These are truly exceptional times. Somehow even the term “black swan” seems inadequate to capture the unprecedented health and economic disruptions we are experiencing across the globe.
In this unanticipated environment, many companies are being tested for the depth of their resilience — how effectively can they respond to huge shifts in demand, supply, the workforce and economics? For most companies, these shocks have stretched beyond planning boundaries, and as they do, many are asking what more can be done to prepare. If rebound and relapse happen as predicted, how do organizations manage the extreme volatility that may continue into next year? These concerns arise in the context of chemical, polymer and energy plants being designated as “essential” industries during the crisis.
Digital technologies have proven to be a critical tool for many companies during this time. As my colleague Roch Gauthier explained in his blog post last week, several chemical companies have expanded their agility by applying their digital scheduling capabilities in unique ways. Alternate scenario analysis is a clear application, integrating variable regional supplies and disparate demand segments, but the application to social distancing on the production floor is certainly unique!
While it may not be obvious, these scenario analyses are good example uses of the digital twin for operational excellence. Digital technologies provide unique insight on operations and capabilities of production systems, enabling greater visibility on status and integration, as well as deep exploration of alternatives to aid decision-making.
This type of simulation is particularly valuable in the current economy, when boundaries are well beyond what common spreadsheets can handle. Simulations with broad flexibility on constraints and parameters that also include economic considerations are precisely what is needed to optimize operations in this challenging market.
Digital twins are most commonly thought of in terms of engineering simulations of process operations. This plant digital twin can be focused on a single asset, across a plant or system-wide to optimize operations. These models can be deployed offline and online and calibrated to plant operating conditions through autonomous model-tuning. Plant digital twins are especially helpful in optimizing alternative production scenarios, such as the reduced production rates and alternate raw material environment that many companies are experiencing right now.
Digital twins can help train operators for these atypical operations. Such training simulations are especially important to avoid potentially dangerous situations that can lead to safety and environmental incidents.
These models can also be employed to develop alternate asset uses, such as the repurposing of existing operations to make hand sanitizer and disinfectant products during the current crisis.
Resilience will be a key capability in determining how companies will emerge from this crisis. Building digital capabilities now will help improve operational resilience during this time and prepare for the ongoing volatility to come.
Learn more about strategies you can use to adapt to changing conditions in our upcoming live webinar.