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Digital Transformation Provides Clarity in Otherwise Muddy Waters

Aug. 28, 2020
Augmented reality opens eyes to an array of opportunities well beyond the ongoing pandemic.

Over the years, Ecolab Inc. has created a solid reputation as a global provider of water, hygiene, and infection preventions solutions and services across an array of markets including those within food production, healthcare, and industrial spaces. However, Covid-19 muddied the waters a bit.

To help Ecolab continue to offer its services, it recently partnered with Microsoft to leverage augmented reality (AR) capabilities, ultimately enabling remote access to plants to install its products and troubleshoot critical operations.

For instance, AR makes it possible to remotely identify leaks, mechanical failures, water quality, and water usage issues at manufacturing, food processing, and energy plants. Ecolab experts can also walk onsite personnel through troubleshooting and fixes—giving the onsite contact a remote connection to 150 Ecolab scientists and cross-functional support teams.

Ecolab’s Michael Cerilli says the successful deployment of AR is enabling the company to release new digital tools built on Ecolab3D analytics platform.

“The new digital tools provide actionable insights leveraging the data that comes from the IoT, artificial intelligence, automation, and analytics operations. IoT is monitoring and sending information back to our scientists for instant readings,” he says. 

“Augmented reality program for just one critical issue can save 5,000 hours and travel expenses in man-hours in response time and cost.”

Digital Recipe

According to Cerilli, AR is just the latest in an entire mix of digital capabilities Ecolab leverages to deliver and optimize its solutions. For instance, predictive analytics play a key role in helping forecast critical issues and predict risk in water quality and water/energy usage (fouling, microbial, corrosion, bacteria, legionella), so companies can preemptively address issues and ultimately avoid downtime.

Likewise, artificial intelligence and automation are enabling adjustments to chemical/mechanical solutions in real-time including Ecolab’s core chemical solutions for water quality, usage and sanitization operations.

“Optimized data is giving new levels of insight into industrial operations that are changing the way customers operate,” he says. “Ecolab’s water safety intelligence digital tool delivers insight into Legionella risk, a particular concern as buildings come back online post-Covid-19.”

The biggest challenge is change management, explains Cerilli.  After all, relying on digital tools, understanding data, adopting new work methods, training, operations, and safety means embarking on a true journey.

However, the successful deployment of digital tools, augmented reality and remote access capabilities have created so much value that Ecolab plans to offer a tiered service post-pandemic that ranges from remote assistance to in-person, explains Cerilli.

“It has sped up the process for companies to adopt digital tools and they are realizing the value; heightened awareness around sanitization issues during Covi-19 is also changing the way they operate, which will drive more adoption for digital tools post-pandemic,” he says.

“Time and money savings are undeniable; companies that do not make use of these efficiencies could render themselves obsolete”

Customers are gaining a deeper understanding as an “active participant” on the other end of the technology—a more immersive experience adds Cerilli.  

“We underestimated the level of service Ecolab could provide during the pandemic because we didn’t realize that these digital tools and new ways of working would be so valuable,” he says.

“The realization that these technologies significantly advance our ability to deliver speed to value for customer needs.”