IIoT Spurs Vendor Collaboration

Alliances allow chemical makers to more easily pursue digitalization opportunities

By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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He expects the chemical industry unrelentingly to boost its reliance on data, as the cost of data collection and storage continues to fall. This, he feels, will lead to greater use of augmented reality and mobile devices to ensure that people understand in real time any issues they have with their processes. It also will drive improved standards of environmental performance and sustainability, cybersecurity and knowledge acquisition and transfer, he suggests.

Lifecycle Focus

Asset optimization across the entire design, operation and maintenance lifecycle of chemical plants is the driving force behind AspenTech’s diverse collaborations (Figure 1).

“While some take a reseller or implementation services provider approach, all of our agreements come about because our partners are interested in our best-of-breed asset optimization software,” says Robert Golightly, senior product marketing manager for AspenTech’s Asset Performance Management (APM) business unit, Houston. “Our goal is to make advanced analytics and machine learning software accessible to chemical companies by lowering cost and expertise barriers. Our asset optimization software is focused on real-world operational excellence use cases, prioritizing areas of impact and quantifying improvement targets — which are top priorities for chemical companies worldwide,” he explains.

Many recent partnerships focus on making the company’s APM software more broadly available. Included here are tie-ups with: Advantech B+B SmartWorx, Ottawa, Ill.; SAP, Walldorf, Germany; Microsoft (Azure cloud computing service); ProSensus, Burlington, Ont.; and PinnacleART, Pasadena, Texas.

The Advantech B+B SmartWorx agreement differs from others in that it relies on AspenTech’s deep understanding of the specific industrial and business environments of chemical companies, notes Golightly.

“These companies are looking to digitally transform, but they need compelling ROI [return on investment], and that’s what is being delivered in a comprehensive out-of-the-box, drop-in solution that can reduce deployment costs by up to 70% — in most cases, a solution can now be implemented in days instead of weeks,” he stresses. “The connectivity and manageability of this simplifies the IIoT applications chemical companies need today and seamlessly integrates and interoperates with legacy systems and performs in rugged, demanding plant conditions,” he adds.

Connected assets are critical to improve performance and manage risk. However, AspenTech estimates that up to 40% of plant assets remain stranded because of weak (if any) internet connections, old equipment lacking sensors, and multiple, incompatible protocols for data from assets on site from diverse vendors.

“It’s all about working with what chemical plants have on premises today to achieve ROI. Pushing analytics algorithms to sensors and network devices alleviates the processing strain on other systems within the network. Even as the number of connected devices and amount of data collected increase, so does the ability to both scale up and scale out,” notes Golightly.

So, for example, Aspen Edge Connect software on Advantech B+B SmartWorx edge devices implements buffering, data aggregation, data compression and analytics to optimize and overcome communication barriers with stranded assets that rely on cellular and satellite connectivity.

Chemical firms, notably leading specialty chemicals manufacturers, are seeing excellent benefits because the technology puts them on the path to digital transformation without costly, disruptive “rip and replace” of existing infrastructure, he says.

“They’re getting a low-cost, highly scalable IIoT infrastructure — a drop-in solution that recognizes the reality of stranded assets in chemical plants and solves the connectivity issue in a way that works from a cost, deployment and performance perspective.”

In another example, the link between Aspen Mtell prescriptive maintenance software and SAP PartnerEdge is all about giving companies quick, easy access to a software application with the ability to deliver early, accurate warning of equipment failures and unplanned downtime and prescribe detailed actions to mitigate or solve problems.

Here, Golightly cites feedback from Borealis, Vienna: “Aspen Mtell predictive maintenance software’s ease of implementation will allow us to develop data analytics, including pattern recognition and early anomaly detection, in all operating functions, leading to increased performance in safety, quality, reliability and overall improved performance in manufacturing. With significantly earlier warning of asset degradation, we will have the time to work collaboratively to mitigate the losses of unplanned downtime and to minimize disruptions to our customers.”

“The company gained longer lead time detection of repeating failures, including 27 days advance notice for a central valve failure,” adds Golightly.

In October, AspenTech and Emerson Automation Solutions, Round Rock, Texas, launched a new integration technology to make creating digital twins across an entire plant’s lifecycle easier for users.

The technology — the first fruit of the two companies’ February 2018 alliance — allows bulk data transfer between Emerson’s Mimic software for real-time simulation of plant behavior and AspenTech’s HYSYS software for process simulation. This reduces integration time and engineering hours. The technology lowers two of the most significant barriers to digital twin utilization: total cost of ownership and maintainability, says Emerson.

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