Dynamic growth is set to continue in the industrial gas markets of China and the wider Asia-Pacific region, and the industry will need to provide the supply chains to match this growth in the future.
Embracing state-of-the-art digitised technologies in telematics and over-the-road distribution could and should be part of these solutions.
That was the verdict of panellists from Session 3 of gasworld’s Future-Proofing Industrial Gases Summit 2019 here in Singapore.
Having comprehensively explored the many-splintered wave of digitisation sweeping through the gases industry and the change this is expected to bring from the factory floor through to business models and purchasing in its opening sessions, the Summit concluded with a panel providing insight into the Asia-Pacific region’s future supply chains.
Luke Manickam, founder and Director of Malaysia-based LM Intelligas Sdn. Bhd, opened the session with an exploration of the growing helium market in China. The global helium business is never far from the headlines and with the market currently crunched, as a backdrop of growing demand is met by an ever-decreasing capacity on the commercial table, the industry strives for more information on the future dynamics in this sector.
China has driven much of the recent growth in helium demand and the People’s Republic alone accounts for around half of Asia’s at 2.1 bcf helium market – a market which is now the largest for helium demand globally (US: 2 bcf). Such growth is widely expected to continue in the region and Manickam explained, “Asia currently accounts for around 2.1 bcf (billion cubic feet), with China accounting for almost 0.9 bcf of this. Fast-forward 10 years and China’s projected helium demand exceeds 1.4 bcf, and Asia’s demand (2.9 bcf) exceeds that of the Americas and Europe.”
“Right now the demand growth in China and elsewhere is constrained only by the availability of supply.”
Andy Lao, International Business Sales Manager for Guangdong Huate Gas then shared his insights into Specialty Gases in China: Supply, Demand and Distribution, followed by the perspectives of Danny Chew, Business Manager for Singapore-based Chem-Gas Pte Ltd.
Chem-Gas produces and supplies a range of cylinder gases for industrial use and Chew further elaborated on the Industrial Gas Supply Dynamics in Asia-Pacific, explaining why healthcare and storng industrial growth are good growth drivers for the gases business in the region now and in the future. He also described how digitisation is affecting the industrial gases market in the region already, noting the enabling effect of communications technologies. ”Getting information from different digital platforms is very easy in today’s society and this also creates an exciting and challenging environment for suppliers and customers.”
”This improves the efficiency of a business process and transparency for the market, and shortens the communications chain.”
The final presentation of the day came courtesy of Vivek Choudhary, who discussed Digitising Distribution: Telematics and the Supply Chain. The rapidly evolving telematics technologies market is set to change the face of traditional distribution fleets, enabling more data, monitoring and measurement of drivers, vehicles and product status than ever before.
In some regions, such as the Asia-Pacific where challenging transport infrastructure and traffic behavioural cultures can exist, the state-of-the-art telematics technologies of today and tomorrow could revolutionise what we knew about product distribution, explained Choudhary, who is formerly a consultant with McKinsey & Co. and now an advisor to Singapore-based Raxel Telematics.
Wave of digitisation
Earlier in the day, the strong audience of more than 130 delegates from 29 countries had learned more about the wider wave of growth and development that the industrial gases business sits on the verge of.
An opening keynote talk from Linde plc Executive Board Member Sanjiv Lamba set the tone for the event and summed up the significance of gathering in the name of industry future-proofing, enthusing, “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.”
Delegates had earlier watched the following opening animation from gasworld.
During his subsequent keynote, Lamba then proceeded to describe the societal, geopolitical and macro-economic climate globally and how this reinforces the need for greater discussion and action around digitisation.
“What is the currency in our world today? The one currency that is certain the world over today is uncertainty. That uncertainty has a lot of implications, and for our industry too.”
“The one immediate reaction to that from most industries, including our customers, is that investment decisions get put on hold. That is critical for us, because we are seeing investment cycles put on hold… and I know this uncertainty is impacting all of our decisions going forward…Which is why the next few conversations we’re going to have today are even more important.”
“Technology is forcing the pace of change,” he 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.”
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.”
“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…”
This was followed by Virginie Cavalli, CEO for Southeast Asia Region for Air Liquide, who explored Digitisation and a More Connected Customer.
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.
Session 2, devoted to Operational Change, explored practical case studies of industry digitisation and filling plant automation and mechanisation, as well as the virtual reality (VR) technologies enhancing plant learning and maintenance and the 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.
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.
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.
Mack Valves Director and innovation enthusiast Ravin Mirchandani also provided a take on the evolution of the human workforce in the face of such rapid digital change.
As well as a progressive summit content agenda, a table top exhibition programme has been enabling further discussion, networking and knowledge sharing of the latest technologies and practices from key product/equipment innovators throughout the 1.5 day event.
Strong footfall has been observed throughout the exhibition, with many delegates making the most of the knowledge sharing opportunities this provides.
Making the most of opportunities was a theme picked up by gasworld founder and CEO John Raquet, who officially closed the Summit. Reflecting on a progressive day of much-need discussion and debate for the industry, he thanked all involved for their participation and spirit of collaboration.
“Ladies and gentleman, thank you, it is my honour to close this Summit, We hope at gasworld that you’ve learnt a lot from the various topics covered today – and I’m sure it’s created so many ideas about how you can best use and implement digital technologies in the future.”
“We would like to thank our sponsors, all of our speakers, our excellent session chairs, and also our delegates for making this Summit what it is, all of whom have collectively travelled from far and wide across the globe to be here today.”
Delegates are this evening invited to fine dining and networking at the Event Dinner provided by gasworld and sponsored by premium quality gas control products and systems manufacturer Rotarex Ceodeux, the event’s Gold Sponsor.
Follow the summit
Catch up with all the news, views and developments from the Future-Proofing Industrial Gas Operations Summit 2019 via the gasworld website, updated throughout the event, across Twitter using the hashtag #GWAsia2019, and in print where a full review of the conference will be published in the forthcoming editions of both gasworld and gasworld (US) magazine.