Pace of Change (Manufacturing vs Chemicals)

Oct 21, 2019 11:27:05 AM / by John Cockburn-Evans

Change is happening at exponential rates. This has happening for some time. The world of manufacturing is moving quickly, and  technology even quicker. We have AI and IOT influencing Industry 4.0 but the pace at which technology is changing, is way beyond that the adoption rate , particularly in certain industries.

In certain heavier industries the equipment was designed in such a way that it was not setup for easy adoption by not having  provision for the requisite sensors. In high end manufacturing involving robotics the equipment is designed to take the necessary sensors, and there is a constant drive for more mechanisation and  automation. In the petrochemicals industry equipment will  have to be retrofitted with tie-ins to take the sensors. As an example, predictive maintenance on a large heat exchanger can have significant benefits, in that the rate of fouling can be calculated, in such a way that a drop in performance can be predicted and shutdowns scheduled appropriately without the need to bring it out of  service unnecessarily. 

The key points here are that industries will move at different rates, but that should not inhibit the desire for change and improvement, as the potential is huge. In general manufacture robotics and IOT will displace manual labour. However in petrochemicals the relative labour  levels have been lower for some considerable time due to the nature of the processes and the advent of Distributed Control Systems. So we can see a different level of impact. In continuous large volume processes, the enemy is shutdowns because they involve huge cost and relatively  long startup times. The chemicals sector has seen  strong revenues and profitability  over the last 10-15 year, and has managed to keep prices up due to growth in regions like china, but that could be changing going forward.  Predicted reduction in growth could mean further consolidation, and  the need for further productivity initiatives, such as the use of more technology for predictive maintenance.  This of course needs to be tempered with ensuring appropriate process  safety which shouldn't be compromised with the push for asset productivity.   

Tags: Digital, Organisation, agile

John Cockburn-Evans

Written by John Cockburn-Evans