Article | July 13, 2021
Over the next five to seven years, the chemical sector will place a greater emphasis on sustainability, and digitization will play a significant part in this. Reducing resource use, pollution, energy consumption, and waste are some of its main applications. Additionally, it will increase demand for a circular economy supported by IoT, AI, and other digital technologies.
Some of the systems now in place or being used in the sector include autonomous solutions that enable lower energy usage, dispatching systems for effective logistics and strategies for sustainable power and fuel consumption.
Chemical players making the switch to digital platforms have a chance to triumph if they move swiftly and update their operational models in accordance with a few common success characteristics. In fact, according to our study, making the correct decisions can increase total earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization by 3 percent or more (EBITDA).
The Next Step of Operational Excellence
The same level of transformation is available with digital technology for optimal performance, together with success-enabling measures. The same level of corporate participation and realignment will also be necessary for the effective implementation of digital technology.
Finance and telecoms were early leaders in adopting digital technology faster than the chemical sector, which has just recently started to move in more significant numbers toward digitalization.
A circular economy in the sector is also being enabled by the use and evaluation of digital technology. The "Right to Fix" movement is being driven by governments and legislators in Europe and the US, and small and medium-sized businesses in the industry are expected to invest in technology that makes it easier to repair electronic items with the least amount of waste.
On a side note, by enabling the re-use of resources and products throughout the supply chain, digitalization with lean manufacturing (LM) would enable businesses to improve operational excellence and create value, thereby supporting the circular economy goal.
Given its extensive safety and regulatory requirements, the chemical sector has evolved slowly. However, as the global economy changes, some skills will become obsolete and others essential.
The interconnectedness of people, processes, and technology, as well as the requirement for real-time insight at the levels closest to the action, are among the basic principles of Industry 4.0. These values have existed for some time and are an extension of our teams' current operational excellence initiatives.
Digital transformation is not a technology endpoint but rather the following stage in the process and business evolution as the chemicals industry advances continuously.
Article | July 8, 2022
NICE WORK, if you get can get it. A trucking company in Fort Worth, Texas, is offering to pay experienced drivers $14,000 a week – $728,000 a year – as the US struggles with a nationwide shortage of truckers or lorry drivers.
This reminds me of perhaps an apocryphal tale, from the height of the last Australian mining boom. Before iron ore prices collapsed in late 2014, there was a story about workers at mining site road junctions who operated manual “Stop and Go” signs. They were said to be earning more than Australian dollar (A$) 200,000 a year.
Before you pack in your job as, say, a petrochemicals sales manager and head to Texas or mine sites in Western Australia, there is the risk that when you arrive at the door of your new prospective employer, the bubble might have already burst. This is assuming we are in bubble conditions.The pressure is clearly building in petrochemicals and other commodity markets as prices in some regions remain at record highs or continue to rise.
Today’s prices are the results of shortages of commodities supply (for example in petrochemicals, an outcome of the US winter storms), very strong demand and supply chain disruptions.I am beginning to believe that the latter is the biggest reason for commodity price inflation which is feeding through into sharp rises in the cost of finished goods – and a lack of goods availability.
It is delivering and manufacturing enough stuff that seems to be at the heart of today’s problems due to shortages of everything from container freight space and semiconductors to wooden pallets, tin cans, metal drums, cardboard – and US truck drivers.
Article | August 8, 2022
BEFORE the pandemic, GDP growth rates in the developing world were always higher than in developed economies.And because developing economies had much lower levels of petrochemicals consumption than their rich counterparts, it meant that the multiples over GDP were higher than in the rich word, where consumption was pretty much saturated.
For instance, polyethylene (PE) demand in a developed country such as Germany might have grown at 0.3% times GDP whereas in Indonesia the growth could have been one or more times higher than the rate of growth in GDP.But as The Economist wrote in this 11 July article: “In 2021 the poorest countries, which are desperately short of vaccines, are forecast to grow more slowly than rich countries for only the third time in 25 years.”
Might the multiples over GDP growth also be adversely affected in the developing world, trending lower than the historic norms?
They will almost certainly remain higher than the rich countries. But here is the thing: as millions more people are pushed back into extreme poverty by the pandemic or are denied the opportunity to achieve middle-income status, I believe that developing-world multiples may well decline.Escaping extreme poverty means being able to, say, afford a whole bottle of shampoo for the first time rather than a single-serve sachet, thereby raising per capita polymers consumption.
Article | July 14, 2022
The chemical business is intricate, with numerous sub-sectors dealing with various challenges. Thus, there are some differences in the sector's main areas of digitalization. For instance, while specialty chemicals with smaller batches but larger profit margins are concerned with improving quality, large factories are concentrated on accelerating throughput speed.
To be able to react to quick and repeated changes in demand, supply, and working circumstances, however, every plant must optimize output, reduce waste, improve safety and sustainability, and become more nimble. Therefore, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing are expected to be the three most popular applications for digital transformation during the coming two years.
The first and most valuable use cases of digitalization in chemical plants center on production optimization through improved equipment performance, process automation, remote and predictive monitoring, and simplified maintenance.
Chemical factories, which often provide basic chemicals for use as end products in other sectors, have a special responsibility to maintain consistently high product quality. However, doing so can be challenging given the significant variations in raw material supply and quality. In addition, as process engineers can change the mix on the fly in reaction to fluctuations in quality, feedstock, or ambient temperatures, better data and analytics enable finer and more frequent adjustments.
The main advantage of digitally transformed plants so far has been cost reduction. The price volatility of raw materials is a problem for the chemical production sector because customers naturally want constant low prices. Minimizing waste is critical since facilities must contend with rising energy costs.
Analytics tools that monitor fluctuating raw material prices aid factories in negotiating the best deals with suppliers and preparing in advance for price spikes. The risk of oversupply is reduced since plants can prepare the proper quantities of various products thanks to more precise demand predictions.
Sustainability, Compliance, and Safety
The chemical industry is heavily regulated as a result of the quantity of hazardous chemicals and the number of end-use industries that rely on it. Businesses are adopting digital transformation to boost safety awareness, reduce emissions and dangerous flare incidents, and guarantee a transparent and accurate audit trail.
Plants that quickly adopt digital solutions for remote monitoring, supply chain visibility, waste reduction, production optimization, raising their safety profile, and opening up new opportunities will profit from higher profits and increased revenue, whereas those that hesitate for too long risk failing in the long run.