Across the organization, chemical operators are sitting on volumes of underutilized or untapped data — be it in operations, production or asset maintenance. As a result, potential profits are being left on the table due to underperformance across process volumes, order fulfillment and client satisfaction.
The reason? An unrealized opportunity to leverage data to extend the life of assets and maximize return on capital employed. There are market trends executives are hearing with increased frequency that look to address this issue — approaches like digital transformation, smart manufacturing or Industry 4.0. Early adopters of solutions that address these trends will realize significantly higher profits.
This is simultaneously happening while advanced technologies such as automation and data science are changing the chemical industry from the ground up. According to MESA International, with the rise of technologies that are driving “smart manufacturing or ‘Industrie 4.0,’ it’s time for C-suite executives to reconsider their hands-off approach.”
Leading analysts such as Gartner agree. In their research note “More Than Digital is Driving the Factory of the Future” dated July 10, 2017, author Simon Jacobson notes that leaders need to “Direct attention to where technology can provide substantial, not incremental, improvement. Subdivide and focus on opportunities where the right combination of technologies (physical and digital) and the culture using them align to how production supports different outcomes.”
There is a prime opportunity for chemical C-level executives to drive their own version of digital transformation from enterprise through the production side of the value chain. New technologies already in use by IT (e.g. automated agents, machine learning and data science) are also being integrated into asset performance management (APM) on the plant side. This evolution in APM not only drives real and proactive maintenance of assets — it also enables better use and integration of relevant enterprise data (finance, operations, etc.).
The result is real-time monitoring of the health of individual assets and deeper and actionable insights on how assets impact the full facility. This level of insight truly aligns operations and maintenance for the first time, and puts those aspects of the business on the same digital level as the rest of the organization. This is truly revolutionary.
This approach also takes full advantage of all relevant enterprise-level data in production environments that was not possible before. This proactive management and real-time decision making — from asset through enterprise — is something AspenTech delivers today through products such Aspen Mtell® and Aspen Fidelis Reliability™.
For example, a customer was continually seeing breakdowns in several critical equipment areas like large chillers and compressors. Through Aspen Mtell’s autonomous agents and machine learning capabilities, the plant saw a dramatic decrease in downtime via prescriptive maintenance, which drove millions of dollars in increased production.
A chemical organization sees multiple positive outcomes when it embraces digital transformation and engages APM as a driver for organization-wide cross functional collaboration:
IT as a partner — This vision works when design, operations and asset data are available and leveraged to their full extent. IT has a vital role in making sure that enterprise level data is fully incorporated into the process. When the C-level shows how the data under IT management can bring increased benefit to the entire organization via increased production, it alleviates any threat IT may feel about the potential impact to ongoing data management and data lake strategies.
Production and maintenance team alignment – With full visibility from asset to system, agile management of the facility is truly possible. Production and maintenance can meet daily to review how current production needs and asset issues may collide, partnering together on the plan to keep systems up and running while meeting production goals.
The result is improved production with confidence, reduced CAPEX, reduced turnarounds expense, and real time understanding of capacity and viability to meet changing market demands.
Chemical companies are constantly dealing with variable conditions, be it product complexity, regional service level expectations or expedited shipment requirements. All these elements can put a tremendous strain on supply networks, raise costs and limit agility. Embracing a cross functional digital transformation strategy — from operations to assets — can radically transform the entire lifecycle to maximize production and profits.
To learn more about how companies are leveraging APM technology to boost profitability, please read my recent executive brief: The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management.