Refining and petrochemicals industry, which is a science-based and high-technology business, is under tremendous pressure to deliver better value for its customers and shareholders. With resources like finance and expertise becoming global and the impact of information technology sweeping all spheres of our lives, downstream industry enterprises are taking the extra step to develop and implement revolutionary and strategic business plans to meet the challenges around it. Complex design, continuous technology innovation, reduced manpower, cost control and profitability maximisation are some of the key drives to be managed by these companies continuously. Success of any enterprise depends on how it tackles these tasks.
There are opportunities presented by Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as its implementation allows for an examination of the existing operational technology infrastructure and the potential for its convergence with the information technology infrastructure. While this can be seen as an indirect benefit, it is in fact one of the main benefits of digital transformation in an organisation. Digital transformation puts the focus on customer-centricity and this is achieved not only by identifying the most critical customer touch points and exploring the opportunity to improve them through digitalisation but also the organisational culture change required to support it. Digital transformation embraces production, supply chain, manufacturing and distribution, and efforts to focus only on parts would usually result in sub-optimal solutions. It is driven by assessing the existing infrastructure for its readiness to support implementation of IIoT and the amount of data that would be generated by the end points.
The Middle East downstream industry is at the beginning stage of the digital transformation journey. It is clear that the digitalisation drive depends a lot on external elements like governance and cost element rather than the availability of technology because the state-of the-art technologies are available in the region. What is evolving is the strategy to find out the best way of doing things through digitalisation in the downstream industry.
The product manufacturing units in Europe and the US are using the convergence between information technology and operational technology to the maximum level. When information technology and operational technology implement the result of R&D on a production floor, then only these two are converged properly. This is happening in many other sectors but not in the downstream industry.
All the operators in the downstream facilities are trained for specific operations. But they might not be trained on how to use the information technology systems. All the operators should be upgraded with information technology capabilities. That will solve the problems of the synchronisation of information technology and operational technology in operating plants. This requires some major investments and time. Many people are continuously talking about the integration between information technology and operational technology. But, there is lot of improvement needed in the Middle East downstream industry in the integration of information technology and operational technology.
A downstream project is divided into many phases – conceptual stage, pre-FEED, FEED, detailed engineering and design, EPC, and commissioning. These stages are not integrated in project management. Once these get integrated, there is convergence of information technology and operational technology in project management. There is a huge gap in this in the Middle East, compared to the US and Europe.
Currently, many organisations are spending more money on software than hardware. Software solutions are redefining how an enterprise collaborate with its suppliers and customers. These solutions empower the industry to improve business performance and profitability through the plant lifecycle. Real-time applications, truly integrated approach and powerful simulation tools offered by information technology solutions ensure optimised production, enhanced decision-making power and improved designs. Integrated simulation environment provided by software solutions enables businesses to meet challenges of today and tomorrow. Effective use of these solutions is fast becoming a ‘normal’ in the worldwide downstream industry landscape for better manufacturing and business practices, as well as decision-making processes.
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