Keynote Speakers Describe Digital Transformation and Much More

The chemical process industry and the world in general are plunging headlong into a brave new world of digitalization, according to speakers on the keynote panel at the April 5 eChem Expo in Kingsport. “Digitalization changes everything,” one speaker proclaimed.

That statement came from speaker Don Mack, who ironically acknowledged it as a “subtle message.” Mack serves as global alliance manager for Siemens Industry Inc., which was a Gold Sponsor of the event. He was introduced to a crowded meeting room by Steve Smith, who leads Eastman Chemical Company’s control systems support organization and served as chair of the digital transformation track in the eChem Expo informational sessions.

Digitalization is becoming a critical success factor in global competition, Mack noted in his address. Forces driving the transformation include the demand that companies produce products more quickly and with fewer human and material resources, while meeting the specific needs of individual customers and maintaining standards of quality, he said.

Digitalization is becoming a critical success factor in global competition, Mack noted in his address.

Connectivity between systems will continue to proliferate, and companies will keep collecting data at ever-increasing rates, Mack predicted. As many as 50 billion devices will be communicating with each other in the next couple of years, he said, adding that the startling growth of the Internet of Things “won’t be changing anytime soon.”

Digital twins of plants will enable testing, training and engineering and by allowing executives and operators to move seamlessly from the virtual world to the real world, Mack continued. Integrated engineering and integrated operations will make that possible, he noted.

Smith also introduced Bartec US Corp. sales manager Osman Amith, whose recent family history includes surviving recent calamities that included the flood in Houston, an earthquake in Mexico and the Southern California wildfires. “Honestly, I’m not feeling extremely secure standing next to Osman on this platform,” Smith joked.

“I’m still alive,” Amith announced as he came to the podium. He noted that he’s been concentrating on the growth of enterprise mobility for Bartec, another Gold Sponsor of the event. The company, which is known for explosion protection, has launched a business group to design and manufacture intrinsically safe smartphones, smart cameras and smart tablets. Smart glasses are on the way, he notes.

That hardware doesn’t do much without the right software, so Bartec brought along software partners to eChem Expo, Amith said. They included eVision Software, Index AR Solutions and Hardhat Connect. “These software companies are gaining great traction with manufacturing companies,” he maintained.

“Digitalization changes everything.”

Don Mack
Global Alliance Manager for Siemens Industry Inc.

Roland Schneefuss of Aveva Group PLC said his company is helping plants navigate the digital transformation of engineering information management systems to achieve Industry 4.0.


Neal Whitten, who works in corporate environmental affairs for Eastman and serves on the eChem Expo planning team talked briefly about the show’s mobility, safety and environment track and then introduced Gabriel Pana, vice president of sales for UiPath, a company that helps plants automate front offices and back offices.  To that end, UiPath offered two seminars at the show to demonstrate how artificial intelligence and machine learning are already helping to streamline business processes and will improve those processes greatly in the future, Pana said.

Next up, Whitten introduced Christian McDermott, Voovio country manager for the U.S.A., who described how enhanced reality can help meet the training challenges that chemical plants face as a new generation of workers takes over. “The paradigm shift that everyone has been talking about for the last decade is now really happening,” he said. “The baby boomers are retiring and millennials are entering the workforce.”

To ease the transition and facilitate the accompanying transfer of knowledge, Voovio has created procedure simulators for field operations to bridge the gap between reading written critical procedures and executing them in the field safely and in a standardized way, McDermott said. It’s a matter of capturing “tribal knowledge” and best practices, he maintained.

McDermott was followed by Richard Lorenzo-Arocho, an Eastman senior chemical engineer who said he valued his work as an eChem Expo planning team member because it helped him expand his network at the company by working with people who he might not have met otherwise. Lorenzo-Arocho then introduced speakers from the rapid-execution track.

One of those speakers, Roland Schneefuss, Aveva Group PLC vice president of sales for North America, asked the audience if they’re ready for industry 4.0. “Digitalization is definitely a buzz word,” he noted, saying that his company helps plants navigate the digital transformation of engineering information management systems.

Those changes often include bringing written documents into the digital world, a project that’s easier said than done, Schneefus said. He encouraged listeners to attend the Aveva eChem Expo sessions, including a joint presentation with Eastman to learn how the two companies have cooperated on a “digitization journey.”

Voovio has created procedure simulators for field operations to bridge the gap between reading written critical procedures and executing them in the field

The next speaker, Miles Mohnkern, Thorpe Specialty Services vice president of technical services, noted that his company has offered refractory products and services for a long time and added corrosion control to its repertoire by acquiring another company four years ago. The company was started in the early 1900s and incorporated in Texas in 1954.

Thorpe has worked with Eastman for 25 years at the chemical company’s Longview, Texas, plant, Mohnkern said. He emphasized Thorpe’s dedication to safety at that plant and everywhere it works.

In 2016, business was flat, but last year brought a resurgence in capital expenditures in the chemical industry, Mohnkern told the crowd. Consolidation has helped make it a global industry, he added.

Speaker Stacey Griffith, Group Leader of Plant Engineering Area 2 for Eastman and an eChem Expo planning team member, was asked to make sure the mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines were well-represented at eChem Expo. She soon discovered the program was already rich in content for those engineers, she said.

Griffith also described the work of Teikoku USA because a representative of the company who had planned to speak could not attend the conference due to a last-minute emergency. Teikoku, the largest supplier of canned motor pumps, produces about 3,000 units each month and provides a high-level of customer support, Griffith said. The company is focusing on safety, reduced operating risk, operational uptime and energy efficiency, she said.

“The baby boomers are retiring and millennials are entering the workforce.”

Christian McDermott
Voovio country manager for the U.S.A.


Doug Giles, who works in industrial and process safety for Eastman and serves on the eChem Expo planning team, introduced speaker Robin D’Souza, Yokogawa sales manager. D’Souza began his presentation by saying he would describe his company’s culture.

Yokogawa was launched in Tokyo in 1915 with just four people on the staff and set out on a journey to explore the new frontier of Japan’s measurement industry. The founder urged his team not to worry about profits but instead to improve the company’s technology and make products that earn customers’ respect, D-Souza noted. “At Yokogawa, this is still who we are,” he maintained.

The next speaker was Rodney Partain, regional sales vice president for Eaton, a power management company that’s been in business more than 100 years and employs 96,000 workers on projects in more than 170 countries and registered 2017 sales of $20 billion.

Eaton foresees continuation of positive trends in manufacturing in the next couple of years. “In 2016, business was slow – in 2017, hang onto your hat,” Partain said. “It was wide open.” The company plans to maintain its position as a leader in switchgear safety, he observed.

Bryan Shackleford, an Eastman innovation representative and eChem Expo planning team member, introduced David Morgan, Johnson Controls manager for strategic accounts, saying Morgan had challenged the way he looks at the world, exchanging his polymer research viewpoint to a vision concentrating on process control.

The world is expanding, and we are starting to see more and more connected technologies

In his presentation Morgan noted that Johnson Controls works with Eastman on cooling as well as controls. However, his company’s eChem Expo presentations centered on information technology instead of chillers, he said. Specifically, Johnson Controls decided to cover the intersection of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).

“The world is expanding, and we are starting to see more and more connected technologies,” Morgan noted. “We are seeing the supply chain shorten.” When consumers run out of laundry detergent they touch a button that links directly to the distribution system, which links to manufacturing, which links to smart sensors in factories. “The laundry detergent shows up at the door the following morning,” he concluded.

With that sophistication comes risk, so addressing cybersecurity and creating a corporate culture that supports digitalization became key elements in the Johnson Controls presentations in the gathering’s conferences, Morgan said.

Kendal Brown, who works for Eastman in corporate automation and digital manufacturing and served on the planning team, took to the stage to invite attendees to two sessions. One session focused on enhancing decision-making with tech, which could be understood as the “why” of digitalization. The other centered on the digital divide between generations to explore the “how” of digitalization.

Peter Knox, who founded eChem Expo, wrapped up the keynote panel by praising the work of the planning committee in organizing the event. The next edition of the conference and exhibition is scheduled for April 23, 2020, he told the attendees assembled in the packed ballroom.

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