Industry 4.0 Examples: Advanced Technologies in Action Throughout Shell

Industry 4.0 Examples: Advanced Technologies in Action Throughout Shell

Industry 4.0 is already being used in the plastics industry and beyond

By Shell Polymers on May 21, 2020

Defined as the digitalization and automation of manufacturing operations, Industry 4.0 offers exciting possibilities to increase productivity, reduce unplanned downtime, and enhance competitiveness. As such, many manufacturers are eager to adopt emerging Industry 4.0 polymer technology technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence.

But, did you know that Shell has been at the forefront of digital technologies for decades? Beginning with underwater robots in the 1970s, Shell has conducted many innovative research and development programs throughout the years. Today, Shell is developing – and applying – a variety of Industry 4.0 technologies across its global network in:

  • Oil and gas
  • Refineries
  • Petrochemicals
  • Lubricants
  • Aviation

Here are some examples of Industry 4.0 in action through Shell:


In the oil and gas industry, many of the routine inspection tasks take place in harsh or remote frontier areas. Traditionally, humans undertake these inspections, but they are now increasingly being conducted by robots to protect human workers. That’s why advanced robotic systems have the potential to deliver a range of safety and commercial benefits in industrial applications.

Along with Carnegie Mellon University in the USA, Shell has developed Sensabot robots for inspecting equipment in remote, harsh environments like refineries and chemical plants. Shell is working with industry partners, vendors and academic institutions to innovate new breakthroughs in novel robotic systems to help create a safer work environment and save companies money.

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Sensors & Advanced Analytics

Sensors are crucial to keeping industrial operations running smoothly and optimizing performance. Digital sensors are installed in Shell operations around the world – from production fields to manufacturing complexes – to produce a constant flow of data. Applying advanced analytics to these data sets streamlines processes and enables employees to make data-backed business decisions.

Shell uses embedded sensing systems in its facilities to make data available to decision-makers, so operations conform to environmental standards. Shell’s Smart Field approach also uses sensor technology to monitor and optimize recovery from oil and gas fields, all while boosting the rate of production. Additionally, Shell is actively working with industry partners, equipment vendors and research teams in the academic sector to develop sensors that can address the challenges of oil and gas operations.

Virtual Reality

Shell is deploying virtual reality and augmented reality-based training programs. These allow Shell to create realistic training environments, so staff can become familiar with the functions of a plant or facility and the appropriate emergency responses.

Shell Polymers is also using VR to build a virtual plant model that’s facilitating construction and training its operators. In doing so, they can train staff to work before the plant even opens by creating a realistic VR program of the plant to provide their employees the real-world experience of "working in the plant" without it actually being there. Similarly, Shell Aviation has developed a virtual reality-based simulation that offers advanced training in the complex procedure of refueling a plane.

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In 2017, Shell set up a blockchain department that is exploring and building blockchain applications throughout the company in areas including exploration and production, mobility, and renewable energies.

To prevent its customers from mistakenly buying counterfeit products, Shell Lubricants is exploring a blockchain platform that tracks lubricants from production to customer. As the products move between parties, each can confirm they are receiving genuine products, and Shell can track and monitor supplies worldwide more securely and easily.

Artificial Intelligence

Shell was an early adopter of artificial intelligence. Back in 2018, Royal Dutch Shell PLC started rolling out a new AI platform on Microsoft Azure to monitor and predict when critical infrastructures require maintenance.1  Shell has also focused on a range of technologies that have supported advances in artificial intelligence through machine learning, computer vision, virtual assistants, autonomous vehicles, and robotics. Currently, Shell uses AI software to monitor its rigs and write safety reports automatically.

Collaboration and sharing expertise will be key to unlocking progress. Shell has developed valuable, independent insights in this area and is eager to support plastic converters as they embrace these exciting new technologies. While customer collaboration may look different in the near future, the focus remains on your continued success. Our team of polymer experts is committed to rewriting the polymer playbook and developing new ways of delivering unrivaled customer experiences.

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