Digital transformation of resins production

We are no longer simply talking about Industry 2.0. We have already reached the 4th stage of development, where artificial intelligence is opening up new opportunities – especially with regard to a greener and more digital economy.

The acceleration and transition to a green, climate-neutral and “Digital Europe” is one of the biggest goals of the European Union in order to make the European industry more resilient and competitive.

From Industry 1.0 to Industry 4.0

A greener and digital economy is closely related to Industry 4.0. The Internet of things (IoT), Industry 4.0, advanced analytics, digital technologies and big data have great potential to transform all aspects of business. Given that the chemical industry is lagging behind other industries in the digital transformation, an organization that undertakes such modernization efforts can experience great benefits. In fact, according to research by McKinsey, the implementation of E2E (end-to-end) digital technologies across the value chains in the chemical industry can lead to an 8 to 16 percentage point improvement in EBIDTA with the biggest gain coming from production as well as marketing and sales.

The areas of applying artificial intelligence in manufacturing are diverse and promising. Among the many benefits, Industry 4.0 can lead to profitable business models, greater efficiency, a higher quality and improved workplace conditions. By incorporating sustainability into production, technology can, among other things, offer effective solutions in saving energy and controlling emissions.

Helios Resins sees four main areas where investment in digitalization can make a big difference:

  • Product development and process optimization,
  • Predictive maintenance with artificial intelligence,
  • Quality management based on artificial intelligence,
  • Logistics and planning

To optimize the process, we firstly needed to update the automation system our synthetic resins plant in Količevo runs on. In 2020, we started the upgrade of the Honeywell TCD 3000 legacy control system with the complete control replacement and migration to Experion PKS. The upgrade is taking place in three stages set to be completed by the end of 2022, while the old hardware and process equipment is slated for removal in 2023. The value of the upgrade is hundreds of thousands of euros. The new system will enable an easier and faster access to data as well as a more efficient management and process control by the plant operators. The upgrade will allow us to use software solutions by different systems integrators, which opens the door to the improvements that will lead to achieving our digitalization objectives.

The next step is the implementation of the predictive or condition-based maintenance strategy at our plants. Predictive maintenance is a type of maintenance that involves the use of sensors (e.g. temperature sensors or vibration sensors) to measure the condition of process equipment over time. The collected data can be used to determine trends, predict failures and calculate the remaining life of equipment. In this way, maintenance is only performed if the data show that the capacity is declining or failure is likely. However, accurately predicting when something will fail is not always straightforward. There are no ready-made solutions for the predictive maintenance of entire systems, so it is necessary to create custom solutions. Nonetheless, the investment is worthwhile, as it leads to cost savings due to an improved assets utilization and OEE, the avoidance of unscheduled downtime and the optimal planning of maintenance activities.

The Effect Of Condition-Based Maintenance As Illustrated In A P-F Curve

To summarize, organizations that are quick to adopt digital solutions for production optimization, remote monitoring, supply chain visibility, waste reduction and opening up to new opportunities will benefit in many business areas, while those that hesitate too long could fail. Helios Resins has been working intensively on defining and implementing strategies where digitalization plays a fundamental role not because Industry 4.0 is one of the buzzwords of our business generation, but because we firmly believe in the success digital transformation can create.