Advantages of Industry 4.0 Technology for Converters

These are exciting times for converters. Whether you are a film or pipe producer, or run an injection- and blow-molding operation, the polyethylene industry is highly robust, globally and in the USA. Market Watch, a market research company, predicts significant polyethylene growth across regions, partly because of high demand from the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, electrical, electronics, and packaging sectors. In fact, the global polyethylene market is expected to grow at a CAGR of roughly 2.6% between 2020 and 2025. 1

While this growth is happening in the polyethylene industry, many converters are beginning to implement Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies that can enhance competitiveness with increased productivity, reduced maintenance and labor costs, greater efficiency, extended equipment life, and more!

Industry 4.0 Challenges

To help our employees better understand how converters and plastics executives perceive the trend toward Industry 4.0, Shell Polymers commissioned a major survey of manufacturing companies across:

  • North America
  • Europe
  • APAC

Conducted by independent research firm Edelman Intelligence, the survey involved 350 interviews with sector executives. According to our findings, converters and other manufacturing companies are optimistically engaged with Industry 4.0 technologies. In fact, 80% of surveyed manufacturing companies are already using at least one Industry 4.0 technology to enhance their operations. That said, there is still concern about the pace of change, technology costs, and lack of expertise that is hindering widespread adoption.

Leveraging Industry 4.0 to Enhance Polyethylene Supply Chains

Industry 4.0 includes a wide range of advanced technologies, including, but not limited to:

  • Artificial intelligence (machine learning)
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Robotics
  • Connected technology
  • Virtual and augmented reality
  • Autonomous Technology
  • Cloud-based systems
  • Sensors

When implemented, Industry 4.0 manufacturing technologies can play crucial roles in all stages of the polyethylene supply chain. As Shell Polymers is building its state-of-the-art plant in Monaca, PA, it’s showcasing the impact advanced technologies can have in providing customers with exceptional supplier experiences.

For example, the Shell Polymers team is using virtual reality to train operators on the plant – before it’s even built. Shell Polymers developed a simulator system that replicates the plant’s behavior and control systems to train frontline workers. The system includes a customized series of immersive training experiences using 360° virtual reality video, which can all be accessed remotely.

To bring transparency to its production processes, Shell Polymers is implementing sensors and advanced analytics capabilities that will help proactively prevent logistical kinks from interfering with customer deliveries and ensure smooth operations.

Integrated technology solutions will be specifically designed to streamline behind-the-scenes operational processes, so company experts are more efficient and can focus all their energy on our customers. To proactively keep customers in the know, Shell Polymers will also utilize a robust notification system so last-minute surprises can be reduced.

By pairing advanced Industry 4.0 technology like these with our team of industry experts, converters will experience less operational snafus and reduced polyethylene supply chain delays.

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Seizing the Upside of Advanced Technologies

According to our research, a majority of companies are already well on their way to Industry 4.0-enabled facilities with at least one advanced technology integrated into operations. Of those respondents, 61% cited a lack of understanding as a significant challenge to fully embracing what Industry 4.0 has to offer.

Because of this knowledge gap, companies are not currently set up for success in implementing Industry 4.0 technologies and seizing the opportunities that may lie ahead. This is something that Shell Polymers wants to change and it’s actively supporting customers’ moves toward a connected, predictive and data-based future.

At Shell Polymers, collaboration and sharing expertise will be key to unlocking progress. Shell has developed valuable, independent insights in this area and is eager to support converters as they embrace these exciting new technologies. As the Shell survey highlighted, the need for third-party specialist support is there and Shell Polymers’ team of experts is ready to work with converters and help them take advantage of the new opportunities that are opening up.

[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/polyethylene-market-2020---market-share-top-manufacturers-entry-globally-market-size-and-forecast-to-2025-2020-08-06

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