By Shell Polymers on Jul 18, 2021
Leverage Industry 4.0 Today, We’ll Show You How
Some analysts predict that the global polyethylene market may increase by 3.4% a year for the next seven years,1 partly because of high demand from industries such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and packaging. While the industry grows, converters are implementing Industry 4.0 technologies to enhance their competitiveness.
Despite the enthusiasm surrounding Industry 4.0 adoption, it’s a challenge to gather reliable, independent advice and expertise. Nevertheless, the advantages these technologies bring are clear, and being able to harness and implement AI, simulation technology, and advanced analytics may create opportunities for converters.
That’s why Shell Polymers drilled into these advanced technologies in The Business of Plastics. This report is tailored for plastics converters and leverages analyses from credible sources like: McKinsey, National Institutes of Health, Deloitte, Harvard Business Review, IBM, and more.
What AI, Simulation, and Advanced Analytics Can Do for Converters
1. Enhance Plant Productivity with AI
Artificial intelligence, or AI, is being explored by many companies today. However, only 1% of manufacturers are using it.2 That low adoption rate has to do with how companies are figuring out how to best leverage AI.
For example, image-processing capabilities can reduce human errors and speed up defect detection and quality control. Plastic converters can also benefit from AI-enabled forecasting that predicts the volume of products that need to be manufactured to more precisely meet demand. According to Mckinsey Digital, AI-powered forecasting can reduce errors by 30 to 50% in supply chain networks. The improved accuracy leads up to a 65% reduction in lost sales due to inventory out-of-stock situations and warehousing costs decrease around 10 to 40%. The estimated impact of AI in the supply chain is between $1.2T and $2T in manufacturing and supply chain planning.3
How Shell Polymers is Using AI
Our plant's predictive maintenance program builds reliability and availability into everything we do. We’ve combined embedded sensors, analytic models, and AI to avert equipment failure across our plant by tracking critical variables like temperature, vibration, and pressure. As the AI system learns, it will identify when issues are developing, so our team to combat these issues proactively
2. Use Simulations to Optimize Production and Design Processes
Simulation technology and digital twins can be used to reproduce a physical process or object.4 In the plastics industry, converters can use these technologies to conduct a first-pass simulation on a part design. This will help identify issues that occur as polymers flow through molds and adjust the design before physically using it.
Industry leaders go even further with simulation work by incorporating the mold builder’s input. This process effectively represents how the molding process will go before using any raw materials. While this technology may seem far off, Deloitte reports that digital twins’ capabilities are becoming more accessible to organizations large and small across all industries.5
How Shell Polymers Is Using Simulation Technology
Our team is using simulation technology in two key ways to get operators comfortable before our plant opens. First, we’re training operators on a state-of-the-art simulator. It replicates the plant’s behavior and control systems, so our operators are prepared for unplanned scenarios. It also ensures they can effectively run the plant as soon as it starts up.
Secondly, we’ve gone beyond generic simulators that are often seen in the polyethylene industry. Instead, our simulator uses the same interface and graphics as the control system in the live unit. This will prevent operators from training with a generic system and then moving to one they’ve never seen before when the plant opens up. Even now, our operators are able to start up reactors, operate them in steady-state mode, perform grade transitions, and shut down equipment safely in a simulated environment.
3. Track Key Variables to Proactively Predict and Address Problems
Gathering data from equipment and processes has become a top priority for companies looking to make informed decisions around productivity. To address that need, 71% of plastics manufacturers acquired new smart, connected machines in 2019,and 61% of plastics manufacturers use real-time monitoring to improve quality control.6
These investments lead to the realization of predictive maintenance. As manufacturers use sensors, analytic models, and AI, they’ll be able to collect data to help predict failures in equipment and address them prior to the issue occurring. They can also optimize their processes with real time data on temperature, pressure, and vibration.
How Shell Polymers Is Using Predictive Technology
In addition to our predictive maintenance program for onsite equipment, Shell Polymers will use a real-time track and trace program to proactively address any issues that arise in transit and keep customers informed on where their railcars are. As the plant grows and we adopt more solutions, we’ll continue adding new solutions that provide proactive resolutions to your unique challenges.
Industry 4.0 continues to be a game-changer for converters as adoption rates grow and use cases for the technologies unfold. Be sure to download the full report for the latest research on Industry 4.0 polymer technology, how polyethylene suppliers are implementing them, and how it benefits plastics converters.