Data collection and machine learning (ML) are playing a major role in the digital transformation of the energy sector as the advanced technologies can help to maintain operational excellence, says an executive at AspenTech, a supplier of leading software for optimising asset performance.
“ML helps to forecast when the machine will be non-functional. If customers know in advance they will be able to handle the problem or avoid it and that will lead to efficient production and reduced damage,” said Ron Beck, energy industry marketing director of AspenTech, in Bangkok this past week.
Beck gave an example of AspenTech’s “predictive and prescriptive” maintenance solution, which has been developed as tools to alert customers that something is going to happen and why it will happen.
He explained that predictive analytics is able to tell businesses that a machine was going to break down in 30 days because that is what the data showed, he said.
Prescriptive analytics will also provide the data that shows something is leaking, for example, so that the operators can reduce the temperature and prevent it from happening, he added.
At AspenTech, they create “low-touch machine learning” in which they build a complete application that is very easy to use and can be easily taught to a company so that they can do it themselves, Beck said.
The advanced machine learning software, packaged as prescriptive maintenance solutions, has demonstrated incredible success in the early identification of equipment failures, and in learning behavioural patterns from streams of digital data produced by sensors on the relevant equipment, according to Beck.
A couple of Thai companies are now implementing the prescriptive maintenance.
By adopting that solution, they can avoid unplanned breakdowns of equipment while increasing productivity and reducing the cost of maintenance, said the director, whose company has been in Thailand for over 20 years.
In the energy sector, digital transformation is a key to making the most effective use of resources as firms or governments utilise digital technology to figure out the best solution, he said.
Digital transformation will also make things easier for people to use, he added.
Like other sectors, energy companies are increasingly embracing digital transformation. But companies need a clear road map to be successful, one that aligns with business objectives and is pegged to measurable outcomes, he said.
Companies need to maximise value from current technology and understand the level of maturity in their organisations, he added.
It is also necessary to define business drivers, challenges and key success metrics. Workforce skills development should be encouraged as well, Beck said.
Transformation the key
Finally, it is the smart companies with the ability to successfully transform digitally and pursue operational excellence via asset optimisation that will be market leaders, he concluded.
For Thailand, Beck said, digitalisation is a key integration driver for the process industry. It can drive leadership in the new generation of integrated plants, empower teams across remote locations, and boost cooperation between industry players in the region, Beck explained.
In his view, Thailand and Malaysia are ahead of other neighbouring countries in terms of the speed of take-up of digital transformation.
According to Beck, AspenTech started getting requests to help Thai companies with digital strategies about a year-and-a-half ago – about the same time they started doing the same with Malaysia.
“I think companies in Thailand generally are open to it. They assigned a group of people to work on it and are spending a lot of money and that’s the commitment,” Beck said.
“For us, Thailand 4.0 is about digital transformation.
“Thailand is trying to push that concept so the energy companies are trying to respond by asking how they can pursue digital transformation in a practical way.”
However, as Thailand embraces the 4.0 era, energy companies need to look at a more integrated energy approach, including ensuring multiple energy sources in their master plans, Beck suggests.
“If someone could think about it that way, which might not be limited to one individual company, to me that would be a really great way to think about progressing through Thailand 4.0,” he said.
The other component involves identifying the kind of product you want coming out at the end of the process, he said.
“The concept of Thailand 4.0 is to transform society to making higher value products, so more people can be self-employed and people can make more money.”