In Part One of a two-part gasworld TV webinar series, sponsored by Anova, digitisation in industrial gases took centre stage, with one speaker stating that the pandemic has really accelerated the industry’s digital learning curve.

Hosted by gasworld Global Managing Editor, Rob Cockerill, Part One delved into digitisation in gas analysis with Stephen Gibbons of ABB Measurement & Analytics, the rise of B2B e-commerce with Art Anderson of AH Anderson Consulting, and of course IIoT and how far beyond it will take us, with Richard Adams of Anova.

First up was Adams. “It’s been a bit of a challenging year, or a challenging year or 14, 15 months for the industrial gas industry supply chain, and to be fair all supply chains,” he said. “We’ve seen oxygen supply shortages at hospitals, and we’re seeing that sort of manifest itself in India right now and how the industrial gas industry is doing everything they can to help these challenges.”

“We’ve seen large ships get stuck in the Suez Canal, literally cutting off supply chains from either Europe to the Middle East or Middle East to Europe. We saw the impact with that potentially helium leaving Qatar and heading to Europe as well, so I think these kinds of things are forcing the industrial gas industry to ask questions and drive this need to understand the supply chains more, and sort of the digitisation of these supply chains.”

In reference to ‘beyond tank’, Adams explained that 2020 had been a big year due to the launch of its ‘industrial gateway’ process, which is a bespoke hardware solution for applications with our Transcend platform to help customers understand the dynamics of a supply chain. 

Adams explained, “It’s all about trying to understand the chain. We’re looking at many systems in hospitals, so beyond tank applications we look at understanding medical air systems in hospitals and trying to understand flow to the beds etc. We’re also doing food freezers, monitoring food freezers, trying to understand and make sure that end users or users of these freezers are using them in an appropriate manner.”

“It’s important to understand if something can be done before it’s too late, going back to the Suez Canal incident. Knowing when to leave fill plants or sources, how long they’re at customer sites, how long they’re customer sites empty - we can be more efficient.”

“With everybody with a cell phone in their hand now, I think companies are trying to protect themselves from these sorts of instances. So how powerful is the future beyond tank? We think it’s very powerful. We don’t think it’s fully realised just yet. It’s a bit of a learning curve. Data is the new hot commodity and I think the future is bright.”

Digitisation in gas analysis

Next up was Gibbons, who explained that digitalisation is all about problem solving – something which he really enjoys doing. During his discussion, Gibbons looked at how digitalisation can benefit certain situations, and gave supporting case studies, but also explained with ABB is doing to help the digitalisation shift.

“ABB has been investing heavily in digital software solutions. The initial focus of those investments has been on faster fault reporting, diagnosis of a fault and then getting those things repaired as quickly as possible,” he said.

“One example that I’d like to share is something we call dynamic QR codes. It’s a clever feature to improve troubleshooting. Really what we’re doing there is we’re encoding all the relevant diagnostic information from the analyser device into a QR code that’s generated automatically on the display of the product.”

“The operator can come to the analyser, take a picture or scan it with a free QR code Reader, ABB also has an app that you can use, and then you fire that information into ABB via email or SMS in whatever form you want. We then decode it and in one transmission basically, you’ve got all the relevant diagnostic information for that product which allows us to really quickly and easily offer solutions what to do next to solve the issue.”

Detailing another of ABB’s developments, Gibbons continues, “Just before covid times, we went a step further and introduced a product called Remote Insights. That product is a two-way video app, so a plant can equipped with some kind of mobile device or even a headset looking at the equipment, and we would be on the other end with the same app, seeing what the plant is seeing.”

“Through this, we can really then walk through with the customer, what to look for, to diagnose what’s going wrong. We can take snapshots of what we see and overlay instructions on that snapshot and send it back. And then all the time talk through the customer what steps need to be taken. Very often with that approach, we can avoid the site visit, but if a site visits necessary, it means we come much better prepared for whatever that issue is.”

“We really see that the future is bright and ABB is a is a great place to drive these trends.” 

The rise of B2B e-commerce

The final speaker was Anderson, who holds more than 30 years of industrial gas business and consulting experience. “The topic of e-commerce is one everybody is very familiar with it. They think of probably companies such as Amazon, obviously the largest retailer in the world, the largest e-commerce company in the world,” he said.

“I think when you see what they’re doing in the B2C space and how they’ve really dominated that space and now they’ve also moved into the B2B space, it kind of give us a little bit of a glimpse of what we could be doing from a B2B capabilities perspective.”

“And even though Amazon’s doing a bang up job in their space, even the majors and the industrial gas space, have done a decent job with regards to e-commerce capability, largely focused on their customers.”

“I think when you look at the latest numbers, the latest forecast is looking at US numbers, they kind of forecast B2B e-commerce sales will reach about $1.8 trillion dollars in 2023, so really about two years from now. When you hear that number $1.8 trillion, that is really about forecasting, about 17% of total B2B sales. What that means is basically almost one in five dollars of B2B sales are going to be coming through e-commerce, that’s the forecast.” 

Speaking about how companies can build up their e-commerce platforms, Anderson continued, “When you look at doing e-commerce on a platform or upgrading our existing platform, you clearly start with strategy. Any business transportation transformation starts with a strategy, but the key, when you look at e-commerce is that you really need to talk to your customers and not just the commercial people.”

“I think the second step is really just building the right project team, which obviously makes sense. But I think with regards to the e-commerce space, you really need to have an e-commerce design partner, someone who is objective, agnostic to the platform.” 

“The rise of e-commerce is really more like the continued rise, so to speak, that’s been around so long.”

An engaging Q&A session with all panellists followed, including excerpts from a talk by McKinsey on digitisation at gasworld’s Europe Industrial Gas Summit (virtual) two weeks prior.

More to come…

Stay tuned to the gasworld website this week for more insight and analysis from this latest webinar. You can also catch-up on the webinar itself, free and on-demand, at gasworld.tv

Part-two of the Digitisation in Industrial Gases webinar series continues on gasworld TV on Friday 21st May at 2:30pm (BST).