Digitization has had a significant impact on many areas of the chemical industry. It has changed value chains, led to more innovation and higher productivity, and created new channels to market. In addition to the above benefits, data generation, collection, and storage have improved significantly, and the computational power is better than ever before. The insights obtained from the data using advanced analytics can be used to improve how plants are run and make better-informed and speedier decisions across the full range of a chemical company’s business processes.
In other words, digital is translating to opportunities for chemical companies.
So let’s dive deeper into how digitization has disrupted the chemical industry and how companies can successfully embrace this transformation.
The problems hounding the chemical industry
The chemical industry deals with substances that may be toxic and hazardous. The production processes cause pollution and are susceptible to catastrophic accidents. Also, it is not uncommon for the quality of the final product to vary from one batch to another. Additionally, the manufacturing processes involve a complex combination of extraction, reaction, distillation, and several other operations, which need close monitoring and control.
With the help of automation and digitization, optimal operating conditions can be achieved which makes production processes efficient & productive and addresses the health & safety concerns, environment, traceability issues, and compliance requirements.
With the help of production & operational data and its analysis, patterns can be uncovered, and valuable insights can be obtained to make better operational and production decisions.
Digital transformation – The way to better and more efficient processes
Below are some ways digitization is changing the chemical industry for good.
Seamless sharing of data: With the help of industrial internet technologies, data can be generated, collected, and shared among different databases, applications, enterprise solutions, and automation systems without adhering to the traditional hierarchical architecture for information flow.
Sets the stage for industry 4.0: Digital transformation is a prerequisite for the chemical companies to transition from the third generation and become future-ready for the fourth generation of industrialization.
Analyze past, present, or predict future outcomes: Today’s computers and systems can cost-effectively and efficiently collect, process, analyze massive amounts of information or big data to generate business intelligence & insights. They can examine the real-time or historical set of information to uncover patterns & relationships or study current information to describe what is happening. With the help of predictive analytics, all the potential outcomes under a set of plausible conditions can be understood, which can be useful for decision-making and problem-solving.
Digital twin technology: With the help of this technology, a digital representation of a physical object, such as a boiler or turbine, can be created, which can imitate its work to study & improve its performance.
Effective training using AR and VR: Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies can be used to train people to impart industry-specific knowledge in health & safety requirements and operational procedures.
Cloud storage: Although the chemical industry has been a little slow to take full advantage of cloud data storage due to the fear of security breaches, the prevailing trends and industry structure imply that it is now ready to leverage major benefits from this technology. Some of the major benefits of this technology for the industry include reducing their underlying cost base, speed, flexibility, and scalability of cloud solutions. By appropriately applying standard security and data privacy restrictions, companies can reap all these benefits while staying safe and compliant.
Predictive maintenance: Using sensors and advanced systems, problems in equipment and machinery can be detected much earlier and addressed before they become big issues. Modern sensors can detect even those problems that would remain unseen when using traditional techniques.
Sustainability and circularity: For the chemical industry, new business models often focus on circularity. The demand for sustainability is higher than ever before, but it can disrupt existing value chains and profit pools. Automation and digitization can play a critical role in these new business models as they can improve chemical recycling processes; use data science to increase energy efficiency in plants; track waste; provide digital passports for tracking circular products; monitor the loss of water and other resources, and track key metrics to help improve overall safety and sustainability in operations.
Digital transformation roadmap
Businesses take the path of digital transformation to evolve their business and production processes to operate more effectively and achieve marketplace success. Any company that wants to achieve the same efficiency and success with digital transformation has to chalk out a roadmap driven by its objectives and priorities. Here’s how they can successfully adopt digital:
- Set a target: Clearly define where you see your company in the future concerning digital.
Quantify the impact: What results do you want to accomplish with digitization? What impact do you aspire to achieve, and what are the related costs?
- Define the capabilities: Determine how many new skills and technologies will be required to achieve your target.
- Design the right organizational structure: A new way of working and governance is very important for success.
- Develop a digital culture: The right culture and climate are very important for a digital organization to prosper.
Digitization in the chemical industry has the potential to open substantial opportunities, but companies need a robust strategy to succeed in this new world. Changes are already happening at an unprecedented pace, but it’s uneven. Therefore, chemical industry stalwarts should develop clear digital strategies based on understanding their specific needs and where and how impacts will occur in their sector.