Technology, digital, online, innovation – these are buzzwords that we hear so very frequently today in all spheres, from communication and data storage to finance. However, it is not as often to hear about their industrial applications. In this issue of All Around Plastics, we will get a closer look at digital innovations that have been employed to increase business and industrial efficiency.
Mongkol Hengrojanasophon, Vice President – Olefins Business and Operations, Chemicals Business, SCG explains in simple terms that digital innovation is any new creation that takes advantage of both IT and OT to meet the user’s needs. IT or information technology enables us to store a massive amount of data systematically, while OT or operation technology gives us tools or programs that allow us to manage and analyze our data in order to solve problems, improve efficiency, and make accurate predictions.
As such, digital innovation is not restricted to the creation of new products that have never been seen in the world. Rather, it involves applying technology to data and developing new management formats that meet the user’s needs.
The first goal of applying digital innovation to the management of SCG’s plants is to improve the company’s competitiveness. Rather than being confined to product development as in the past, innovation can actually be used for many other purposes, such as to create new data management systems and improve the efficiency of work systems. An example is the use of augmented reality (AR) technology, commonly employed in computer games to superimpose 3D images over the user’s view of the real world for enhanced realism, in the analysis of machines in a factory, in which engineers or specialists can inspect the machinery remotely through mobile devices or computers. Another case in point is drones, which are commonly employed for videography. However, once enhanced with RFID technology, drones can be deployed to quickly monitor the progress of a project and obtain images of the development. Essentially, digital technology can be developed to suit the user’s needs.
For digital initiatives, SCG believes it is important to have a ready access to technology, have insights into customer needs, and be ready to quickly bring together data and technology to create innovation.
“With over 30 years of experience managing petrochemical plants, we have a clear picture of what can help enhance the efficiency of our factories. This includes our manufacturing process, safety, and maintenance. With our needs clearly identified, we can develop new solutions to address them effectively and promptly.”
If we convert this into an equation where Y stands for the desired results, Y will invariably be made up of smaller factors, like X1 + X2 + X3 + X4. We may not even know how each X affects Y. However, once AI processes this data, it will be able to identify the relations between factors and calculate how an increase or decrease in the value of each X affects Y. Then, it can generate algorithms and proposes solutions.
“We must begin by thinking of how we can increase automation. Then, we can put automation and information together to create algorithms. In the past, data was collected to inform human decisions. Decisions, thus, would vary according to each person’s knowledge and experience. On the contrary, AI makes decisions based on logic and massive information. This, in a way, is putting our collective experience in a machine.
The development of digital technology, therefore, plays a critical role in ensuring competitiveness. Once inefficiencies are detected, they must be addressed promptly.
In the past 10-20 years, Chemicals Business, SCG has developed over 60 AIs mainly for factory management. Its next goal is to develop digital innovations, so that it can meet the needs of its customers in the chemical industry more promptly and efficiently.
“SCG has consistently stressed the importance of developing innovation to address customer needs. However, we wish to go beyond the expectations, shake up the industry, and create digital innovation that fulfills customer needs on a whole new level,” added Mongkol.
“We have to look ahead and anticipate upcoming trends. More importantly, we need to understand the true needs of our customers, so that we can develop innovation to fulfill them. Although it might not be successful right away, it is important to learn from the mistakes and improve quickly through what’s called an agile process. This is so that we are constantly equipped to address the needs of our customers and society and be able to do so increasingly better.”
The adoption of digital technology is, therefore, much more than just purchasing and installing new data collection programs to be implemented across a factory. Instead, it involves identifying the real needs of the business, so that an appropriate method and tool can be selected to address them or further enhance the existing system. In addition, it is important to keep abreast of new technological advances, learn about them, experiment with them, and apply them to the information at hand. Although they are unable to produce the expected result, business owners need to embrace the “fail fast, learn fast spirit” to help their businesses remain in keeping with the rhythm of the digital world and strengthen their competitiveness in time for changes.