Industry leaders answer rapid-fire questions on current state, the expo, and future
In the keynote address just before the keynote panel, Richard Bonner of Eastman Chemical Company shared a photo of a memorial unveiled in August 2021 to celebrate Eastman’s 100-year anniversary … referred to as “The Old Hand”. Bonner went on to say that a 100-year anniversary is an appropriate time for people to consider the conference’s theme, New Horizons, “and how we will safely innovate, optimize, and grow our companies.”
Following the opening keynote by Richard Bonner of Eastman Chemical Company, a rapid fire industry panel of 9 Gold Sponsor innovation leaders took to the podium to answer three questions;
- What is the current state of the industry?
- What applied innovations has your company brought to eChemExpo?
- What does the future look like in two years?
Bonner, Eastman’s Vice President of Worldwide Engineering & Construction, said the industry is now at a point in time where it is in need of technical solutions for the world’s challenges, such as technical solutions for the circular economy. He also said companies are in need of solutions to conserve natural resources, fuel efficiency advances, alternative energy options to lower greenhouse gas emissions, automation of tasks to relieve the current labor shortage, and improve the safety in the workplace.
The keynote panel that followed Bonner’s keynote provided additional insights on the state of the industry now and what to expect in two years.
Gold sponsor innovation leaders provide insights
By Robert Sorrell
Nine leaders in chemical process industry solutions had a chance to speak at eChemExpo 2022 in Kingsport, Tennessee, on April 21 and provide their perspectives during a rapid-fire keynote panel.
The representatives from nine of the event’s twelve gold sponsors, including ATR, AVEVA, Construct-X, Eaton, Hexagon, Rockwell Automation, SAP, TLV Corporation, and Teikoku USA Inc., had a chance to participate in the forum.
Introducers for the forum included Eastman employees Steve Smith, Teni Butler, Brian Shakelford, Doug Giles, Marvin Briscoe, Chris Potts, Greg Orr, Richard Beck, Kyle Collings; and Glenn Mitchell with BAE Systems. Each of the introducers spoke about their efforts in planning the exposition and tracks that they led during the conference.
Each of the gold sponsors were expected to answer three rapid-fire questions, according to exposition founder and managing director Peter Knox. They were to speak on the current state of the industry, what their company was bringing to the exposition, and what they foresee in the next two years. Gold sponsors also participate in conference track sessions and have an exhibit in the expo.
…the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the needs to address sustainability in the industry
—Ted Blackmon, Consruct-X
Jim Risko spoke on behalf of the TLV Corporation, one of the gold sponsors.
“We know there’s going to be more demands than ever,” said Risko. “But now there’s a demand for carbon reduction, a stronger demand. And, you know, having biofuels and things like that, it makes for a new marketing mix. And whether we recognize it or not, with those new feedstocks, there will be new things to learn and we won’t know about them until we start bringing those things into our processes.”
In order to remain sustainable, companies must have ground level improvement and optimization of the processes, Risko said.
TLV Corporation took steam and condensation systems consultancy to the exposition.
In the future, Risko said the industry will have to reduce energy use.
“And that’s going to be per production unit to reduce carbon effects,” Risko said. “I think the most important things are feedstock uncertainty because we’re implementing these. We just don’t know how they’re going to react with our processes. We can design it, but then we don’t know until it gets out in the street. Whether we have talked about it or not.”
Risko said there’s also going to be an increase in demand for stainless steel.
Tom Conroy with Teikoku USA also spoke on the current state of the industry. Teikoku is an innovator of leak-free canned motor pumps that cannot leak hazardous liquids.
“Our view of the current state of the chemical process industry is one that’s in transition from what I would call significant low cost, energy driven capital projects to really moving more now into sustaining the gains that have been made over that through more projects and continuous improvement spending, especially driven through COVID because plants had to stay up and operating,” Conroy said.
Conroy said there was a switch from capital expenditure activity to operating expenditures in the industry.
“And now, of course, the new CapEx activity that we’re seeing is really kind of focused more on these new greenfield projects that are centered on decarbonization,” he said.” So we’re seeing more and more of this activity, and it’s focused and centered, which is exciting for us. It helps us do our short-term planning really relatively well in terms of what we’re bringing today.”
…there was a switch from capital expenditure activity to operating expenditures in the industry.
—Tom Conroy, Teikoku USA
Rockwell Automation, Eaton
Tommy Mitchell with Calypso spoke for Rockwell Automation, another gold sponsor at the exposition.
“Digital transformation has been something that’s been a buzzword for a long time and the chemical industry has been slower to adopt than other industries,” he said. “A lot of the technology investments that have been delivering results in other industrial sectors have not translated to the gains and growth in chemicals, but that is something that we believe is going to change in the next two years, and especially around investments and data maturity.”
Right now, Mitchell said the industry has terabytes of data from countries around the world and is performing analytics on the data.
“We’re applying advanced mathematical and statistical techniques to transform processes and to really make those efficiency gains,” Mitchell said.
Digital transformation has been something that’s been a buzzword for a long time and the chemical industry has been slower to adopt than other industries” … “but that is something that we believe is going to change in the next two years.
— Tommy Mitchell, Rockwell Automation
Greg Miller from Eaton, another gold sponsor, said he believes it’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in two years because of “current chaos and anarchy that’s taking place in the world.”
Miller said the industry has seen two things crop up in the last few years.
“One is a vast growth in Bitcoin mining in the United States, which, believe it or not, is a huge consumer power in this country,” he said. “And we’re seeing massive demand for our equipment to go into these Bitcoin mining facilities. The third one, which will also affect all of us, is the growth of EV and battery requirements for power.”
Eaton provides power distribution equipment for manufacturers, such as Eastman Chemical Company in Kingsport.
It’s impossible to know what’s going to happen in two years because of current chaos and anarchy that’s taking place in the world.
— Gregory Miller, Eaton
SAP has celebrated its 50th anniversary, according to Matt Reymann, with SAP. He explored why his data company is often used by chemical companies around the world.
“It’s exciting to look at the transformation that SAP has supported in the past,” Reymann said. “But what’s more exciting is looking at the innovation of the future and the role that digital will play in driving new business models. Creating resilient supply chains, connecting enterprises.”
Keith Chambers from AVEVA spoke about value chain optimization, referring to the chain that stretches from the customer to the supply chain to the plant floor and back to the customer.
“That digital thread is really the new process by which you can run your business,” he said. “The way that we all used to do business in the past has essentially changed and it’s not going back. They talk about for durable changes, things that are going to keep on going as we move forward. And these changes are going to drive and require this, quote, reset in how we think about running our businesses, how we think about operating our companies.”
AVEVA is a software company that helps solve problems with the chain.
“Now, AVEVA, we’re kind of all crazy technology nerds, I guess, as you would expect,” he said. “We’re also very passionate about our end customers and customer success and how we can drive that through these changes that are happening today.”
As for the future, Chambers offered two words: agility and resilience.
“Those are going to be the companies that win,” Chambers said. “And those are the companies that AVEVA is working with and looking to support through this great transition that we’re in.”
So the power of digitally enabled workflows has also shown the benefits to those decision makers who had previously not been aware of these solutions.
— Brian Moura, Hexagon
Hexagon, ATR, Construct-X
Brian Moura with Hexagon, another gold sponsor, said his company provides software for companies to design, build, plan, and operate industrial facility assets.
Moura said the adoption of digital solutions in the industry has increased and the pandemic has not delayed planning investments in such projects.
“We have to move forward,” he said. “So the power of digitally enabled workflows has also shown the benefits to those decision makers who had previously not been aware of these solutions.”
Now, Moura said the industry is positioned to facilitate automation and to provide autonomous decision support, as well as increased demand for accurate and reliable digital realities.
“Now we should use this momentum of the next normal to further strengthen the industry and move towards a more customer centric, sustainable and autonomous digital solutions,” Moore said.
Off all the different technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, Moore said he doesn’t see one driving force, but rather the interplay of them all.
Elliott Lander spoke on behalf of ATR, a software company that assists companies with their procedures.
“So we, you know, we’re in the digital procedure lifecycle management business, but we have to be in the people business,” Lander said.
ATR is “really trying to improve that process to help improve accuracy, streamline the operation, the management of procedures, and deliver a better end product that people want to use and actually do use,” said Lander, who added that much work still needs to be done.
Ted Blackmon of Construct-X said he was approached by Eastman Chemical Company seven years ago about whether his company could apply advanced work packaging into an operating facility.
“You know, I’m about innovation and I’m very interested in sustainability in the circular economy,” Blackmon said.
He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the needs to address sustainability in the industry. The project at Eastman involves recycling plastics for reuse.
“We have to make upcycling work,” he said. “So I’m glad to be part of the solution and really glad to be here.”
Articles about the Keynote and the Featured Session that followed the Keynote Panel can be viewed below:
- Eastman VP of worldwide engineering and construction gives expo opening keynoteInnovation and optimization are the means to growth in the chemical industry, Richard Bonner said during Thursday’s April 21 opening keynote speech at eChemExpo 2022. Bonner, the vice [...]Read more