Digitizing the equation

5:09 AM, 16th January 2018
Todd Gardner, Vice President, Siemens Process Industries & Drives Division, US
Todd Gardner, Vice President, Siemens Process Industries & Drives Division, US.

In an interview, Todd Gardner, Vice President, Siemens Process Industries & Drives Division, US, with Chemical Today magazine delves into the ways in which digitization is changing the operational formula of the chemical industry.

By Shivani Mody

Digitalization for the chemical industry.

The chemical industry continues its drive to optimize the plant and asset lifecycle, gaining operational efficiency to outperform competitors. As with many other industries, the chemical sector is in a transformational phase, realizing the benefits of digitalization across large, complex and ever-changing value chains. Companies are looking at digitalization and data from a business value standpoint, and building this into long-term strategies.

With data as a new form of currency, companies need to generate digital data of their plants, processes and products. For new ones, this is quite easy, as you start from scratch with the design and engineering phase.  For existing brownfield operations, data is often only available on paper and in an older version, but with digitalization, the technology is available to build a digital twin of existing plants. The foundation of a digital strategy lies in the existing automation and electrification assets of the plant, where each piece of equipment can be a data point, measured, monitored and digitalized in real time.

Trends in the digital world of chemical industry.

Compared to other industries such as IT, communications, banks or retailers, chemical industry has been a little bit reluctant to embrace digitalization.

A recent survey, conducted by London-based Longitude Research, on behalf of Siemens, found the top reasons for chemicals producers to digitalize. The most popular response was to improve uptime, followed by improved operating margins, meeting industry standards and regulations. The survey reveals that many chemical producers recognize the potential of digital technologies, and some are already moving forward. 

Of those surveyed, 51 percent are using connected sensors in plant operations, 30 percent have adopted advanced data analytics tools and 49 percent have implemented cloud technologies. Yet, the segment is lagging behind other sectors in adopting innovative digital solutions that drive demonstrable time and cost savings. The majority of investments are not pushing the envelope but rather maintaining a digital “status quo.” For example, only 30 percent of companies with analytics capabilities are actually using analytics to support most or all key decisions. 

Challenges faced by plant operators.

Operators strive for less downtime, no unplanned shutdowns and the highest possible availability of the production systems. They are efficiency-driven and need to control processes, operating cost as well as safety and the adherence of security regulations. From our perspective, it starts with advanced technology, industry-specific solutions and a strong domain knowledge, all backed by global capabilities with localized service support. 

Areas with heightened adoption of digitalization.

We see customer engagement in all phases over the entire lifecycle. In greenfield plants we can play our comprehensive digitalization story from Integrated Engineering to Integrated Operations/Maintenance. Some customers ask for business consulting and general digitalization workshops. Customers with the need for a fast ramp-up show interest in engineering and commissioning. They like to generate a data model or digital twin for their plant and, they want to simulate and test before the start-up of this plant with dry-run and operator training.

The most adopted and promising sector is the long production phase where digitalization helps to optimize the plant and asset lifecycle. During operations, customers use process simulation, real-time optimization and model-predictive control. They work remotely with mobile devices, interchange data with logistics partners, and so on.

Also smart maintenance is a growing area for digitalization as data is used for more preventive/predictive maintenance, and to better utilize the assets and for investment protection. Data analytics based upon key performance indicators or document management or backwards plant documentation are growing sectors.

Company overview and future growth plans for the Asia Pacific region. 

Siemens chemical industry business is there where our customers are, and the Asia Pacific region remains strong due to demographics. Regarding the economic outlook, the time is good for investments, above and beyond standard maintenance, reliability and operations, and we see that upswing with our chemical customers, especially a strong rise of China as governmental stimulus pushes growth.

Digitization solutions for developing countries. 

Digitalization is global – it has no borders. There is a fundamental need for chemical companies to compete more effectively or get left behind, regardless of their home base. Our R&D and innovations are always according to market requirements. We have specific solutions such as hardened products, entry-level CPUs, easy-to-install, use and maintain (plug-and-play) products. These can be used all over the world.

Solutions to improve overall productivity of chemical plants. 

With our Manufacturing-Operations-Management-System (MOM) we use a holistic approach to increase efficiency and transparency from planning, order management, workflow and quality management. In batch processes, digitalization plays an increasing role, for instance, with online quality control or online process optimization. The information flow - often paperless - between production (SIMATIC PCS 7/BATCH), online process control, lab and analytics systems (PIMS, LIMS UNILAB) allows fast feedback and an quality check against specification (“Quality by Design/PAT“). As a result chemical customers can achieve better output, less waste and shorter time-to-market. Finally, the trend to modular systems increases flexibility in fine and specialty chemicals.

Solutions for countries with agro-based economy.  

As an extremely commoditized sector of the chemical industry, it is even more important for these companies to be able to extract as much profitability out of production as possible. Being able to see operations data in real time and analyze that data over time will give companies in agrochemical the ability to read into changes in demand for production efficiency and predict failures in machinery that could further reduce thinning margins. Siemens offers energy efficient and sustainable solutions to address these markets.

With Totally Integrated Automation (TIA), we are the supplier offering a holistic product and system spectrum for automation. For instance with the Advanced Process Control/MPC control algorithms embedded in the DCS closed-loop control concepts can be implemented that help to optimize energy consumption and to increase utilization of the plant. On the basis of Totally Integrated Power (TIP), we implement plant-wide, efficient and safe solutions for energy and intelligent motor management, low CO2 emissions or waste-heat recovery. These solutions are beneficial for the industry as well as the inhabitants of these countries.

Addressing cybersecurity and operational networking concerns.

Digitalization is indispensable connected to networking and communications as well as safety and security. Our chemical customers use the multilevel Defense-in-Depth concept and risk management within their plants for everything from plant protection against unauthorized access to network security (authentication and encryption), protection of automation systems, as well as integrity checks such as passwords, logbooks and virus protection.

However, the security of the networking infrastructure is only as strong as the weakest link. Siemens works with the highest standards to ensure the safety of all networking and software products and constantly checks for holes hackers may exploit. Our products are accessed through the customer’s local network, which must also be secured. Siemens can consult with them to identify the best way to enhance security on their internal networks.  From a services standpoint, Siemens is has built an extensive network of cybersecurity partners – covering the IT and OT space in key vertical markets.  Partnerships with companies like Tenable Inc, Darktrace and PAS Global, only strengthen the solutions we are able to offer to our customers.

Cybersecurity and safety goes hand in hand. Safety standards are never compromised and so should cybersecurity standards. Both the supplier and the customer have a responsibility in making sure they adhere to the highest standards of protection at all times and putting in place redundancy measures to ensure authorized access.

Software solutions that benefit the chemical industry.

Software and digital business is the future, and is the cornerstone that connects all of our solutions. Some examples include: SIMIT allows you to develop and engineer processes for the plant in a simulated environment.  Our COMOS platform supports end-to-end plant asset management across the entire lifecycle of an industrial plant. XHQ connects operations to IT centers in real time decision support and analysis. 

Our new MindSphere open cloud platform is another example of our commitment to digitalization. MindSphere provides the transparency, connectivity, security, flexibility for operational data. Through apps like Siemens Asset and Process Performance Suite, operators can better manage maintenance planning. With Siemens Drive Train Analytics App, customers can manage inverters, motors and gear units not only showing operating status, technical machine parameters and KPIs but also generating dashboards and machine-related event reports to avoid failures respectively to accelerate issue resolution. The Siemens Valve Monitoring App uses existing diagnostics and process data for anomaly detection and extrapolates the wear data making proposals for predictive and just in-time maintenance.

The Siemens Digital Enterprise approach for Process Industries addresses key features of Industry 4.0 focusing on Integrated Engineering and Integrated Operations, supporting our customers to respond with significant speed, flexibility and efficiency improvements.

Challenges faced by process automation solution providers.

We see the ongoing innovation in technologies (IOT, Industry 4.0, Smart Manufacturing etc.) versus the need from the chemical industry for stable running systems over decades. On the one hand, this industry calls for open architectures and flexible connection of subsystems (Modularization) and on the other hand it asks for more standardization in Automation and Electrification. There is the trend to Digitalization and we are well prepared to assist our chemical customers on this journey.

© Chemical Today Magazine

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