Nova Systems Insight - WHAT TO DO WITH PROBLEMS THAT CAN’T BE SOLVED
Dec 21, 2018
As our assets and their operation become more and more complex, they are often accompanied by what appear to be “problems that can’t be solved”.
Steve Ashfield, Senior Technical Adviser & Jon Sciortino, Mining Sector Lead – Co-Lead Authors
Some examples of “problems that can’t be solved” include:
- Further enhancing productivity
- Reducing unplanned down-time to zero
- Greatly reducing the cost of gas well workovers and field development
- Excess power usage
- Unpredictability in operating costs
So, exactly why is it that we often can’t solve such problems?
At Nova Systems, we have determined that the primary reason is that these problems are complex in nature. Yet people are trying to resolve these by using thinking approaches designed for solving far more simple problems. Systems thinking tells us that the solution approach must be commensurate with the nature of the beast.
“Whenever I run into a problem I can’t solve, I always make it bigger…”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower
The reality of such problems is that there is no single or easy solution; from our experience the overarching “issues” are typically a complex aggregation of 20 or more underlying problems. These underlying root problems are locally manageable, but somehow, they coalesce into an emergent issue that seems unsolvable.
The good news is this: most complex problems can be solved, or at least greatly relieved.
The successful approach requires the application of creative problem solving, a willingness to consider divergent/convergent thinking, the development of an opportunity ‘hopper’ and the derivation of value assessments. In terms of value, it may turn out that solving 15 of the 20 underlying problems solves 95% of the overarching issue. Taking this further, our experience shows that ‘fixing’ the overall issue often pays for itself in 12-24 months.
Typically, solutions require a far more refined degree of asset and operations monitoring and control than is the norm across a range of industries. The benefit of this is that such refinement enables the expansion of operating envelopes to yield higher productivity benefits, within an acceptable level of risk. Here’s the rub: doing this will change the way you operate your assets and more broadly, your overall business … for the better.
When addressing these “unsolvable problems”, early effort needs to be focused on the problem space. Specifically, defining it and placing some initial boundaries around the area of concern. The approach then turns to fact finding and the winnowing out of extraneous information that typically confuses the core issues and creates the ‘noise’ that often obscure the real problems. The gathering of facts leads in turn to deriving objectives and an initial list of opportunities that can be addressed to tackle the broader problem.
The net effect is to define a solution space with elements that can be conventionally engineered and managed. Putting these elements together in a logical sequence, as an integrated solution, starts to relieve the overall issue at hand and “move the dial” for your operation.
The key to this approach is to re-frame problems as opportunities in order to create value. Value is of course determined by your objectives – that is, the problem to be solved.
On occasion, these ‘unsolvable’ problems can even appear chaotic in nature, with no obvious method to even begin to characterise the problem. All that can be seen is a set of random symptoms of issues with no apparent cause-effect relationships. Examples of this appear in a number of complex environments, including the Australian energy market, where there are thousands of factors interacting in real-time. For these chaotic problems, it becomes necessary to try test solutions to figure out what the actual problems are.
“When you’re facing a complex problem or trying to do something bold, start with a smaller version of the larger problem. Focus exclusively on that small problem and solve it. Use the answers to this small issue to expand your knowledge of the larger issue. Repeat.”
James Clear, Author
This method of problem solving can deliver profound results for your business. It can eliminate the noise and allow you to focus on the real issues that need to be fixed. All it takes is a measured and repeatable process, and a willingness to challenge traditional methods.
The above Insight has been published from Nova Systems Energy & Resources program. For further information regarding Problems That Can’t Be Solved, contact Tim Anderson, Program Manager – Energy & Resources firstname.lastname@example.org
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Nova Systems attends meeting of Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems
Dec 18, 2018
Members of the Joint Authorities for Rulemaking on Unmanned Systems (JARUS) convened in Brisbane, Australia 10 – 14 December.
The meeting was hosted by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority and focused on refining the Specific Operation Risk Assessment (SORA) (WG-6), Air Risk models and DAA (WG-4) outcomes. The potential of these efforts to support the commencement of more complex operations is attracting considerable attention internationally. Representatives included experts from National Aviation Authorities (NAAs), Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSP’s) and Industry.
Nova Systems has a rich pedigree supporting both the military and civil sector in UAS operations, with experience and knowledge spanning UAS acquisition, operations, system safety, airworthiness management and flight test and evaluation. The company is committed to contributing to the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) community both nationally and internationally, and is proud to have a representative in JARUS: Dr Terrence Martin.
Dr Martin joined representatives from many of the 56 nations involved with JARUS last week. To help foster multi-national engagement, Nova Systems was delighted to sponsor an “Australiana themed BBQ” at Southbank Parklands for the JARUS participants. “Prawns on the BBQ”, “large tasty slabs of beef served with cold beer” and “Australian Pavlova” were provided, and left a lasting impression on the JARUS participants including representatives from the US, France, Indonesia, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Israel, Romania and South Africa.
JARUS is a group of experts from the National Aviation Authorities (NAAs) and regional aviation safety organizations. Its purpose is to recommend a single set of technical, safety and operational requirements for the certification and safe integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into airspace and at aerodromes. The objective of JARUS is to provide guidance material aiming to facilitate each authority to write their own requirements, with effort dedicated to operational, safety and technical challenges that are hindering commencement of complex operations like flight over people, flight Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS), and ultimately, the full integration of UAS into the National Airspace System.
Nova Systems Insight - Autonomous Systems: Solving the Right Problem
Dec 14, 2018
Business today is fast paced and busier than ever. The impetus to provide high quality products and services in short time frames and at competitive pricing mounts constantly.
Jon Scortino, Mining Sector Lead and Steve Ashfield, Senior Technical Adviser – Co Lead Authors
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Abraham Maslow, pre-eminent psychologist
Businesses operating in this ‘pressure cooker’ environment often find themselves turning to technology to provide solutions that will assist them in achieving more efficient production, safety improvement, and cost reduction wins.
They grapple with the relentless advance of technologies and techniques, including big data, digital twin and augmented reality (AR), as well as the impact of digitalisation on safety, asset management and the expectation that all of these are needed now.
This has seen the birth of a new ‘industry’ in autonomous systems, with vehicles (ground and air) at the tip of the spear. Meanwhile, industrial automation programs are becoming more and more prevalent, ranging from relatively simple machinery automation right through to ‘smart’ autonomous systems that apply machine learning and advanced robotics techniques.
Large scale operations are heavily focused on finding ways to balance the supply/demand equation, such as in autonomous mining, while small and medium enterprises try to efficiently achieve business growth. However, as industries grow and develop, and new solutions become available, more and more businesses are being swayed by the tendency to see the “shiny new widget” as a solution to the challenges being faced.
Often by the time a business gets to this stage, the pressure is so intense that there is a desperate need for a solution to be created. Experience has shown that the best salespeople in the world will work to convince you that you have a problem and they have the solution. In the race to create change through quick wins, widgets are deployed to provide “improvements”.
Consider this non-hypothetical scenario: a business adopts autonomous technology at considerable cost to solve a safety or efficiency problem, when a relatively inexpensive set of process changes might have been equally effective.
So, what is the real problem in this situation?
Is it a lack of autonomous technology? Are your competitors adopting autonomous technology and you feel like you’re being left behind? Or is it something deeper, or even simpler?
Before you jump into buying a solution that someone else has convinced you will solve a problem, that they’ve also convinced you that you have, we propose that you:
… understand your needs before you consider what technology to adopt.
Autonomy may well be the solution – or part of the solution – that your business needs. For those businesses who do choose to go down the autonomous technology path it is critical that you:
- Do the ‘front end’ work first: articulate your needs and how your newly automated business is going to operate at end-state; and
- Understand the requirements that flow from those needs.
Completing these tasks at the beginning will shape the overall solution and help you to validate that it matches your endorsed needs. Importantly, this approach will save you the significant expense of having to unwind newly installed operations that don’t provide an effective solution.
Experience gained across a range of industries, including aerospace, mining, transport, power, water and oil & gas indicates that a given enterprise problem space is typically comprised of a dozen or more subordinate issues. This is further complicated by the fact that resolving those underlying issues individually won’t necessarily ‘fix’ the problem space. In other words, an integrated solution is required.
Integration is almost always misunderstood. This understates the problem (or problems) to be solved. In particular the fact that the problem space is often a system with emergent properties greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, a systems approach will consider overall performance, structures, patterns and cycles in the problem space rather than specific events or elements. By extension, a focus on the entire system leads to the identification of solutions that address as many issues as possible in the overall system and leads their emergent or joint solving of an overall issue.
A systems thinking approach defines and scopes the holistic operational concept, operational and technical requirements, and the other systems and stakeholders that the solution program needs to interoperate with. Without such an approach, you are limited to improvements only, and the right problems will most likely remain unsolved.
The above Insight has been published from Nova Systems Energy & Resources program. For further information regarding Autonomous Systems contact Tim Anderson, Program Manager – Energy & Resources email@example.com
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Media Release | Nova Systems Welcomes the Announcement of the Location of the Australian Space Agency
Dec 12, 2018
Nova Systems welcomes the announcement of the location of the Australian Space Agency in Adelaide, South Australia.
The Australian Space Agency will be based in the heart of the Adelaide innovative precinct of Lot Fourteen. The location provides the Agency with an excellent base to deliver their mandate to transform and grow the Australian space industry to inspire and improve the lives of all Australians, underpinned by strong national and international engagement.
Nova Group CEO – Nova Systems Parent Company – Mr. Greg Hume, said “We are excited for the Australian Space Agency to open its doors in Adelaide, providing a platform for engagement with the Australian and global space industry.
“The Agency will greatly benefit from the already established local space industry and defence presence in Adelaide.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Space Agency and national and international space industry to achieving transformation and growth”.
Last week, Nova Systems signed a statement of strategic intent with the Agency. The statement confirmed their commitment to enhancing the capability and competitiveness of the Australian space sector. Nova Systems outlined their strategic interest in solving problems of national interest through enabling satellite communications, next generation ground stations and space situational technologies.
Nova Systems is engaging and collaborating with industry to grow the Australian space sector. The growth within the sector will contribute to the generation of jobs and innovation to support a strong Australian economy.
The Australian Space Agency will be located in Adelaide by mid-2019 with the equivalent of 20 full-time staff is set to be employed.
Nova Systems is a an Australian owned and operated Global Professional Service Provider, specialising in the provision of technology enabling solutions and world class expertise to deliver complex capabilities and systems and solve technologically challenging problems. We solve the problems that really matter.
For more information contact,
Sarah de Valence, Group Communications Manager
Telephone: 07 3129 2237
Nova Systems Insight - Making Augmented Reality Real
Dec 7, 2018
Most people are familiar with Augmented Reality (AR) as a result of viral sensations like ‘Pokemon Go’ and social media experiences such as ‘Snap Chat’ filters.
Grant Krieg, Senior Systems Engineer and Anthony Blunden, Capability Lead -Co- Lead Authors
However, AR is not limited to these types of consumer applications. University research dates back to the 1960s and AR concepts have been used in Heads Up Displays for military aircraft since the 1950s.
Now companies such as Ikea are embracing AR technology to allow consumers to see new furniture in their own home by using a smart phone application and an Ikea catalogue. In the industrial space, AR is being considered as a new technology to assist operators in the maintenance of plants and as a supporting tool in manufacturing.
“We believe augmented reality is going to change the way we use technology forever. We’re already seeing things that will transform the way you work, play, connect and learn.”
Tim Cook, CEO Apple inc.
However, the introduction of any technology is seldom valuable in itself. The outputs must be linked to organisational purpose and coordinated with systems of assets and processes in order to realise value. Structured asset management processes, such as those identified in the International Standard ISO55001, allow for a systems thinking approach to problem solving and the application of new ideas and opportunities.
Use cases for AR in support of asset management are well known. A recent Harvard Business Review article showed that support to service inspections and remote expert advice are the largest enterprise roles for AR; support to operations, training, safety and quality assurance also feature. When implementing any technology, it is important to remain focused on the link to value; it is only through the realisation of value that technology delivers benefits. Systems thinking and asset management allows not only technical issues to be identified but also wider integration and acceptance considerations.
Nova Systems recently collaborated with SA Power Networks, University of South Australia and global software company PTC, on the demonstration of the University of South Australia AR concept called “Shared Sphere”. The concept is a computer generated 3-D environment based on a 360-degree video feed from a Host User that is augmented with hand gestures and annotations from the Guest User. The Guest User is fully immersed in the Host Users environment courtesy of a Virtual Reality (VR) headset. The Host User’s world is augmented by the Guest User courtesy of images projected into the real-world using AR glasses. Systems thinking was applied and stakeholders determined user requirements to ensure the demonstrations of the “Shared Sphere” technology addressed real world needs, therefore delivering real world value.
By engaging stakeholders with a series of demonstrations, the user experience was enhanced by analysing stakeholder feedback to address issues that were both perceived and real. The feedback was not just limited to the use of the technology itself. It included important feedback on how the technology can be integrated with other user equipment and the compatibility with Personal Protective Equipment.
“Asset management can make a significant impact when companies start thinking about the systems (the collections of assets that provide value) and stop focusing on maintenance of individual components.”
John Woodhouse, TWPL Managing Director
As with any emerging technology, there are often gaps between demonstrating the capability in a controlled environment and moving to a real-world environment. This includes consideration of communications requirements, system architecture, cost of implementation, robustness and reliability. Including these real-world requirements in the systems thinking discussion in early stages helps to shape the research and engineering design of the system implementation. This makes for a simpler transition from technology demonstrator to value delivering capability.
Considering these aspects early in the product life cycle enables the circumvention of the common issue raised in initial feedback when demonstrating new technology to user groups: “nice technology however it will never work in my environment”. Armed with systems thinking, companies can manage the expectations of the demonstrations and engage with user groups to further refine the technology and implementation solutions. This provides additional information that can be fed back to the researchers and provides a connection and ownership of the technology with user groups. This is an essential initial step to effective change management for when the time is right to “Make Augmented Reality Real”.
The application of technologies such as AR offers exciting potential to improve performance, reduce costs and increase safety. Technology matched with sound systems thinking and aligned with clear enterprise objectives will deliver realised value.
 “Augmented Reality in the Real World” By Harvard Business Review Staff, November-December 2017
The above Insight has been published from Nova Systems Energy & Resources program. For further information regarding Digitalisation within complex operations, contact Tim Anderson, Program Manager – Energy & Resources firstname.lastname@example.org
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