One thing’s for sure: the coronavirus crisis leads to innovation. We are all being forced to think of ways we can still carry out our work under certain constraints. Our creativity is undergoing a new awakening and we are seeing new solutions popping up all over the place. In the process industry, too, it is noticeable how engineers have no alternative but to find different ways of working. How are they dealing with all the changes in this time of crisis? And what other areas offer additional opportunities in the field of digitalization?
Site visits to various plants are now forbidden
On a chemicals site, safety is always the number one priority. That is why the RIVM guidelines are always carefully adhered to. In addition to these national restrictions, many plants have a policy that no external parties are allowed to visit the site. As a service provider on the Chemelot site, that sometimes means a different – more digital – approach is needed.
Reaping the benefits of digital solutions
During this crisis, a number of plants are reaping the benefits of the maturity of their digitalization solutions. Engineers don’t actually need to be on site to see whether and how the plant is running, but rather can monitor the condition of assets anytime and from anywhere using an online dashboard and digital tools. And if something is wrong? Then there are online platforms, such as Teams, that connect directly to the operator on site in the plant.
Even if certain measurements need to be taken in the plant, an engineer can do this easily from home, provided the plant has its digital documents in good order. Sitech has conducted Chemelot Site 3D laser scans for a number of plants. These are digital scans which allow you, as it were, to fly through the plant and which contain data concerning various assets – a tool that is now coming into its own in a big way as it allows you to measure things remotely. However, digital scans are not available for every plant. In some cases, therefore, this will mean that those tasks will be postponed.
Using digital solutions from other industries
How will engineers approach their work if this crisis lasts years? Looking at other industries, they believe there are still plenty of options to take advantage of. Just look at the robots in the world of medicine, which allow doctors in America to carry out operations in Europe. The military also frequently make use of robotics – in operations such as bomb disposal operations, for example. These and many other examples can also be applied in the chemical industry. If the coronavirus crisis ends up lasting a long time, digitalization will be deployed much more rapidly in our industry as well.