On the Chemelot site, many organizations are grappling with the question of the most effective way to implement Industry 4.0. While new, innovative technologies and software are a must, they are not the only solution when it comes to optimizing the chemicals industry. Valentina Litovchenko (BU manager) and Pieter Geelen (Data Scientist) at the Sitech Asset Health Center are involved in this area on a daily basis. How is the chemical industry’s transition to Industry 4.0 progressing?
Innovative technologies are much too closely based on conventional maintenance
Standing still means falling behind in any sector, and the chemical industry is no exception. It is important to constantly shift your boundaries and to develop continuously. Yet innovation requires you to dare to consider matters from a different angle and sometimes to look beyond your own bubble and step out of your comfort zone. That is an area that poses the significant challenge for Industry 4.0 at Chemelot. “It’s less about implementing new technology and more about a completely different form of management thinking,” suggests Pieter Geelen. “We have had the ability for quite some time to link all kinds of data to our engineers’ specialist expertise, and to make the connection between all that data and the predictive models. But many innovative technologies and predictive models are still much too closely based on the conventional method of maintenance, and many plant managers are still too cautious to commit fully to plant-specific data-driven decision-making.”
Dare we base decisions on data?
In order to truly make progress and make optimum use of the information obtained from data, we need to move out of our comfort zone. “But is that something that we all dare to do together?” asks Valentina Litovchenko. “Dare we base decisions on data? Incorporating new data into our business strategies and activities? Releasing and sharing information? And adapting our culture to it? It is precisely on this point that technology and humans meet. We act with the same objective: to improve plant performance, so let's not be afraid of using new tools and technologies for this purpose. More importantly, we need them. Otherwise, a great deal of knowledge will be lost once our current specialists have retired in the near future.”
Ready for a completely different mindset
The greatest challenge for Sitech Services is therefore not only to have the appropriate technology in place for Industry 4.0, but also to win over managers. “We are repeatedly seeing that technologies are already more advanced than our clients’ capacity to actually use them,” notes Pieter Geelen. If we want to avoid falling behind in the near future, it is time for us to welcome innovation and include a place for Industry 4.0 in the business strategy. Only then can we actually give innovation a chance to excel, in order to become stronger and increase its effectiveness.”