Invensys Solutions Help Chemical Companies Meet Growing Market Pressures

"Engineers are used to giving people data and having them interpret it. But management is not prepared to do that. They need us to turn the data into information that they can act on, and that’s where the tools that Invensys provides become important."

Invensys Operations Management has a variety of technologies to help the chemical industry manage profitability in real time, sa
Invensys Operations Management has a variety of technologies to help the chemical industry manage profitability in real time, sa
That comment from an engineer in the audience helped set the tone for a Tuesday morning Chemicals Industry Solutions session, "Chemical & Biofuel Industry Overview: Drivers, Issues, Impacts, Responsibilities & Technologies," presented by Louis Meyer, director, industry solutions for chemicals at Invensys Operations Management. During the session, Meyers provided some insights into the kinds of tools and solutions that Invensys can provide that can help both engineers and managers in the chemical industries turn data into information for smarter decision making.

From a macro perspective, the chemical industry is faced with a mixed outlook, Meyer told the audience. Real gross domestic product is growing in 2010 at 2.9 percent, slower than the earlier projected 3.3 percent, and unemployment remains high at 9.6 percent, which is holding down end-user demand for chemical products. Yet, North American chemical production is expected to grow at above average rates in 2010, with second quarter sales and operating profits up from 2009, thanks in part to exports.

Continuing pressures on the industry include growing competition from larger scale and more flexible production capabilities in the middle east and Asia Pacific, as well as rising raw material and input prices, coupled with weakish demand in usual end markets. Technology trends include an increased focus on sustainability, as well as a regulatory requirement that is becoming stricter, Meyer said.

Against this backdrop, the Specialty Chemical industry is in a "crunch," due to dramatic drop-off in demand in key take-off sectors such as construction, automobile and textile, said Meyer. But because businesses still needs to operate, they are looking for ways to manage capacity, working capital and overhead. This has resulted in plant idlings and closures and reduced employee headcount. Biofuels producers are also being forced to focus on improved efficiencies at existing biorefineries, including water and energy reduction, and increasing yields and utilization. They are also looking at industry consolidation to gain economies of scale.

Meyer discussed a variety of Invensys technologies and services that can assist chemical producers’ recovery in the current upturn of the economic climate as well as create a platform to sustain profitable growth into the future.

In the quest to get more from assets and lower production costs, for example, Invensys Operations Management can provide companies with short, non-invasive "Business Value" Assessments that can rapidly help identify the sources of the largest cost contributors and outline how to drive these down. Invensys tools for real-time finance/dynamic performance measures can capture and present costs metrics in real time to production personnel to start driving different behaviors.

With waste reduction also high on chemical companies priority lists, Invensys can offer tools for better batch management and visualization together with dynamic performance measurements to provide real-time visibility of any impending deviations to allow sufficient time to correct a deviating batch. Wonderware Intelligence software can also extract from accumulated batch histories underlying causes of poor batch performance and variability, in order to focus attention on the root causes.

In terms of helping chemical customers lower maintenance costs, "our ‘Customer First’ support, Performance Advantage upgrade and Legacy DCS (distributed control system) Migration programs provide low-cost resolution of outages due to ageing control components," Meyer pointed out. Invensys can also provide needed technologies to help ready production systems for full production after they have been "asset-sweated," Meyer said, or just kept alive during the recent downturn.

In terms of sustaining performance and competitiveness under tough market conditions, technologies such as Wonderware Intelligence can enable operational management and other personnel to measure and continuously improve the performance of their plants, while Wonderware MES products enable better scheduling and monitoring of the performance of  production operations.

To meet needs for energy management and reduced energy consumption, Invensys consulting service can help with an "Energy Pulse" Assessment to rapidly identify and provide solutions to energy-related cost problems. Invensys Operations Management’s Corporate Energy Management application can quickly yield usable handles to manage energy costs, Meyer adds, sometimes within one to two weeks. Invensys Loop and Regulatory Control Performance services can also help chemical industry customers rapidly get control of costly, sub-optimized control loops that often lead to energy wastage.

On the regulatory compliance front, users can take steps to automate mandatory Environmental Reporting and Monitoring requirements with the Invensys Predictive Emissions Monitoring System (PEMS), which is based on advanced emissions models from Simsci-Esscor, coupled with ArchestrA System Platform’s Information Server.

"Ultimately, our goal is to enable our customers to manage their profitability in real-time—what we call the real-time enterprise," Meyer told the audience. Becoming a real-time enterprise requires full integration of all aspects of the plant or production operations, in concert with the customer’s core business applications in real-time. "We deliver this capability using what we call our Enterprise Control System," Meyer said.

Intelligence, Collaboration and Visualization represent the key links – bringing together the wide range of production and corporate data and delivering it in context to personnel across all disciplines in the organization.

The Enterprise Control System brings together specific vertical industry, as well as cross-industry applications from both within Invensys and from our partners. This system builds on top of the core plant floor capabilities from both Invensys Operations Management and other vendors, thereby extending and protecting customers’ existing equipment and systems investments.
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