Working Together

Yokogawa and Subsidiaries
“Co-innovate” With Plants

Yokogawa, a giant multinational company founded 103 years ago in Japan, prides itself on collaborating with process industries management and plant operators in the march toward digitalization. The company has expanded its capacity to work cooperatively partly by acquiring three companies in 2016 – Industrial Evolution Inc., Soteica Visual Mesa Software Business (SVM) and KBC Advanced Technologies (KBC).

Yokogawa and KBC work with plant personnel to “co-innovate,” says Tom Fiske, principal technology strategist. It’s in the vendors’ DNA to work collaboratively with plant employees to use technology to identify and meet needs and challenges, he says. It’s not just a matter of using existing solutions but also creating new ones that synthesize everything from systems and data to services and supply chains, he says. The companies call the idea “Synaptic Business Automation.”

KBC – which provides leading software and expert services, powered by the cloud, to assure process operations achieve their full potential.  – retains its autonomy and is keeping its old name, according to Oscar Santollani, who now serves as KBC Senior Adviser and was CEO and a founder of SVM. The KBC name will live on because of its solid reputation, he says.

Meanwhile, eChem Expo booths will display equipment and knowledge that promote the collaboration the companies are seeking. Their exhibits are scheduled to showcase instrumentation and analyzers, control systems and cloud based computing, says Robin D’Souza, Yokogawa sales manager for the East Coast and Midwest.

It’s not just a matter of using existing solutions but also creating new ones that synthesize everything from systems and data to services and supply chains.

In seminars at eChem Expo, the companies expect to address the work of digitizing a chemical plant organization, says Fiske. Topics related to that work could include the cloud, analytics, data as a service (DaaS) and simulation technology that creates a digital twin of plant, he notes.

Digitial twins help management and operators improve plant efficiency, indicate how proposed changes would affect plant operations and aid in scheduling preventive maintenance, Fiske maintains. He plans to use the seminars to describe the technology that’s available and how it will influence a company’s business.

To capitalize on digital transformation, plant management and operators should change work flows to take advantage of the technology, Fiske continues. “The challenge is not only implementing this technology but also to enable better work processes to extract greater value,” he contends.

With regard to entering the digital era, some chemical industry companies have reached the formative stage of plotting strategy, launching pilot projects and examining platforms, Fiske notes. Surveys indicate that companies are “all over the map” in terms of how much progress they’ve made in digitalization, he says. About 80 percent have developed strategies, 50 percent have already become actively engaged and virtually all are at least examining the possibilities, according to Fiske. “We’re at the beginning,” he says of the digital era.

As the companies work with plants to blaze a trail toward digitalization, KBC enhances sustainability, says Santollani. By reducing energy consumption, plants save money and directly decrease emissions, he notes. Approaches include KBC’s Energy and Sustainability Co-Pilot, which includes a cloud-based component that reduces energy use and consequently lowers costs, he notes. The software alone can make a difference of 2 percent to five percent in energy costs, while adding the company’s consulting services to the software can result in savings of 5 percent to 10 percent, he maintains.

“The challenge is not only implementing technology but also to enable better work processes to extract greater value.”

Tom Fiske
Yokogawa Principal Technology Strategist

With relatively low prices for energy expected to continue,

some plant personnel have reduced their emphasis on energy management. But sustainability is taking on added importance as most plants strive to become good corporate citizens, Santollani says. Reducing emissions might also seem out of fashion because the of the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but companies with cleaner plants can still differentiate themselves from competitors and endear themselves to consumers by shrinking their carbon footprint, he says.

So, despite low energy prices, strategies that takes sustainability into account are taking hold at major companies and are spreading from one region to another, he contends. Energy and emissions are two sides of the same coin, he says. Utilities account for 70 percent of emissions emanating from utilities, so optimizing those systems can reduce carbon output, he adds.

Through the acquisition of KBC, Yokogawa acquired strategic consulting methodology and domain knowledge, the companies say.

The switch to digitalization won’t be meaningful unless good data underlies it.

Santollani also stresses the importance of accurate measurement in plants. The switch to digitalization won’t be meaningful unless good data underlies it, he notes. Employees from throughout the enterprise should work together day in and day out to assure effective measurement, he maintains, calling that effort at cooperation a “Best Data Initiative.” “Otherwise the predictions that result from these models and analytics-based decision support systems are going to be poor,” he warns.

To increase benefits, the company is offering a new utilities optimizer that calculates the most cost-effective way to operate now under current constraints and also considers forecasts of production plans, equipment availability and energy prices, Santollani says. The company’s optimal advisory systems (both real-time and future-looking) demonstrably change the behavior of operators in ways that improve energy efficiency and cut costs, he concludes.

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