By Exclusive Article for The Nation
By Ron Beck, Marketing Strategy Director, Aspen Technology
Multiple respected economic forecasters believe demand will not fully recover for at least one to three years. Industry watchers predict permanent changes in the roles of on-the-ground versus remote working. Organizations are seriously considering how more work can be done remotely and with fewer people in dangerous settings, in and around assets. Autonomous production is no longer thought of as in the distant future.
Some analysts feel the energy transition will be accelerated; others forecast the opposite. Chemical businesses are likely to rethink supply chains which are today highly globally interdependent and just-in-time in nature. It will also impact the speed at which refineries integrate their operations to incorporate chemicals and shift away from transportation fuels.
Digital as a Tactical Tool
How will companies most effectively contend with future business uncertainties?
In a recent discussion, a Middle Eastern customer referred to digitalization as “a tactical lever in this environment.” Many organizations have realized during the current disruption that they need to develop capabilities to automate operations as much as possible and enable remote experts to address production plans, needs, and interruptions, and are not as far along in digitally enabling their assets as they should be. So, amidst the business uncertainty, several companies have small teams looking at how to digitally enable themselves more rapidly.
There are short-term moves companies have made and can make in terms of digitalization to navigate the current period and prepare for future economic recovery. These include:
Where does that leave sustainability and the circular economy
Prior to the pandemic, the chemical industry had embraced a razor-sharp focus on sustainability and concepts of circular economy.
Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow Chemical Company said, “We cannot lose momentum on the important work we have all been doing to address big global challenges – such as moving to a more circular, more carbon-neutral global economy. This will take collaboration and urgency, like the fight against COVID-19.” (3-30-2020)
Process manufacturers need technology to navigate the difficult problem of balancing production, margins, sustainability, minimum energy and water use. To mitigate unplanned downtime, Southeast Asia’s integrated petrochemical pioneer, IRPC PLC, has selected Aspen Mtell software for its refinery and petrochemical plants in Rayong Province in Thailand. This deployment will help IRPC ensure that critical equipment is available on demand, helping the company achieve operational excellence. With increasing market complexity, petrochemical companies will be well-positioned to compete in the global economy by adopting cutting-edge prescriptive maintenance software.
Another Thai company, Packaging Business, SCG, a packaging solutions provider locally, has also selected Aspen Mtell software to achieve operational excellence via advanced machine learning, in pursuit of strategic digital transformation. With plans to deploy Aspen Mtell software company wide, SCG becomes an early adopter of Industry 4.0 technologies by using predictive and prescriptive analytics for optimal maintenance.
A Progressive Recovery
Agility and flexibility will be a key in the chemical industry, as unpredictable patterns of demand will be in front of us.
From our position as a partner to the chemical industry, we have been working with companies globally to support workers who have the critical need to access AspenTech software for remote access to perform their daily mission-critical work. Customer and training websites, customer service telephone and chat systems are all fully available to rapidly respond to support companies and their teams who are currently operating in work from home mode.