Operational excellence and efficient, reliable, safe production are always top of mind for chemical company executives. And digital technology is beginning to play a pivotal role in plant operations.
That perspective is a key finding from recent Accenture research that explored chemical industry executives' views of smart sensors, cloud, artificial intelligence, analytics, wearables and other digital technologies in a plant environment.
The research took place at a time when there is a growing understanding of the real value inherent in the digital reinvention of industry. For example, Accenture has determined that using technology to increase operational efficiency could save $91,261 per chemical company employee, on average. And according to a study by the World Economic Forum and Accenture, the broader use of digital technology could bring the industry a $550 billion benefit over 10 years—while reducing C02 emissions by 100 million tons.
This study of digital technologies within plant operations provides a perspective on where the industry is today and where it plans to go in the future—and offers insights into how chemical companies can focus their efforts on their digital journey. Key findings include:
of respondents have been able to measure the financial value of digital technologies in their plant operations.
For example, in terms of operating profit, 55% said that they have seen increases of 5 to 20%.
About one quarter reported increases exceeding 20%.
of respondents are either currently using analytics in production or running a pilot of the technology.
Another 27% said that they have defined a technology strategy for analytics initiatives.
are investing more than they did last year.
said analytics will be a key focus of their investments in digital technology over the next three years.
Chemical companies plan to distribute their investments across many digital technologies. One third or more, for example, cited artificial intelligence, advanced process control, cloud or sensor-based initiatives among their top investment priorities.
have merged their information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) groups to create an integrated governance structure.
Among those that have not done so, 70% are considering such a move. The two biggest benefits that executives foresee from IT-OT integration are greater system resilience, with less unplanned downtime; and improved incident management for tracking and responding to production problems.
Among those tracking cybersecurity attacks in their production operations, three quarters have experienced an attack in the last 12 months with 54% of those attacks successful.
While 44% were able to remedy such attacks within a few hours—the rest were not, and instead took days, weeks or months to rectify the problem.
And 30% are not tracking incidents at all in their plant operations.
To ramp up their digital efforts, chemical companies should consider six key business imperatives that can help guide their plans: