The chemical was an early adopter of ICT tools. Still, the industry is discovering how digitization can improve efficiency and other parameters. In fact, the industry is finding out where molecules and digits can meet. The tendency is that chemical processes are becoming digital at the core.
On May 16, the conference Molecules meet Digits – “Digital at the core” was held. This meeting was organized at Brightlands Chemelot Campus by the Association of the Dutch Chemical Industry (VNCI) and Deloitte, supported by TNO, ISPT and Brightlands Chemelot Campus.
Some 120 people from the chemical industry and related service providers gathered to discuss digitization. Even a representative of the Province of Groningen attended the meeting.
Digitization is the application of advanced ICT tools and smart services to improve processes and ways of working. Digitization is widely considered an opportunity for innovation and growth for the chemical industry, crucial to stay competitive on the world market. An introduction was given by Peter Westerheide and Marco Waas.
Peter Westerheide, Chief Global Economist at BASF, stated that the European chemical industry is experiencing turbulent times. The global growth is in China, not in our continent. At the same time, Europe provides room to improve by innovation, particularly in digitization. According to Westerheide, digitization, in combination with another important trend, will result in “Chemicals 4.0 – Digitization & Circular Economy”.
Marco Waas, Director RD&I at AkzoNobel, presented a variation: “Industrial Chemicals 4.0 – Factory of the Future”. In this concepts, digitization is important too. Waas mentioned the Internet of Things, sensors, Wireless Broadband Network, robotics, and other applications of ICT technology in the chemical industry.
Maintenance and operations
Richard Schouten en Gerd Decramer presented two cases. Richard Schouten, Director at Sitech Manufacturing Services, explained the concept of predictive maintenance. This concept has been implemented in the Sitech Asset Health Center, worldwide a unique facility. In this center, big data is processed – the chemical industry produces an abundance of data – into dashboards that provide practical insight into maintenance and automation of work processes. The further implementation of predictive maintenance holds the promise to save a lot of money.
Gerd Decramer, Process Engineer at Sitech, explained that digitization can be used to further optimize chemical processes by analyzing trends in available data, particularly in the Haber-Bosch process for ammonia production.
These two cases prove the potential of digitization for the chemical industry.
The Dutch government is stimulating digitization in the industry, as was told by Tom Bouws of the Chambre of Commerce. For more information: www.smartindustry.nl (in Dutch).