Connected Plant

Connected Plant Conference Provides Path to Digital Transformation

I am fortunate in my position to have the opportunity to attend a handful of conferences and trade shows every year. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years now, so I’m sure I’ve been to at least 40 events. Most are very worthwhile and I can’t recall ever feeling like an event had been a complete waste of my time. I always hit the keynote sessions and I try to attend as many learning sessions as I can fit into my schedule. I often come away with new insights that I share in my writing, and sometimes I connect with presenters to get contributions from them to publish in POWER. Yet, networking with other attendees and exhibitors could be the most beneficial aspect of these get-togethers. In the end, I almost always leave having enjoyed the whole experience.

An event that I have especially loved attending is the Connected Plant Conference (CPC). POWER began hosting CPC in 2017 when our team noticed how important digital technology had become in power plant operations and wanted to serve the industry by providing a venue where knowledge and experiences could be shared. In year two, POWER’s sister publication, Chemical Engineering, began co-hosting CPC, which expanded the event to include chemical process industry professionals. This year, the 8th annual CPC event will be held in Houston, Texas, at the Lake Resort Conference Center at Margaritaville, May 20–22.

CPC Evolves with the Industry

While I have attended CPC many times, POWER’s resident expert for the show is Senior Associate Editor Sonal Patel. Patel has been a member of the CPC planning committee for many years and is heavily involved in selecting content and speakers for the conference. I asked her how CPC has changed over the years.

“A crucial evolution has been that CPC has broadened dramatically away from the Industrial Internet of Things—essential industrial digitization through the interconnection of digital devices (such as sensors, instruments, and machines)—to a larger conversation about the role that the integration of digital technologies plays in business and society,” she explained. “The conversation is now centered on the digital transformation. For the power sector, that means CPC has emerged as one of the only conferences where power professionals can discuss—guided by expertise, peer knowledge, and perspective—the challenges of adopting digital tools amid the maze of legacy systems, data management complexities, and regulatory considerations.”

Patel continued: “The conference, for example, is aimed at enabling better asset performance through new tools and processes, informed decision-making through more effective data management, and the cultivation of the necessary investment and workforce capabilities through cultural shifts. But it still retains a key focus on technology implementation and process concerns, and significantly, it continues to address enduring challenges, for example, cybersecurity. So, at its core, CPC is today centered on helping attendees grasp the best business value digitalization can offer as the sector grapples with its other challenges, like escalating electricity demand, cost containment, and environmental responsibility.”

Meanwhile, Kim Arellano, content director for CPC, told POWER, “Over the past seven years, we’ve uncovered the irresistible allure of our event—a unique opportunity to connect beyond boundaries. CPC transcends specific industries or technologies, centering on the transformative impact of digital adoption on every profession. As we navigate the evolving landscape, embracing change and confronting challenges, countless echoes affirm that dialogues among peers are not merely helpful but profoundly meaningful. This year, our focus expands beyond technical aspects, featuring insightful panels that break down the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of digital solutions. We delve into the necessity of these technologies and provide strategies to avoid common pitfalls in rapid adoption.”

An Event Worth Attending Year After Year

Digital technology is always changing. By the time you understand a digital solution and how to best utilize it, it’s often been replaced by an even better option. That’s one of the reasons why I think CPC is such a special event—by attending regularly, you can stay abreast of the latest developments, and decide which solutions have staying power and when to pivot toward the latest and greatest technology.

Exhibitors find the event to be very worthwhile too. “Siemens Energy is returning as our Diamond sponsor and has seen the value of participating year after year,” said Ellen Nyboer, CPC’s event sales director. “What we hear most from our returning sponsors is that the connections they make onsite at CPC are invaluable to their business, as is evidenced by those who connected with end-users onsite and then reported on a pilot project with that same end-user company the following year.”

The Lake Resort Conference Center at Margaritaville, the location of this year’s event, as previously mentioned, is a top-tier venue, which offers some unique opportunities. “The benefits of the location are abundant with the number and level of networking activations that we will be able to hold,” Nyboer said. “Our attendees and sponsors will experience activations that kick off with a golf tournament and continue with receptions in the Boathouse located onsite and in our digital arena. When it comes to in-person events, it’s truly all about the education, conversations, and connections you have while you’re there, so it’s our goal to curate the right environment to activate the learning and connections.”

Concerning the agenda, Patel said, “We continue to shape this year’s conference, but as always, it will be spearheaded by a committee that comprises digitalization experts from the power and chemical process industries. This year’s agenda will speak to prevalent industry priorities, such as sustainability goals, workforce and skills enhancement, asset management, data management, and the general scope of achievement, including business value and profitability.”

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor.

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