Where do chemical manufacturers land on the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index?
Driven by technological advancements, market trends and the need for cost optimization, chemical manufacturers face immense pressure to maximize productivity and enhance operations while maintaining high worker safety levels. Notable progress has been achieved through strategic investments in data analytics, drone-based video inspections, and other operational technologies. However, to support future Industry 4.0 use cases and ensure continued growth, the industry must shift its focus to bolstering its underlying technology infrastructure.
I will take a quick look at the digital technologies chemical manufacturers are investing in today, how they are using those technologies and where they can improve to take full advantage of Industry 4.0.
What do chemical manufacturers want to achieve with Industry 4.0?
Chemical manufacturers are looking to Industry 4.0 technologies to help tackle a variety of short-, medium- and long-term challenges. As part of their digital transformations, they are seeking to:
- Improve machinery, equipment, and asset performance
The chemical manufacturing sector relies on complex and costly equipment, so avoiding breakdowns and unplanned downtime is a top priority. Automation can help elevate quality levels and maximize throughput, while the implementation of condition-based monitoring can prolong equipment life.
- Optimize operations and worker safety
Chemical manufacturing plants cover large areas that are characterized by heavy pipe structures and dense storage areas, containing hazardous materials that can pose a risk to worker safety. Solid network connectivity is essential to optimizing operations and to giving employees the knowledge needed to maintain safety levels across facilities.
- Meet sustainability goals
Chemical manufacturers want to decrease energy consumption at their facilities to meet their corporate sustainability objectives.
- Enhance operational agility
Given the crucial role chemical products play in producing essential goods, avoiding bottlenecks in the supply chain is very important. Greater supply chain visibility can help meet increasing client expectations.
What is the current state of digital transformation for chemical manufacturers?
When it comes to information technology (IT), chemical manufacturers have implemented mobile devices (such as smartphones, tablets and ruggedized devices) to improve collaboration and take advantage of cloud-based applications. They are also scaling industrial Wi-Fi, mesh Wi-Fi and public cloud infrastructures across their facilities. However, other advanced technologies such as campus networks, edge computing and private cloud infrastructures are still at the evaluation stage or have been rolled out at only a few locations so far.
On the operational technology (OT) side, chemical manufacturers are deploying product lifecycle management (PLM) and other cloud-based applications (such as enterprise resource planning and supply chain management) to make quality improvements across their operations. 3D printing of parts, predictive maintenance and drone-based inspections are also being deployed to help improve the lifespan of their equipment.
Digital transformation at BASF’s chemical plant in Tarragona, Spain
The impact advanced Industry 4.0 technologies can have on operational efficiency, safety and responsiveness in the chemical manufacturing industry can be seen at BASF’s chemical park in Tarragona, Spain. A private 4.9G/5G network has enabled three primary use cases for the 1 km2 site:
- Automated, real-time vehicle guidance to maximize efficiency
- Worker safety monitoring via connected sensors, helmets and garments to prevent accidents and increase security
- Mission-critical voice, data and video communications, including push-to-talk, to improve productivity and collaboration
The private wireless network features both edge core and central core capabilities to ensure minimal latency and increase data speed, reliability and transmission capacity. Going forward, 5G technology will enable up to a million devices to be managed per square kilometer, opening the door for even greater adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, virtual and augmented reality, and artificial intelligence.
What is the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index?
In collaboration with ABI Research, Nokia developed the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index to gauge the progress of multiple sectors on their journey to the industrial metaverse. The Index draws its data from a survey of 500 senior managers and IT and OT leaders from a wide range of industries, including 100 respondents from the chemical manufacturing sector.
The Index assesses not only the progress made concerning the sector’s IT infrastructure but considers it in relation to the OT use cases being deployed. By assigning weighted scores for IT maturity and OT use case deployment, the Index offers insights into the overall progress of each sector as well as the level of alignment between the two.
Where do chemical manufacturers score on the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index?
The Index found that the chemical manufacturing sector is close to the average score of all other verticals when it comes to IT investment and OT deployments. Scoring 67.0 out of 100 for OT use case deployment and 65.6 for technological maturity (IT), the sector has made good progress in deploying OT use cases — but there is the potential risk of disproportional growth. Chemical manufacturers’ technological infrastructure must advance in parallel with OT or else the increasing number of OT use cases may not be able to be supported adequately. Respondents acknowledged that this lack of alignment is holding back the investment and delivery of their digital transformation projects.
Want to know more about the Industry 4.0 Maturity Index and how chemical manufacturers stack up against other verticals? Get the full results in our white paper.