Using Industry 4.0 Architecture Solutions for Specialty Chemicals

2 min read published on June 30 2022

The project in this blog is typical of batch chemicals producers who need to digitalize their highly distributed plants. In this case, relevant data was not collected in an automated fashion, and data centralization did not exist. Deploying performance management solutions on a site-by-site basis was therefore deemed not to be cost-effective.

OEE for batch

There is no good off-the-shelf digitalization solution for batch production. Processes are so specific that "standard" digital techniques, such as automatic OEE, tracking of losses, follow-up of KPIs on process performance, comprehensive real-time monitoring, real-time optimization, are not directly applicable. Every plant is different and significant customizations are often necessary to standard software.

Typical digital solutions for continuous bulk production do not have the required flexibility to account for the wide range of different operating modes. Instead, they require heavy customization and are often too expensive for the scale of the operations. As a result, the reporting processes are slow, time-consuming and lack adequate digitalization.

Introducing Cloud architecture to lower the overall cost with maximum flexibility

After a digital assessment of the requirements, IPCOS advocated moving data to the Cloud and using open-source software and SaaS software to engineer fit-for-purpose applications. The specific strategies used IIOT to increase the amount of relevant data available to plant operators and engineers.

Moving all data to the Cloud allowed plant data to be integrated with non-numeric data in a single data warehouse. Using data warehousing on the Cloud allowed utilizing an event hub, data factory, and Azure data explorer. Open-source and SaaS software helped build custom fit-for-purpose applications on the Cloud.

Some of the tangible benefits observed by the customer included a significant increase in analytical capabilities with minimal additional hardware/software investment. The increased analytical capabilities led to other substantial benefits such as manufacturing flexibility, new insights generated through data science, and optimization of the recipes. The reduction in batch variability decreased production losses, and a considerable OEE increase was detected by minimizing quality and performance losses.

In this case, the project was delivered in weeks compared to months when assessed against standard MES implementation.

Change Management

Digitalization can help achieve much sought-after business results such as higher efficiency and lower downtime. In specific industries, the solutions may require flexibility and non-standard technology. Central cloud architectures can make a difference in distributed environments where a fully developed on-premise digital infrastructure is not economically viable. However, one should never forget to maintain strong visibility with the reality on the ground at the various sites and make the operators of the various sites an integral part of the project. Digital solutions do not thrive in a vacuum but, to a large extend, are there to make the life of the operator easier. Without their support, the project will be dead on arrival.

To achieve better visibility over the production units, fast and accurate KPIs, and cost-effective data integration for small batch production sites, contact IPCOS today.