Rob Howard, the Vice President for Sales in MENA at AspenTech, speaks to Arabian Reseller about the opportunities to look out for in 2019
How was 2018 for the industry and your company?
Across the asset intensive industries, the potential of digital transformation to drive business benefits became even clearer and 2018 saw the process of digitalisation continue to accelerate. Capital intensive industries such as oil and gas and chemicals have access to growing volumes of real-time data, sensors become more pervasive and less expensive and increased connectivity drove the move to advanced analytics.
For AspenTech, 2018 has been a very positive year. In addition to the above we are benefiting from broadening signs of demand among engineering and construction customers, in addition to continued positive trends among owner-operator customers. We are also seeing rapid growth in machine learning, making insights about plant and equipment available faster to senior decision-makers; and in mobility, visualisation and analytics, providing simple interfaces and insight to data and models.
We are also pleased with the progress in our asset performance management (APM) business. We are seeing growing market recognition of the technical superiority of our product offering, which is helping drive customer wins in our core verticals APM represents an exciting, and sizable, growth opportunity in a market where we believe we are well positioned to win.
What sort of opportunities did 2018 bring along?
Our greatest opportunities are driven by the pace at which technology is evolving. It is increasingly possible for organisations to attain access to large volumes of data quickly. Yet this high-speed access alone is currently not giving decision-makers either the time or insights they need to break through operational excellence barriers.
The tipping point comes with the practical and reliable application of advanced analytics enabled by real-time data and machine learning. Today, we are seeing new connected offerings made possible by industrial automation innovation and the Industrial Internet of Things.
Together, these approaches are helping drive asset optimisation and, in turn, helping maximise performance, uptime and lifespan in a system-wide context, while at the same time providing the insight companies need to lower costs, improve yields, reduce energy consumption and improve quality, all leading to greater profitability.
That is one of the biggest opportunities in the industry today – and AspenTech is well placed to drive the growth of this burgeoning market sector.
What were your key achievements in 2018?
Key customer wins announced during the year included PETRONAS, Malaysia’s fully integrated oil and gas multinational company and Packaging Business, SCG, a total packaging solutions provider in Thailand, selecting Aspen Mtell software to mitigate unplanned downtime.
Borealis, a leading provider of innovative solutions in the fields of polyolefins, base chemicals and fertilizers, also selected Aspen Mtell software as did Saras owner of the most complex refinery in the Mediterranean, with 300,000 barrels per day of refining capacity. AspenTech’s Aspen Mtell software will drive reliability in its capital- and asset-intensive refinery operations.
In October 2018, it was announced that China National Bluestar (Group) Co. Ltd. and AspenTech had signed a strategic framework cooperation agreement to broaden the deployment of AspenTech’s Aspen Plus software for process simulation and Aspen DMCplus software for advanced process control company-wide.
What promises does 2019 bring along?
The future for operators in asset-intensive industries like oil and gas, chemicals, and engineering and construction is defined by growing complexity. Assets are multiplying across industries, the data they generate increases all the time. To manage this complexity and use it to their advantage, operators are increasingly digitising their businesses.
The ability to leverage this massive collection of data to extend the life of assets and maximise the return on capital employed represents one of the greatest sources of profit still available. As we move ahead into 2019, prospects look bright for operators across the asset-intensive industries.
Businesses across all sectors do face a raft of challenges: from trade tensions and industry consolidation, to skills shortages and the need to remodel operational processes. Yet the push towards digital transformation and the advance of artificial intelligence and analytics-based technologies bring real opportunity to those businesses that can apply the technology exactly where it makes the most sense for the business.
According to you, which technologies will be in demand in 2019?
Improving asset reliability through predictive and prescriptive maintenance techniques is fast gaining momentum. These technologies have huge potential across the sector, offering a better alternative to the traditional calendar-based approach to asset maintenance.
With this approach, the focus is analysing issues known to cause a problem such as vibration in a pump or compressor. Sonic monitors can be added to the device and when vibration exceeds a certain level, alerts can be sent to advise operators that remedial action is needed.
Prescriptive analytics adds a new layer of sophistication to the methodology, moving it from a product-based to a broader process-based approach. Critically too, the approach also tells the operator the root cause of the problem. It can inform them not only that the compressor is going to fail but also that its impending failure is directly linked to the leakage of liquid into the gas lines at a certain concentration or even just a slow change in the pressure recorded, for example.
It is still in its infancy today but over the course of 2019 we expect to see the level of interest and excitement around this approach gathering pace all the time. We expect to see significant demand for these kinds of predictive and prescriptive analytics tools across our core markets during 2019.
What will be your key focus areas for 2019?
We also see growing demand for tools that drive asset performance management and that will be a key focus area for us during 2019. Across the oil and gas sector, for instance, the volume of connected data available to operators will continue to grow quickly. Much of this is being driven by the ongoing expansion of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) market, which according to research firm, Markets and Markets, is expected to grow from US$64 billion in 2018 to US$ 91.4 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 7.39% during that forecast period.
Coupled with this, we are seeing rapid growth in machine learning, making insights about plant and equipment available faster to senior decision-makers; and in mobility, visualisation and analytics, providing simple interfaces and insight to data and models. Chemicals is another sector where we expect demand for predictive and prescriptive maintenance technologies to grow further during 2019. By using predictive or prescriptive analytics to pinpoint when a piece of equipment will fail, chemicals operators can plan ahead, develop contingency plans and make cost savings – and that again will be a key focus area for us moving forwards
AspenTech already has several pilots running and has achieved several successes with its Aspen Mtell product, in particular. Aspen ProMV, which delivers multivariate analysis tailored to the unique needs of the continuous and batch processing industries, has also proved popular.
Despite this emphasis on predictive and prescriptive analytics, advanced process control (APC) is still a critically important technology within the chemicals sector today. Chemicals operators need to ensure that their assets are as efficient as possible, but they also need to know that they are safe. APC enables them to do all this by making certain that assets stay within their operating range.