This is the second blog in a four-part series on digital transformation in the chemical industry, check out the first blog “Chemical Companies Deliver Outstanding Customer Experiences Through Digital Transformation” here. Stay tuned next week for part three – Augmented Reality in chemical manufacturing.
Chemical manufacturing is an increasingly competitive industry with margins shrinking every day. Chemical manufacturers have two main strategic priorities. First, drive new value into their enterprise. Second, discover opportunities to recover lost value in current operations by reducing waste and unscheduled downtime. As a result, we’re seeing a significant uptake in digital transformation in chemical industry.
With the adoption of the IIoT, chemical manufacturers of all sizes are rapidly identifying new ways to bridge the OT/IT gap to support enterprise wide initiatives such as improved safety, cost reduction, streamlined regulatory compliance and nimble product lifecycle management (PLM). Here are the top five opportunities for digital transformation in chemical manufacturing to drive new value or recoup lost value in enterprise operations.
1. Streamlining regulatory compliance
As stewards of the environment, keeping up with manufacturing regulations is extremely important to chemical manufacturers. As new environmental impact and safety awareness data becomes available, regulatory and safety guidelines are constantly changing. And it can be a challenge for manufacturers to keep up with procedural development and operator and maintenance engineer training. But digital transformation is allowing manufacturers to apply new technology that empowers workforces to overcome these challenges. With technology obtained through digital transformation initiatives, chemical manufacturers can improve compliance. They can provide better quality best practices and operational procedures training for operators, and standardize compliance practices across multiple sites. Digital transformation helps ensure that no matter what regulatory body the enterprise adheres to — OSHA, GHS, EPA, or any other — the enterprise and its employees have access to the information they need to maintain compliance in real time.
Digital transformation helps improve regulatory compliance and streamlines process innovation – read our whitepaper to learn more!
2. Connecting stranded assets
Chemical manufacturers have broad and deep asset inventories with varying communication capabilities. Mobile operator round solutions enable the capture of data from stranded assets and digitally record that information to be shared throughout the plant and with other enterprise systems. Enabling operational data transfer between assets in the physical world and systems in the digital world is a foundational step. It also streamlines condition based maintenance strategies where maintenance actions are driven based on data using rules, models or machine learning. Using a mobile operator round solution empowers the people in the field to verify and build an audit log. This audit log shows operators were physically at the asset when maintenance was performed, along with a timestamp to help automate and streamline maintenance practices. Users can perform RFID and barcode scans at an asset, or even component level to ensure the operator performed the required maintenance.
3. Reducing unscheduled downtime
Over the past decade the chemical industry has seen huge shifts in the competitive landscape. Recouping the highest return on asset investment possible is paramount for chemical enterprises to maintain and grow their market share. As digital transformation in chemical manufacturing occurs, new maintenance opportunities such as predictive maintenance and prescriptive maintenance are emerging. These technologies enable manufacturers to leverage their data to uncover potential failures before they occur, thereby reducing maintenance costs and optimizing scheduled downtime.
4. Digital Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
To achieve the optimal effect, digital transformation in chemical manufacturing needs to also encompass product lifecycle management (PLM). PLM enables chemical manufacturers to develop more specialized products to meet specific customer application requirements. Manufacturers can achieve this through rapid digital collaboration with customers, feedstock suppliers, and regulatory bodies. Mashing up different data sources during the design and manufacturing phase of new products creates a real time design-to-production digital information loop that allows research and development engineers to fine tune product formulation based on yield measurements and fluctuating cost elements. Chemical companies that effectively employ digital PLM to collaborate and manage data will be able to develop products faster. They will also be able to go to market ahead of their competition with lower introductory costs.
5. Accelerated training and improved safety
Augmented and virtual reality technology provide real time, easy-to-follow, visual, step-by-step operating procedures and key messages to operations personnel, reducing human error and guiding operators to appropriate equipment for performing specific tasks. AR solutions superimpose information on existing hazards over the operator’s location, supplying the operator with critical information. Operator training is accelerated by allowing operators to perform new tasks and maintain products using the technology’s visual instructions. This enables compliance standardization across processes, functional teams and sites. These solutions display 3D CAD/CAM drawings of asset and components for operators to reference during design, maintenance and operations tasks.
Digital transformation in chemical manufacturing is a process that takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. To learn more about how you can get started in your digital transformation journey, read our whitepaper and download our infographic today!