Industry 4.0: Looking Beyond the Buzz

January 11, 2018

We ran our first South Africa Conference recently in Johannesburg, the theme of which was “Industry 4.0” Business Buzzword or Route to Profitability? It focused on answering questions around what Industry 4.0 means in reality, and how companies are harnessing it to achieve maximum returns in their business and production processes.

The process industries have been using the term Industry 4.0 for years, but the concept is a “work in process” still being defined by most companies. PwC states that “industrial companies need to act now to secure a leading position in tomorrow’s complex industrial ecosystems,” while McKinsey describes Industry 4.0 as a “confluence of trends and technologies...[that] promises to reshape the way things are made” and as the “the next phase in the digitization of the manufacturing sector.”

AspenTech regards digital transformation as a key step toward achieving operational excellence through asset optimization; however, it is a means to an end, not a solution. Throughout the process industries, companies are sitting on large volumes of unrecognized data — be that in plant operations or asset maintenance. As a result, potential profits are being left on the table due to an unrealized opportunity to leverage data to extend the life of assets and maximize return on capital employed across the asset lifecycle.

A packed agenda at our conference included two special guest speakers: Stephan Kotze from Aurecon (a global engineering and infrastructure advisory company) and Riaan De Villiers from Sasol (a South African energy and chemical company). Stephan gave his perspective on Industry 4.0 — namely that traditional asset and process optimization practices need to be disrupted to derive the value created by potentially available data — while Riaan shared some applications of Aspen Plus® at Sasol.

AspenTech product and business leaders, such as Michael Harmse and Matt Holland, talked about the combination of analytics, data and models needed to achieve the full benefits of Industry 4.0. Several “winners” who have already realized tangible business benefits were highlighted. These winners are organizations which understand these technologies and have bought into a long-term, model-based approach to process and asset optimization.

Building on the focus on the benefits of Industry 4.0, AspenTech business consultants Manuel Dias, Ruben Gil, Rob Hockley and Kate Kulik covered a wide range of topics, including:

  • How to connect technology to business processes and people to guide investment decisions and maximize value

  • How the huge volume of data available today forms an integral part of decision-making around production processes

  • What the latest technology achieves in the real world of production

Having the opportunity to collaborate on the challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0 with 50 customers was incredibly valuable. We gained perspective on what Industry 4.0 means for them, specifically about how they can use the data generated by their assets and processes to help them tailor their approach to asset optimization and achieving operational excellence.

I want to personally thank all who attended and made for a great event, and I am looking forward to getting back together with everyone in South Africa in 2018!

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