In Case You Missed It—Y NOW 2021: Realizing Autonomous Operations

In Case You Missed It—Y NOW 2021: Realizing Autonomous Operations
In Case You Missed It—Y NOW 2021: Realizing Autonomous Operations

Thousands of participants from more than 100 countries attended Yokogawa’s Y NOW 2021: Realizing Autonomous Operations, held Nov. 2–4. The free virtual event featured presentations by dozens of industry powerhouses, from Shell to Saudi Aramco, Cisco Systems to Evonik Operations, and C3 AI to Microsoft.

Yokogawa’s Dr. Yu Dai, director, senior vice president, and head of digital solutions headquarters, kicked things off to much emoji applause with “Autonomous Operations and Smart Manufacturing 4.0.” Along with insights into the company’s initiatives and visions, he shared a maturity model for businesses that was inclusive of its people and technology, with a global view toward sustainability.

The whole of the event focused on five main categories: Supply Chain Management, Asset Performance Management (AI/ML, digital twins, digital processes), Energy & Production Management, Operational Risk Management, and On the Edge (IIoT, Cloud, Edge, 5G). It was not just information—the experts provided useful takeaways for next steps, emphasizing that implementing any of it should be viewed as a journey—incremental steps along the AI2AI path, and that technology could meet businesses wherever they are currently.  And it wasn’t all glory—the presenters spoke openly about the challenges related to both technology and personnel, the latter being a concern expressed by several attendees. Whether they were reassured by assertions of the need for human brainpower, decision-making, collaboration and corrective measures, as well as by the promise of retraining, remains to be seen.

The easy-to-follow agenda for the global event was available for both Central Daylight Time/Central European Time Daylight Hours, and Saudi Arabia and Singapore Daylight Hours, while the event itself could be accessed online or via the Eventspace by SpotMe app. Two tracks, each with a good mix of industry overview and various levels of tech, were offered, and attendees could choose from both and save to a personalized schedule. In addition to the Q&A chat feature, there were discussion forums with starter questions from Yokogawa, a social feed where topics could be further explored with peers, and a plethora of free downloads and other resources.

Day 1’s keynote session, “Platform for Shaping the Future of Advanced Manufacturing and Value Chains,” featured Francisco Betti, from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and Andreas Helget, president and CEO, Yokogawa Europe B.V.

Said Helget, “Isn’t that an interesting combination—Yokogawa and the World Economic Forum; Yokogawa focusing on the . . . automation, industrial autonomy, and the World Economic Forum, Francisco, looking at the bigger picture.” Which, of course, is another interesting combination, of things like AI, data analytics, industrial IoT and AR. Together, as Helget described it, they hoped to encourage attendees “to be more active in the field by providing . . . very concrete cases” and by examining “why it is worthwhile to embark on the route of digitalization.”

There were two keynotes for Day 2: a riveting discussion of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution at Saudi Aramco,” with Nabil Al-Nuaim from Saudi Aramco, and “Why, What, Who and How? Futurecasting the Path to Autonomy," with Ram Ramasamy, of Frost & Sullivan.

BASF’s Michael Krauss discussed “Remote and Autonomous Operations in the Chemical Industry: End-user Perspective and Challenges” as one of two keynote speakers on Day 3; “How Digital Transformation Enables Autonomous Polymer Operations” by Alex Reed, Fluence Analytics, gave the final keynote.

Among many other important presentations, Yokogawa’s included Kevin McMillen, president & CEO, North America, discussing the future of the company; Penny Chen, Sr. principal technology strategist, talking about real-world applications of robotics; Tom Fiske, principal technology strategist, sharing the latest trends in building autonomous operations; and Hiroaki Kanokogi, general manager, Control Center, Product Headquarters, relating the status of autonomy technology and artificial intelligence.

Of particular interest was information about the “Yokagawa cloud,” a new level of service touted by Joseph Ting, vice president, Digital Customer Experience, during a four-member panel that included Naveen Kashyap, Yokogawa; Bradley Ford, KBC, A Yokogawa Company; and Cor Beetsma of Cor Beetsma Consulting. Ting extolled the value of having a “cloud-first” or “cloud-unless” software strategy versus retaining an on-premise approach and offers an industrial cloud platform for customers who “want to see what’s under the hood, like most engineers.”

Yokogawa also announced that it has acquired Insilico Biotechnology AG, based in Germany, which utilizes digital twin technology in relation to metabolic processes.

Register for free to watch any of the sessions on-demand here. You will also find a link to download just-released industry research in The State of Global Automation Operations report.

About The Author

Lynn DeRocco is a content editor at

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