The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is beginning to transform manufacturing. By connecting an ever-increasing number of assets, generating more and more-timely data, and enabling better analysis of these data, the IIoT promises abundant advantages. Even the inherently conservative chemical industry is starting to seize the opportunity afforded by the IIoT. However, properly leveraging the capabilities offered by the IIoT requires changing some of the traditional ways chemical companies have operated.
Indeed, as our recent article “Successfully Implement the Industrial Internet of Things,” points out, taking full advantage of the IIoT poses a variety of challenges to chemical makers. For instance, it requires breaking down the functional silos common at most companies. In addition, the breadth of opportunities posed by the IIoT can make deciding how best to justify and start implementing the IIoT complicated, if not confusing. That article suggests a distributed information system as an effective way to summarize the general requirements for individual applications and IIoT infrastructure.
The IIoT also is forcing chemical companies to rethink where data are stored and applications reside. Instead of relying on servers at the plant or elsewhere on a corporate network, some chemical firms are switching to Internet-based information storage and services, i.e., the “cloud.” This month’s cover story “Chemical Makers Embrace the Cloud,” describes the successes achieved by Dow and BASF, among others, in using cloud-based storage and applications. The adoption of cloud-based applications can lower a company’s costs for information technology as well as for software licenses, and also can provide an effective and quick way to ensure that all its units use the same software, stresses Lauren McCallum of SAP in that article. Chemical industry adoption of cloud-based applications falls in about the middle compared with other industries, she says.
As that article notes, ensuring security is crucial. BASF, for instance, puts any potential cloud provider through a detailed security assessment.
Other impediments at many chemical companies are the substantial investments in existing data collection and storage systems — and the massive effort required to move data to the cloud, explains Michael Risse of Seeq. However, it’s not an “all or nothing” situation, he advises. For instance, the analytics software can reside on the cloud and use data kept at the plant.
Rest assured, the editors of Chemical Processing don’t have their heads in the clouds regarding the IIOT’s impact on the chemical industry. We’re always looking for articles that provide practical guidance and insights about IIoT developments and trends. In addition, our “Automation Strategies” online blog, written by experts from the ARC Advisory Group, will continue to report on what’s happening.
Attending relevant conferences is another way to keep track of IIoT developments. Events to check out include the ARC Industry Forum in Orlando, Fla., February 12–15, and Smart Industry 2018 in Chicago, Sept. 24–28.