A Three Phase Strategy for Successful Digital Transformation
Mr. Adrian Park
Vice President - Pre-Sales EMIA
Hexagon’s PPM Division

In this article, Adrian Park, Hexagon's PPM Division, discusses how digital transformation can support reducing cost and improving efficiency for the chemical industry.

During 2020, digital transformation is increasingly being seen by the chemical industry as a differentiator and potential vehicle for growth against a backdrop of increasing geopolitical uncertainty, volatile commodity prices and sluggish economic growth1. Firms are under pressure to protect - or increase – margins through any means. In almost every case this will require cost reduction and production efficiency improvements.

These gains must be realized relatively quickly too as competitors race to achieve the same outcomes. Improvement programs based on trialand- error, particularly within a production environment, tend to be costly in time and money.

Mirroring other industries, chemical companies are turning to data to better manage investment in change and improvements. Which is why digital transformation programs are becoming more common; according to the World Economic Forum, the Chemistry and Advanced Materials Industry alone could unlock over $550 billion of value for the industry, its customers and wider society2. Similar value may be available to any industry vertical through digital transformation.

Applying Digital Transformation to operations
Digital transformation is the process of applying digital technologies to improve business efficiencies, reduce risk and improve customer experiences.

Businesses already collect data to support safe and effective operations, and to prove compliance of processes and product to regulatory authorities.

The goal of digital transformation is to extract actionable insights from available information that can be applied to improve operational efficiency – and safety. As digital technologies mature, the volume of unstructured data being collected and actioned will grow exponentially. Firms will need technology and expertise to balance the increased complexity of their operations with safety critical processes.

But even with the most skilled technical team in the world, most organizations will struggle to deliver the returns expected. The learning curve associated with new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Analytics is so steep that you cannot wait for engineers to develop required skills in house; to stay ahead of your competitors will require strategic partnerships that help you make sense of digital technologies and the data being generated.

The overall goal of any digital transformation program is to make all of the right information available at the right time in context with the work undertaken – and to ensure all your employees are working from a single version of the truth. Interoperability across the operations IT landscape will be critical to maintaining data throughout the entire asset lifecycle.

Digital Transformation and Operational Digital Twins
A prerequisite for successful digital transformation is an accurate digital representation of the physical facility, what is now generally referred to as the Digital Twin.

The Digital Twin provides the single, authoritative source of trusted facility information. It can significantly reduce the 20-30% of the working day typically spent trying to find information and eliminate the need to physically walk the facility to verify information and associated costs and risks.

The reduced time to locate information can improve on-tool time and reduce idle waiting time for plant floor workers. The tracking and traceability of all changes in the Digital Twin provides demonstrable compliance to meet the requirements of regulatory authorities. The improved fast, easy access and visualization of information on 3D models and 2D drawings including data from CMMS and data historians results in faster, better decision making in trouble shooting, emergency situations and day to day planning and execution of work.

The Digital Twin provides a platform for managing processes such as management of change, technical queries, action management and assisting in day to day activities including maintenance, inspection and operations rounds.

An operational digital twin comprises the information and documentation that accurately describes the configuration of the physical components including their topographic and geometric relationships. This information requires to be augmented by transactional data from maintenance, inspection and reliability systems and real-time information from sensors or a data historian such as OSI/ PI or AspenTech IP21.

Many companies struggle with this very first step of building a digital twin for facilities that may be decades old with little structured information. Fortunately, technologies are now available to extract information from existing drawings, documents, spreadsheets, legacy databases and other sources validate and consolidate information to provide a basic digital twin. If 3D models are available these can be incorporated. Where 3D models are unavailable or not accurately reflecting the current as-is state of the facility then laser scans and high-quality digital photographs provide an accurate, photo realistic interface to the digital twin. The high effort previously associated with identifying tagged locations in the laser scan is now being addressed using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to assist in identifying components in the laser scans.


A prerequisite for successful digital transformation is an accurate digital representation of the physical facility, what is now generally referred to as the Digital Twin.

Once the digital twin is available is can be accessed through a web browser, providing access anywhere, anytime on any device with no software installation or plug-ins needed.

Synchronizing the digital twin with other systems in the operations IT landscape such as maintenance systems, inspections systems, reliability systems and others ensures cross-application consistency and enables the seamless navigation between systems.

Once a digital twin is built it must be sustained to reflect facility modifications and a comprehensive management of change process with concurrent engineering is required to control multiple simultaneous changes and demonstrate compliancet

Building a Connected Worker strategy
Digital transformation is about collecting data and applying insights at every part of your business. Analysis and insights are not purely for defining corporate strategy – they need to be applied on the plant floor too.

If you can get information into the hands of your front-line employees, you empower them to make better, safer decisions. But there are some significant barriers to overcome.

First, where is your data stored? The digital twin is a prime source, but other data may be required from ERP, operational management or other systems. The longer workers spend looking for information, the less time they have for their core duties.

The second issue is how you provide access to information. For maximum efficiency, they need access to data wherever they are. This allows connected workers to act quickly – without leaving the plant floor.

To make workers truly connected, these systems also need to be available ‘on the move’. The majority of employees (81%) already own a smartphone ; your firm can tap into employee experience of using mobiles to provide certified industrial devices and apps that can be put into use with minimal training3.


A Connected Worker Strategy enables front-line workers to make better, more informed decisions.

This approach offers several significant benefits; a reduced learning curve because employees already know how to use mobile devices, increased data accuracy as data is captured in situ, etc.

And don’t forget - a truly connected worker has access to contextually relevant data. Observations and notes can be recorded immediately, eliminating the need to manage cumbersome paper in the field and transcribe details later.

Typically there is a drop in productivity at the beginning and end of every shift. The outgoing manager must complete their notes and records ready for handover – and the longer they are away from their core responsibilities on the production floor, the more productivity is affected.

The same is also true of the incoming shift. Output will be impaired until the shift manager is able to access information relating to observations and priorities from the previous work session. They will also be unable to assign tasks or provide advice about safe working until that discovery is complete. If the manager must leave the production floor to obtain that data, the loss of productivity is extended.

With accurate, real-time data literally in the palm of their hands, connected workers are fully empowered to make smarter decisions - even at the individual level. Improving individual productivity and efficiency will have a large cumulative effect across the whole business.

Realizing increased productivity and output with Shift Operations Management
No matter how safe your production line, workers always face an element of risk. Machinery, chemicals and the general operating environment all create potential dangers that need to be recognised and mitigated.

Usually, risks are highlighted during assessments, either before or after work has begun. These risk assessments are further augmented by observations each day in the form of shift logs. The log is an important tool for maintaining compliance and raising standards in dayto- day operations by keeping a record of observations and activities throughout the shift.

Like any record-keeping, shift logs are more accurate - and therefore useful – when completed in real time rather than waiting until the end of the shift. Handwritten logs are often hard to read and cannot be distributed and summarized. Accuracy is vital for achieving true shift excellence and capturing logs digitally at source is the best way to achieve this.

First, accurate records prove that all work complies with corporate guidelines and applicable laws. Increased accuracy also allows you to identify – and rectify – noncompliance or poor practices early.

Second, improving accuracy and quality of logs also simplifies the end-ofshift handover process. The incoming shift manager knows they have all the information available about outstanding issues, and any remedial work already undertaken.

By granting mobile access to shift log information, any authorized employee can read the latest safety briefings. Everything they need to know is available in the palm of their hand – so they can start work safely, immediately.

Employees can also add observations, instructions and warnings, raising safety standards on the current shift. By keeping information flowing within the team and on to the next shift, everyone is better equipped to take decisions that protect them against accidents and incidents.

Using data access to foster a culture of shift excellence will have a significant effect on operations. Over the past 35 years, human procedural error has been directly responsible for 321 fatalities, 1165 injuries and more than $150bn losses in manufacturing. Anything your organization can do to minimize those losses should be welcomed.

Meeting the challenges of the future today
Digital transformation and data are key to addressing the challenges your business faces in both short and long term. Improving working standards on the plant floor will yield immediate savings and efficiencies as well as reducing risk. And restructuring operations behind the scenes will help to create efficiencies and savings that deliver year after year into the future.

It's just a question of knowing how to invest, and the platforms best suited to help you meet those goals through improved consolidation, integration and availability.