumption online and can calculate energy loss and optimization during the lifecycle of their Edvard Grieg oil platform in the North Sea. Savings reported are a reduction in CO2 emissions by 5600t/yr.

Many more updates were given during the event. Please also refer to my tweets during the event on Twitter.