The wave of digitisation is inescapable and the impact will be a many-splinted thing, were the overarching messages from the progressive opening sessions of gasworld’s Future-Proofing Industrial Gases Summit 2019 here in Singapore.
Above all, the opportunities of Industry 4.0 are many and the time to act is now, delegates at the event heard.
A visionary audience of more than 130 delegates from 29 countries have gathered at the luxurious Orchard Hotel in Singapore to discuss the whole new wave of growth and development that the industrial gases business sits on the verge of. Local participation at the event is strong, with over 80 delegates from across the Asia-Pacific region in attendance.
All of whom were treated to an enlightening opening keynote talk from Linde plc Executive Board Member Sanjiv Lamba, who enthused, “As an industry, we need to recognise that the future is here today – some would argue that it was here yesterday. So the challenge ahead of us, in our industry, is enormous and it’s up to us to decide which parts of this are best or most important for us.”
“It is a revolution that is happening, as we saw in that wonderful animation – it is a revolution and it is a huge opportunity.”
“Technology is forcing the pace of change,” Lamba added. “I have to say I call our industry a slower industry. We are of course advanced, but we can often be followers rather than leading, and we are being forced by technology to move forward and embrace digitalisation.”
“It’s about the importance of the customer experience. It’s about product lifecycles being shorter and shorter. It’s about intelligent supply chains and a move to mass customisation. It’s about a sharing economy shaping consumption.”
“All of this currently is part of what we do, every day, but we recognise as an industry we have a long way to go and as market leaders we have a responsibility to keep moving forward and harness the change that is all around us.”
‘A fundamental shift is inevitable’
This was a message reinforced during the day’s opening session, which began with gasworld Global Managing Editor Rob Cockerill setting the scene as he discussed Digitisation and Industrial Gases: From Automation to E-Commerce.
“Industry 4.0 and the many different strands of that movement are going to bring about a lot of change for our industry and how it operates. Change is disruptive, innovation is disruptive, and digitisation is at times, game-changing. So a fundamental shift is inevitable,” he explained.
“How do we ‘hybridise’ our collective DNA in the gases industry to not only respect the culture that we have and continue with it, but also be able to embrace the elements that make innovation successful and take advantage of the benefits of Industry 4.0? That’s the future-proofing challenge, because the benefits are many and the industry is going to change.”
“I think it’s clear that there will be so much potential to be leveraged in digitisation and reaching a level of ‘Digital maturity’ in industrial gases,” he continued. “And what I hope you will have subtly picked up across my slides, what I think we have seen emerge already, are two terms that embody not only this change and what it will entail, but also the undoubtedly positive effects it will deliver across industry. They are: Connective and collaborative.”
“We’re already so deeply connected on a human level, as described in our core pillars, and there is also a strong degree of connectivity technology-wise… What digitisation will bring, is a different way of thinking and interpreting connectivity and collaboration. We will arguably be better connected than ever before, not just in technology terms but in the local relationships and rapport that these technologies will inevitably enhance. We will be closer to our customers and meeting their needs than ever before. And our operations will be better connected over cyber-physical networks.”
Concluding, he urged, “In future-proofing for digitisation, we are simply looking at a more connective gases industry. IG4.0, perhaps. A reinvigoration of our core pillars and values, a convergence of the new and existing and, hopefully, a whole new wave of growth and efficiencies.”
This was followed by Virginie Cavalli, CEO for Southeast Asia Region for Air Liquide, who explored Digitisation and a More Connected Customer.
Having spent the last 25+ years within the Air Liquide Group and the last eight years in the Asia-Pacific zone in particular, Cavalli is well placed to discuss the wave of change sweeping through the industry and how the group is blazing a trail in leveraging these opportunities in the region. She echoed Lamba’s view that the B2B customer experience is changing, with B2B customers now expecting a B2C experience, and reflected on multinational brands and industries with audiences that expect high levels of quality and reliability and aruged, is the industrial gases industry any different?
It is not, Cavalli reasoned, and explained how Air Liquide has assessed the pain points in its own customer journeys to devleop a customer portal that provides a 360 degree view on information, enchancing engagement, contracting, purchasing, delivery, support and usage, and retaining.
Describing the transformation of mindset required both internall and externally, she added, “Digitisation is not a finite project, it’s a very exciting journey and a moving target.”
Chet Reshamwala, CEO of Anova (formerly known as DataOnline) rounded out the opening session and gave insight into the industrial Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that are digitising – and enhancing – the industrial gas supply chain.
Highlighting eight future technologies in the wave of digitisation, he enthused, “At Anova we see IoT and the data capture that it generates as simply the foundation for everything else. Data capture is the linchpin that helps drive all those other technologies.”
”And many other industries seem to agree, with nearly three-quarters of companies already making IoT investments today.”
Reshamwala detailed a number of case studies and highlighted the great advances being made in IoT solutions by Anova, the ruggedness of those technologies under even the harshest of conditions, and the importance of embracing these technologies – throughout the industry – in the name of future-proofing and not getting left behind.
“At Anova we see IoT and the data capture that it generates as simply the foundation for everything else. Data capture is the linchpin that helps drive all those other technologies”
Chet Reshamwala, CEO of Anova
Industry 4.0, data and digitisation is clearly one of the biggest megatrends the global industrial gases business currently faces and as delegates took a break for coffee and refreshments, the vibe of progression and positivity in the air was palpable.
Change from the ground up
Proceedings resumed with Session 2, devoted to Operational Change– from practical case studies of industry digitisation and filling plant automation and mechanisation, to the virtual reality (VR) technologies enhancing plant learning and maintenance and the often overlooked subject of human capital and how the role of the human workforce will evolve.
Willson Deng, CEO of advanced Manufacturing Execution System (MES) solutions provider Arcstone, and Chairman of the Singapore Manufacturing Consortium (SIMCO), got the session underway with his exploration of the operational change ahead from the ground up.
An industrial engineer by trade, Deng has implemented improvement projects in manufacturing industries ranging from aeronautics to smart meters, wineries, gourmet chocolates, glass production and pharmaceuticals. He founded Arcstone in 2013, after he had been designing production simulation software for the world’s largest bio-manufacturers, and took to the gasworld stage to share some practical case studies from comparable industries to the industrial gases business.
Delegates were then treated to an engaging and very visual presentation from EON Reality Pte’s Sridhar Sunkad.
EON Reality has been developing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) software and knowledge transfer solutions since 1999, with 22 global development centres, 8000+ VR and AR applications and 40,000,000 VR and AR users worldwide. Sunkad shared striking case studies from VR/AR installations in comparable industries and explained the benefits of VR/AR in plant maintenance, understanding and training, and even invited a member of the audience to the stage to experience a VR demo for themselves (pictured below).
The challenge of following this engaging and rousing talk fell to Thomas Heinzerling, who heads the Linde Advanced Operations Services business unit within the Linde plc and had been responsible for Linde’s Operations across Asia-Pacific and the Remote Operating Centre in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for the last five years. Heinzerling has managed the global automation and optimisation agenda of Linde Gas, including the scale up of Linde‘s global data acquisition system collecting 500,000+ data points from 1000+ plants every minute.
A Linde stalwart as well as an expert in the field of automation and digitisation, Heinzerling shared his insights in the field of filling plant automation and mechanisation that Linde has largely led to date. “Data-driven decision-making and advanced automation solutions are the things that are bringing about the step-change,” he said, proceeding to cite four key areas of plant automation and mechanisation. These were:
Finally for Session 2, Mack Valves Director and innovation enthusiast Ravin Mirchandani provided a take on the evolution of the human workforce in the face of such rapid digital change. Discussing Human Capital: Training, Empowerment and Value During Change, Mirchandani urged, “It’s time to learn to change. We’re living in a world where everything is connected, and now equally excellent. It’s not just good quality and safe, it’s good quality, safe and connected. Performance is actually reaching perfection wherever you look. Everything is measured in nanos, micros and millis, and there is no avenue to get it wrong.”
“The only space to innovate in is ourselves; future-proofing ourselves. The problem with future-proofing ourselves is, we are living in a raging tornado of change. We are living in the most rapidly changing times ever documented.”
The way we are working is imminently changing, he added before asking, so what are we going to do? “What does this mean for you, in this context of craziness? What can you do to stay relevant?”
Transcending technology was the answer, he said, by continuously learning and re-skillingin a world where only what cannot be digitised will be valuable. “We are now all Millennials,” he concluded, pointing to the inherent nature of all age groups now in adapting to smartphones and other technologies.
“Age and experience will not help employees succeed, instead their ability to change behaviour and attitudes and to adapt rapidly to the changing requirements of the future workforce will determine success.”
Delegates have now broken for lunch.
The Summit activity resumes later this afternoon with a final session exploring Future Gas Supply and Demand, tackling future supply chains for industrial and specialty gases, the dynamics in both markets in the Asia-Pacific region and what to expect in the years ahead. The event will conclude with a talk on telematics and how new state-of-the-art technologies are transforming what we knew about distribution and transport fleets.
As well as a progressive summit content agenda, a table top exhibition programme is enabling further discussion, networking and knowledge sharing of the latest technologies and practices from key product/equipment innovators.
Follow the summit
Stay up-to-date with all the latest news, views and developments at the Future-Proofing Industrial Gas Operations Summit 2019 via the gasworld website, updated throughout the event.
gasworld will also tweet updates during the conference, which you can follow and interact with on Twitter using the hashtag #GWAsia2019
A full review of the conference will be published in the forthcoming editions of both gasworld and gasworld (US) magazine.