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Posts Tagged ‘Process Controll’

Follow us to the year 2040…

It’s harvesting time. After delivering the wheat to the silo, the harvesting machine delivers the straw to the plant that has been temporarily placed next to the farm. After biotechnical and chemical processing, the bio-based plastic granulate is filled and ready for shipment; over the next couple of days, it will be sold via regional shops to the consumers who use it as feed for their 3D printers at home and produce their own goods as required.

Meanwhile, at the industrial site close by, the chemical plant has switched from producing ingredients for the sun-tan lotion to synthesizing anti-freeze agents. Decoupling one module and replacing the downstream processing unit has been a matter of hours. The central software has calculated the required formulations and production parameters, and the individual components have already started to fine-tune their settings in bilateral communications.

F3 Factory Container_kleinVision, forecast or mumbo jumbo? As far-fetched as the scenario may seem, the technological foundations are being laid today: Modularisation and automation are not only taking the process industry to new levels of efficiency, but they will fundamentally change the business models of the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The key to the future lies in the combination of automation and modularization. Experts envision different ways on how these two developments interact: Herman Bottenberg, Zeton, is convinced that “for true flexible manufacturing for multi purpose products and when applying the modular approach both hardware and automation has to become 100% modular!” Axel Haller, ABB, says: “Modular and system independent automation is possible. The market will decide if this will be the next step into the future”.

At first sight, the performance improvements that are enabled within existing processes seem more evolutionary than revolutionary. Marc Richter, Renishaw points out the quality improvements by new techniques and the speed-up development cycles of pharmaceuticals. And Marin Valek, GE, adds: “Companies use less than 10% of the information available to be better in operations. Winners will use IIoT technology and data science to get the competitive advantage of having high predictable performance.”

The technological progress opens up two different pathways: One leads from today’s batch-based production to continuous flows. This is more than a change in process – it calls for a different conceptual approach. Alessandra Vizza, Corning: “Mindset change is required to understand that continuous flow processes are no more a new system to test but the tool to be used for cost reduction; safety; environmental impact and innovation. An appropriate solution to fine-tune chemical production needs with world behaviour and epoch constraints.”

On the other hand, modular plants offer high flexibility and the opportunity for customized or even personalized products in small volumes. This entails a fundamental change in business models. Says Mario Bott, Fraunhofer IPA: “Monolith organizational approaches in process industries will struggle to manage the challenges of mass personalization.” Yet, the chances of the necessary transformation are often underestimated.  Mark Talford, BRITEST, says that “much has been done to develop practical modular continuous production technologies, but there is still a challenge to convince decision-makers to invest. As well as new business models, we need tools and guidance to help decision-makers overcome their perceived fears.” The adaptation will certainly be worth it. Dirk Kirschneck, Microinnova, summarizes the opportunities a successful transformation offers: “Industry 4.0 delivers the bridge between the production flexibility and knowledge-based process performance. Industry 4.0 will transform the chemical industry and will lead to a new efficiency level in terms of speed, quality and resources. Radical new business models will push the chemical industry to a new performance level.”

And what is your opinion? Give us your view and discuss with the expert’s quotes and many others at the PRAXISforum “Future of Chemical and Pharmaceutical Production”…

PF Future Production 2017

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