Electricity and Control January 2023
CONTROL SYSTEMS + AUTOMATION
Trends shaping tomorrow’s process industries
The current drivers of the world’s process industries can be defined in three mega trends: sustainability, digital transformation and flexible manufacturing.That was the consensus of an eight person panel discussion during the opening session at Rockwell Automation’s Process Solutions User Group, the prelude to its annual Automation Fair held in Chicago, Illinois, in November last year.
“ A key factor in all of this is that it is a journey,” said Jim Winter, Rockwell Automation’s Director of Global Process Business, emphasising that change won’t be easy for many companies, and it will take a concerted effort to address all three trends. Another panellist, Kumar Sokka, Global Business Director for Digital at Rockwell Automation, said his business unit often describes the process of industrial digitalisation as “difficult digital” due to the commitment necessary. Craig Resnick, Vice President of ARC Advisory Group, picked up on the theme and added that the common de nominator in all three mega trends is that they all revolve around industrial workforce issues. Even as automation technology is used more and more to offset a lack of ex perienced workers, producers are seeking to increase pro ductivity and control costs in the face of a fast-paced and ever-changing world where consumer demands shift often. “You can almost look at the workforce and categorise it as to how it is affected by each of these trends,” Resnick said. “When we talk about sustainability at the C-level, we spend a lot of time looking at things like net zero, the circular economy, and energy saving. When we’re in the plant, it’s about operational resilience. “How do we compensate if there is another pandemic, or if we are cut off from the supply chain? Do we have a plan and tools that we can go to, to support sustainability?” Resnick continued, asking hypothetically: “Do we have the right tools and technology in place knowing we might not have a workforce that can support them?” Resnick said digital transformation in a facility can help
a workforce reach heights it is not yet prepared to reach. While the younger generations of workers may be the most technology-savvy, the right technology is needed to help those workers be more productive. “They might be great at Fortnite, but when you say something like ‘cat cracker’ they are completely lost,” he said. Regarding flexible manufacturing, Resnick added, manufacturers these days need to look at their supply chains from a real-time perspective and be prepared to shift gears at a moment’s notice. Sustainability front and centre Pete Morell, Global OEM Industry Director, Sustainability and Process, at Rockwell Automation, picked up the dis cussion on sustainability, saying many new OEMs coming into the process industries, whether in energy or food pro cessing, really understand their processes but don’t always understand the automation involved. He said Rockwell’s work with such customers is centred around driving con sistency, which, he said, can ease the burden. He noted too that many customers can’t seem to hire enough workers to develop such consistency. “That’s where we advocate the concept of ‘connected workers’,” he said, describing a plant where there is a central control room and workers can communicate and work in tandem. John Steckler, Director, North American Process Automation at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), a Chicago based food processing corporation, said consumers around the world have made it clear that they expect the products they purchase to come from sustainable sources, produced by companies that share their values. “With our role in the food chain, we really have a responsibility to scale up our sustainability efforts to the ever-expanding needs of the global population,” he said of his company. To accomplish its sustainability goals, Steckler said the company focuses on its supply chain, which is made up of farmers. “We’re helping to enrol over two million acres in regenerative agriculture for low-carbon intensity products,” he said of his company’s efforts. He outlined several other key initiatives such as the company’s ‘Strive 35’ commit ment, through which it aims to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2035. “That commitment also includes targets for reduction in energy usage, water inten sity and diverting waste from landfills,” he added. “So, we are looking at scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.”
In planning digital transformation or a new digital plant, the plan needs to include redefined roles: the operator of yesterday is probably not the operator of tomorrow.
4 Electricity + Control JANUARY 2023
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