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CHEMICAL INDUSTRY Rockwell Automation virtual summit: How the chemical industry is leveraging digital technology to adapt to the new normal

Jun 30, 2020

Virtual summit with a Panel Discussion on ‘How the chemical industry is leveraging digital technology to adapt to the new normal’, where the industry veterans deliberated on the short-term and long-term challenges and roadblocks that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic more.

In an exclusive, closed-door virtual summit, top industry stalwarts from India's chemical industry came together to discuss the many challenges and roadblocks that arose due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what strategies need to be implemented to regain operational efficiency post the lockdown.

The esteemed panellists who graced the summit were Dilip Sawhney, Managing Director - Rockwell Automation India; Bimal Puri, Vice President & CIO, SRF Technical Textiles; Amrish Goel, President - Strategy and CIO, Deepak Fertilisers; Piyush Mehta, COO, Agrocel Industries; M Sanathkumar, Executive President, Gujarat Fluorochemicals; Prasad J T, Sr Manager - Elect & Inst (Projects) Gulbrandsen Technologies (India); Ankur Singh, Head, Strategy & BD – Chemicals Division, DCM Shriram, India; Arvind Kakru, Country Head End User & EPC Business, Rockwell Automation India; Arup Ghosh, Head IS Solution - Rockwell Automation India; and Sandeep Redkar, Manager Process Solutions, Rockwell Automation India.

The summit began with a fireside chat moderated by Sawhney featuring Puri and Goel who shared their insights on the implications of COVID-19 on chemical manufacturing, building business resilience amid challenging times, and using digital technologies to rebuild the supply chains. Speaking about the disruptions caused due to the lockdown, Puri said, “The major challenges with the chemical industry are how to bring people back to the plant with the new rules set in place, and how to ensure your continued support if anything goes wrong at the plant. Monitoring people remotely would be very difficult due to the nature of the industry, as we need specific permissions and certified devices inside the plant. There are numerous requirements today - be it bandwidth or infrastructure - so there is a people challenge and a technology one, as things are becoming more and more unpredictable by the day. We need to explore how to use technology to mitigate these challenges and ensure safety for our people, processes and equipment.”

Expressing his views, Goel stated that he expects to see many opportunities moving forward as avenues open up from a demand side. When it comes to building business resilience at an enterprise level, he feels, “The methods we earlier adopted to address challenges have gone through a paradigm shift. Agility is the best mantra in this new normal. Since the challenges are unpronounced, your response time has to be very swift. People need to respond to the changing situations in an agile manner, instead of using a process-driven approach. From an organisation stability standpoint, we need to look at strategies and technologies to decouple manufacturing from the market side and people dependency.”

Advantages of using emerging technologies

Post the fireside chat, Arup Ghosh, Head IS Solution - Rockwell Automation India presented his insights on Industry 4.0 and the ‘new Normal’ in manufacturing by showcasing real-life cases and applications. He shed light on the integration of industrial IoT, the usage of Iot-enabled remote monitoring, the need for proactive responses to changes in demands, and how scalable analytics and machine learning data can predict anomalies of failures in the future.

The third session was a panel discussion moderated by Kakru and featuring Sanathkumar, Prasad, Singh and Mehta. This session focused on the best practices to propel digital transformation and charting a roadmap to navigate the new normal in chemical manufacturing. Mehta spoke about the impact of lockdown on manufacturing and the steps his organisation took to get back to normal, "When it came to re-opening operations, safety of our staff was paramount, but ensuring all the new rules were followed (social distancing, disinfecting the premises, etc) came at an increased cost. Reduction of labour workforce also posed a roadblock in in stabilising operations. Since the staff was returning after several months, it was imperative to re-train them on the SOPs of the new rules to ensure their safety. Technology was a great connector in continuing operations.

Highlighting the need and importance of cyber security, Prasad said, “With the current situation we need to relook at industrial security, everything will be on the cloud as we talk about remote management and monitoring. This makes it extremely important not only to ensure cyber security measures are in place, but that they are constantly upgraded.”

The summit concluded with Redkar whose presentation on Connected Chemical revealed useful advice on why digitisation is crucial to optimise operational efficiency, how chemical companies can stay agile, streamline workflows, and keep operations flexible which can be enabled by a digitally-connected plant.

The informative summit provided a holistic view on the importance of driving digital transformation for the chemical industry in a post-COVID-19 world, and the need to use digital technology as the backbone of operations to ensure business continuity.

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