Data is the New Battlefied

AspenTech Inmation Briefing Note

Axendia was recently briefed by the Pharmaceutical and DataWorks Business Units at Aspen Technology, Inc., (AspenTech) on the acquisition of Inmation™, a German-based company and market leader in industrial real-time information management.

AspenTech is a leading industrial software partner, with more than 60 locations worldwide. AspenTech solutions address complex environments where it is critical to optimize the asset design, operation, and maintenance lifecycle. Inmation is a robust addition to the AspenTech DataWorks portfolio which includes its Aspen IP.21 historian and AspenTech Inmation. The global customer base is comprised of leading pharmaceutical, chemical, manufacturing and oil & gas companies.

AspenTech recognized there are critical challenges to collecting operations data and bringing it to use at the IT level.  During the webinar announcing the Inmation acquisition, Nicole Rennalls, Vice President and General Manager AspenTech DataWorks, explained that manufacturers need a modern industrial data foundation in order to deliver optimized output.  She went on to describe the necessary components of that foundation, including going beyond collection to include data contextualization.  This contextualization ensures all types of data – from time series to batch – collected throughout operations, is relevant at an enterprise level and can be more easily used for decision making.  Furthermore, this foundation needs to support visibility and collaboration between teams – from automation to IT.  With AspenTech Inmation, AspenTech sees a great tool to help realize this data foundation.

Addressing Industrial Data Challenges

Today less than 10% of OT data is assessed or analyzed, and the volume of operations data is only expected to grow.  Unused data holds great potential to improve manufacturing efficiency, if an organization can address the OT challenges inhibiting its use. 

An operational data hub is a centralized platform that brings order to manufacturing data by collecting and contextualizing it across sources and serves as a single source of truth for IT egress, dashboarding and OT applications. Improved operations data quality and data access are a catalyst for digitalization use-cases including predictive maintenance, digital twins, advanced analytics and environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting.  Inmation is an operational data hub designed from the OT perspective to enable manufacturing to maximize the value of their data by addressing OT data challenges.    

Image Courtesy of AspenTech

Siloed, point-to-point connections of OT systems makes it difficult to gather diverse OT data across the enterprise.  Integrations are often hi-friction and lack interoperability between OT and IT systems.  Inmation addresses siloed data – aggregating from disparate sources be it devices or systems – delivering cost-effective and secure data management, ​cross-functional collaboration and most importantly, better informed business decision-making. “AspenTech Inmation looks beyond AspenTech when connecting to data sources…  For example, it’s not just our historian, ‘it’s all historians. ’It’s not just one laboratory system, ‘it’s others as well, and Inmation supports more than open standard solutions, providing vendor-specific OT data connectivity,” explained Rennalls.

The ability to centrally manage Inmation tackles the maintenance challenges of the typical point-to-point OT data system.  Previously, data aggregation was achieved by directly connecting data sources to the users – sometimes directly to the devices or by utilizing legacy OT software solutions and standards (eg Kepware, Historians).  Updating these systems required updating multiple software solutions and often required someone onsite to execute for local systems and devices.  

AspenTech Inmation is a single solution that has a small enough IT footprint to run at the edge, while delivering the power to scale and meet enterprise needs.  This reduces the time and the people required to keep the system current.  Moreover, it allows for digitalization efforts from one site to be easily copied to another site, simplifying scaling initiative such as prescriptive maintenance. 

Finally, OT data preparation – confirming that data is accurate, in the correct format, and complete – takes up a significant amount of time for data scientists.  Inmation contextualizes data from disparate sources to reduce data preparation, freeing up critical resources to analyze the data and put it into use as quickly as possible.

The Convergence of IT/OT in Life Sciences

AspenTech Inmation  was designed by OT experts to solve OT data access problems by offering a platform that also answers all of the modern needs of a data hub, or operational data hub, in line with IT expectations.​  Since Inmation can be deployed on premise or in the cloud, it’s actually a sweet spot for companies not quite ready to work in or go to cloud, or who want to control which data are exported to the cloud at an enterprise level. 

Axendia’s research report, The Need is Moving: Digital Transformation in Life-Sciences Manufacturing, revealed some of the current drivers for digital transformation in support of advanced manufacturing initiatives.  The majority of the companies surveyed for the report indicated having revenues greater than $10B and were currently undergoing digital transformation.  Sixty percent of those companies indicated they had already implemented, were in the pilot phase or were planning to implement technologies within 2 years for IT/OT convergence (inclusive of cloud) in commercial manufacturing.

Production events associated with batch production are tracked in AspenTech Inmation using the Batch Tracker object. The Batch Tracker can create, archive and modify Batch Production Records (BPR) by tracking production events and automatically contextualizing the data depending on its configuration.

  • Structured Batch Production Record based on ISA88 standard
  • Overall visibility and performance benchmarking (batch) with integrated reporting
  • Third party application access to BPRs via WebAPI
Image Courtesy of AspenTech

“With Batch Tracker, we have the ability to bring up event data, batch data, and build out again using ISA-88, the batch record structures so that you get some standard reporting. And we could also expose this to third parties so that you can access this data. Lastly, if anyone makes a change to any of the batch rules or any of the structure, there’s a full audit trail,” explained Keith Flynn, Sr. Director, AspenTech DataWorks.

Illuminating OT Data

While discussing AspenTech Inmation’s enterprise data management capabilities, Lars Gidskehaug, Director of Solutions Management for AspenTech’s Pharma Business Unit, stated, “There needs to be a single source of truth where different business functions can find the data they need in a contextualized manner.” 

Yet in Life Sciences, manual / paper processes or siloed ‘systems of record’ remain prevalent.  Over the past three years, Axendia has witnessed the acceleration of digital transformation initiatives, with end goals varying from company to company.  For a digital transformation strategy to work (and yield results) people, processes and technologies must align. 

“I think there is a high barrier for people to adapt and integrate digital systems. Being able to build a digital infrastructure that makes OT data easily available also helps us to demonstrate the value to our customers, and enables them to see the value sooner,” added Gidskehaug.

An Enterprise IT/OT solution like Inmation can accelerate production design for new life-saving therapeutics & vaccines by:

  • Reducing total cost of ownership by eliminating 1 to 1 connection, integrating disparate OT systems. 
  • Streamlining implementation and securing the investment of Pharma 4.0 initiatives.
  • Scaling digitalization efforts within and across sites.
  • Informing business decisions: alarms & events management, real-time trends, OEE, KPIs, batch tracking, etc.
  • Automating transfer of historized data from multiple historians enabling multisite/multi asset analysis.
  • Facilitating the distribution of OT data to IT securely; no OPC tunneling software required, no expensive middleware,
  • Securely and easily sharing automation, MES, and historian data with CMO/CDMO or regulatory agencies like FDA, EMA over WebAPI & OPC-UA.

In Brief

The AspenTech DataWorks business unit is comprised of the existing Aspen AIoT Hub and the recently acquired Inmation and its operational data hub, that goes by the same name.  Converging IT and OT data is very much needed within the Life Sciences industry to support data-driven decisions. The inability to connect IT and OT data sources in a structured way that supports data integrity is a pain point for many companies. 

The Life Sciences industry is evolving rapidly, with advancements in areas such as personalized medicine, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing. An IT/OT solution makes data more accessible than ever before and can provide a foundation for future innovation and technological integration. It enables the adoption of emerging technologies, such as predictive analytics and machine learning, which can further optimize operational efficiencies, bringing medicines to market more quickly and improving patient outcomes. 

Companies should consider implementing an IT/OT platform to enhance operational efficiency, enable data-driven decision making, improve quality and regulatory compliance, optimize supply networks, ensure cybersecurity, and prepare for future innovation.

We will continue to monitor AspenTech and provide updates as they become available.

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The opinions and analysis expressed in this Briefing Note reflect the judgment of Axendia at the time of publication and are subject to change without notice. Information contained in this report is current as of publication date. Information cited is not warranted by Axendia but has been obtained through a valid research methodology. This report is not intended to endorse any company or product and should not be attributed as such.

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