Fostering Profitability through Digital Transformation

Doug White on Digital Transformation at 2019 AFPM SummitEmerson’s Doug White shares his expertise on how refiners and petrochemical producers can digitally transform their organizations to enhance profitability in a dynamic market at the 2019 AFPM Operations & Process Technology Summit.

Doug opened showing the Gartner Group’s hype cycle and asking where Digital Transformation fits. Lot’s of hype and some disillusionment from some early products.

So what’s new about digital transformation? You can measure and collect data from almost anything. You can send data anywhere. Your can store all the data you want with fast/cheap access. You have access to sophisticated analytic algorithms for model development easier to implement. And finally, users have access to intuitive, convenient user interfaces.

These five changes have changed the way organizations can look at digital transformation and develop strategies to drive business performance improvements in many areas—safety, reliability, production, and sustainability/energy/emissions.

Doug noted that digital transformation programs must improve the plant decision cycle by reducing delays, uncertainties, decisions, etc. The impact must be to accelerate the see-decide-act cycle of action.

From a safety perspective, performance improvements can come from avoiding incidents through early issue detection, monitoring personnel safety devices like eye wash stations for immediate follow up, monitoring staff location during abnormal events, and minimizing the need for personnel to enter hazardous locations through continuous monitoring and diagnostics.

From a utilization/availability/reliability perspective, anomalies can be detected and addressed before unscheduled downtime occurs. Equipment performance can be monitored to assure it is operating within the specified regions of operation. Turnarounds can be more effectively planned and executed through the information provided by the assets, and quality excursions identified early.

From a sustainability perspective, data converted to actionable information can reduce per barrel energy usage while meeting production targets. Energy optimization applications can optimize energy supply based on current demand. Finally, the additional measurements and analytics help to improve emissions monitoring and compliance.

And, from a margin improvement perspective, opportunities are available to increase yields of the most valuable products, minimize inventory requirements and tankage, and minimize the costs of capital projects.

The path to execute a digital transformation program begins with an assessment to look at where things currently stand and to develop a strong business case and opportunity prioritization. Projects should be broken into manageable steps, executed, and results assessed against expected returns. By building early successes, the program can be expanded, and momentum maintained.

Doug shared an example of a refinery cooling tower. Wireless instrumentation was added and thermodynamic and reliability software models to provide efficiency calculations and identify early issues with rotating machinery. Using these operational analytics and easy user interfaces for the operations & maintenance team, the reliability of this cooling tower was significantly improved.

Visit the Digital Transformation/Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) section on for more on the solutions and technologies to help you drive business performance improvements in your digital transformation program.

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