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IT AND IIoT APPLICATIONS IN CHEMICAL INDUSTRY IIoT bringing value to the chemical industry

May 13, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived at a place where it can essentially be included with chemical companies to convert operations and grow innovative business models. Keeping this in mind, Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (IIChE) Pune, in collaboration with National Chemical Laboratory and Equinox Software and Services, recently organised the DISHA-'20 symposium, which threw light on how the industry can find value with IIoT, the storage cost of data and the necessities of the Industry 4.0 journey. A post-event report…

Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers (IIChE) Pune, in collaboration with National Chemical Laboratory and Equinox Software and Services, organised a one-day symposium, DISHA-'20 (Data Insights Simulation Historian Analytics), on IT and IIoT applications in the chemical industry, in Pune, India, giving an insight into how Industry 4.0 will transform the way we are doing activities, digital transformation in the oil & gas sector and how speed is important for implementing IoT. Equinox is a global IT solutions and engineering services provider to the Continuous and Batch CPI/HPI, manufacturing and EPC industry. With a modest beginning in 2007, the company has covered many milestones in its journey. Today, it partners with the best in the world, to deliver highly complex IT applications.

The event saw over 150 delegates from industry and academics from all over the country, like Jamnagar, Noida, Chennai, and also had speakers from the USA. It kick-started with the inaugural session, with Sanjay Kamble, Chairman, IIChE, giving the opening remarks. “This symposium will bring together researchers, practitioners from academia, the industry and government institutes in order to exchange their research ideas and results,” he said.

Integration of IoT into the real world platform

This was followed by the welcome address by Prof Ashwini Kumar, Director, NCL. He asserted, “Industry 4.0 is here to stay and it will transform the way we are doing activities. We should initiate dialogue with government agencies, who will be concerned with the next phase – the integration of IoT into the real world platform.” This was followed by the opening of the souvenir; a book – Proceeding of E-Disha’ 20 – with excerpts about each of the speakers and their sessions.

Cost of data is coming down

Up next, Alok Pandit, CEO, Equinox Software and Services, took over, giving his opening remarks. He told the audience that the storage cost of data is coming down exponentially. “In fact, the cost of data in India has also seen significant cost reductions,” he mentioned.

This was followed by Session II – Plenary, which began with the chief guest, Alok Khanna, ED (Strategy-IS), IOCL, giving the inaugural address. “Digitalisation is providing an opportunity for improved shutdown times in refineries and resource optimisation,” he conveyed.

Following this, Vinayak Marathe, Senior Vice President - R&D, Reliance Industries, gave a presentation on ‘Industry 4.0: In large manufacturing enterprise’. Akin to Pandit, Marathe threw light on how data is the new oil. “The oil and gas industry, more than any other, is already investing heavily in IIoT,” he affirmed.

Managing the Industry 4.0 journey

It was then soon time for Session III – Walk the Talk – which began with Ashutosh Parasnis, Co-founder, QLEAP Academy; Founder & Director, NewBox Consulting and Ex CEO, PTC Software (India), talking about ‘Deploying Industry 4.0: A practical roadmap’. “There are four things that need to come together in managing the Industry 4.0 journey – strategy, mindset to think differently, talent and a process which continues that journey in a repeatable manner to maintain the success in a predictable manner,” he informed.

Digital dig

This was followed by an exchange between Aniruddha C, SVP, Equinox and Atul Jaywant, CIO, ABG, called ‘Digital Dig with Atul Jaywant’, where Aniruddha shot a couple of questions Jaywant’s way. The first question Aniruddha posed was what is the top business outcome that Jaywant would like to see digital initiatives achieve for him. To this, Jaywant responded that in terms of outcome, his business people look at sustainable business. “Therefore, it’s important to innovate continuously,” he answered.

Aniruddha also brought to surface that there is a notion that going digital is going to be possible only with the shining, new equipment. But as we understand, we also have plants from the vintage of 60s and 70s. So, what are the key challenges, from the adoption point of view?

“Challenges are many,” Jaywant instantly responded and continued, “Business is about converting these challenges into opportunities. Therefore, every new, shiny technology that comes along is pushed by the idea of how one leverages that technology, without saying that “I need to reinvent whatever I have.” There is reinvention and re-imagination, but there is also a fair bit of optimisation.”

Reverse mentoring

Khanna was also invited on stage and a significant question asked to him was that whether the younger workforce teaching digital aspects to the senior workforce was true or not. Khanna earnestly replied, “If you want to go digital, everything starts from the top. And this is true, where reverse mentoring is happening.”

Next, Rahul Khare, Regional Business Leader - India & South Asia, Honeywell, gave a presentation on ‘Enterprise performance management – the convergence of digital technologies’. “People now are only investing in production,” he expounded and added, “Enterprise performance management aims to address real business problems like technologies, different stages of digitalisation that the customer may be in, different levels of maturity in terms of what the instrumentation layer may be and more.”

Role of AI

With this, Session III came to a close and Session IV – Property data to analytics – began. The first presentation of the session was by Dr S S Tambe, Emeritus Professor, UICT and Ex Chief Scientist & Head - Chemical Engineering Division, NCL, on ‘Chemical process modelling and optimisation by Artificial Intelligence methods’. “A major advantage of AI-based data-driven modelling formalisms is that process modelling can be performed in the absence of a detailed knowledge of the physico-chemical phenomena underlying the process,” he pointed out.

Up next, Dr Kevin Joback, President, MKS, spoke about ‘Thermo-physical property estimation: An essential component of Chemical Industry 4.0’. Elucidating that thermos-physical property estimation is an essential component of Chemical Industry 4.0, Joback explained through an example of ball point pen ink, throwing light on its product properties and process design. “Some of the essential physical properties of ball point pen ink include surfynol 104E, sunsperse black lhd-9303 & ethylene glycol. As for the manufacturing process, it mainly includes formulation mixing, pigment grinding, solvent washing and metal forming,” he said.

Need for speed

Following this, Arup Ghosh, Head - Information Solution Business India & South-East Asia, Rockwell Automation, gave a presentation on ‘How industrial companies capitalise on digital transformation’. “A big number of executives believe IoT will create new income streams for their operation but only 7% have developed a comprehensive strategy,” he mentioned and added, “To understand your business well, there has to be a unified connectivity of assets, people and processes.”

This ended Session IV and it was time for the last session of the day – Session V – Analytics as catalyst. The first presentation of this session was by Shridhar Kulkarni, Director - Engineering, Indicus Software, on ‘Challenges of IoT and ML applications in process industry’. “Companies are evaluating if they are going to get anything out of IoT,” he conveyed and went on, “You cannot wait for a long time before implementing IoT; you need speed.”

Industry 4.0 is a journey, not a destination

After this, Dr Prithvi Vijayamohan, Analyst, SEEQ, spoke about ‘Rapid generation of process insights through data analytics – reality or a pipe dream?’ She cited, “As it happens, less than 1% of data is analysed. Data analytics lead to better decisions, which enable SMEs, team collaboration and drives business solutions.”

This was followed by the last session of the day by Ninad Deshpande, Head – Marketing and Corporate Communication, B&R Automation, on ‘Low hanging fruits for digital transformation’. Deshpande affirmed that Industry 4.0 is a journey, not a destination. “The steps for implementation include identifying business imperatives & current level of digitalisation, mapping relevant techniques, conducting feasibility studies, prioritising technologies and creating a roadmap & selecting partners,” he implied and added, “It’s very important that the team has an understanding of your process, so you will know how to make those processes better.”

Driving companies’ initiatives

The symposium ended with the vote of thanks given by Ameya Thombre, Convener & contact point of E-Disha Symposium and Senior Manager, Equinox. The symposium made clear that the chemical industry, with making a place for Industry 4.0 within, will certainly help improving it. Digital transformation of the chemical industry will allow for efficient operations, driving a company’s initiatives from enhanced safety to a decrease in cost.

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  • Dr Kevin Joback, President, MKS, spoke about ‘Thermo-physical property estimation: An essential component of Chemical Industry 4.0'

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