Digital transformation needs an ecosystem. This is true in every industry, but especially in traditional industries that have so far been slow to embrace new digital technologies.
The chemical and petrochemical industries are a good example: concerns about operational safety have led chemical companies to be particularly cautious. AspenTech, a software company born at MIT, is currently playing an important role in helping chemical and petrochemical companies digitize, as well as supporting customers in other industries such as energy, transportation and pharmaceuticals.
Paige Marie Morse, AspenTech's director of chemical industry marketing, said: "digitalization is crucial to the success of chemical enterprises. It is the foundation of the future of the industry."
Morse pointed out that although the refining industry began to adopt digital technology in process control, chemical companies initially lagged behind. However, they gradually realized that digital enhanced process control makes production safer, reduces the chance of equipment exceeding tolerance limit, and reduces the risk of accidents and failures. Advanced digital process control allows continuous monitoring and more refined and frequent adjustments. Safety concerns in the chemical industry are now a reason to accelerate rather than delay digitization.
The digitization of process control leads to a virtuous circle: it collects valuable data, which can be analyzed to better understand the performance of equipment under different conditions. This allows the operator to predict the adjustments required in particularly cold weather or in the event of changes in raw materials.
Morse points out that the economic incentives for digitization vary according to the nature of the business. Large petrochemical companies value speed, faster production, so that they can increase production. Although the output of special chemicals is small, the profit margin is high, so we pay attention to the quality of the output. Digitalization can also reduce energy consumption and waste, thus reducing costs.
Through multivariate analysis, professional chemical enterprises can better understand what causes the quality change of products from one batch to another, and reduce the variability. They can also speed up the development of new products and better respond to the needs of customers. Digital technology allows them to model and simulate chemical reactions and the performance of the final product. These simulations can reduce the development time of new products from 2-3 years to 4-6 months.
Like other industries, digitization opens the door to preventive, condition based maintenance, thereby reducing unplanned downtime. AspenTech is especially good at this, Morse said. To be effective, you can't just look at the device in isolation. You need to understand the surrounding process, the input response, and other upstream and downstream devices. By doing so, we can provide customers with weeks, sometimes months of lead time when a certain equipment may fail. This enables operators to arrange maintenance in low demand period and build up inventory in advance. It can also improve safety and avoid long-term downtime caused by equipment failure.
In order to make full use of the power of these new digital technologies, enterprises need to develop new capabilities. AspenTech developed the software, but once it's embedded in the customer's system, the customer can operate it directly.
"Digital tools have changed the way they work. You need to redesign the organization, "Morse stressed. She points out that businesses tend to deploy digitization only in one particularly challenging department. It's a great solution for you, but the real value comes from integrating digital insights across the scope of the job.
To turn digital insight into better decision-making, Morse said, "you need to provide senior leadership with a new corporate dashboard - what are the key data indicators? Now you can ask deeper questions from your data, and the metrics are changing. Indicators are the key to organizational redesign. "
Emissions have become a new indicator required by most executives, and AspenTech has developed digital tools that allow companies to estimate emissions from new processes at the planning stage, so that emissions targets can be incorporated at the process design stage.
New digital tools, organizational redesign, new metrics To do all this, companies need to upgrade their talent pool. Using its global experience across industries, AspenTech helps them develop employee development strategies. Equally important, it embeds a boot function in its digital solutions to help operators master new technologies faster.