Enterprise of the future: from computer vision and smart warehouse to anti-drone protection

If an as digitalised as possible 21st-century complex can be made of a classic industrial plant

It is the Year of Digitalisation in Tatarstan. Perhaps, everybody has heard this word. But a handful understands what this process means in fact in production. It often seems that the fact of having a computer is already digitalisation. It is both yes and no. In the industry, digitalisation dramatically changes most processes. A smart warehouse, digital work permit, automated notification about the necessity of repair and service of production capacities, online logistics — Realnoe Vremya has seen how all this works in practice in gas and petrochemical enterprises of SIBUR in Tatarstan.

Electronic quality control: computer vision and inspection system

Digitalisation allows reducing the impact of human factor where it is more dangerous or harmful. Quality control is one of such areas. Perhaps, one cannot do without an engineer’s strict view when making an end product. In B2B enterprises, especially in such sectors as oil refining, petrochemistry, chemistry, visual control is often simply impossible. The capabilities of digitalisation can fully be used here to reduce the share of defects and a poor condition.

For instance, in 2020, 14 computer visions systems, rubber crumb inspection system in the lines of neodymium-catalysed butadiene rubber and butyl rubber and isoprene synthetic rubber video tracking system and QR coding in isoprene and neodymium-catalysed butadiene rubber briquettes were launched in Synthetic and Butyl Rubber Plants at Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Thanks to the innovation, external impurities, including metal, rubber crumbs in all neodymium-catalysed butadiene rubber and butyl rubber equipment are avoided. While placing barcodes to the briquettes of end products of Synthetic Rubber Plant reaches 95%, it does 100% for butyl rubber. This allowed automating product tracking, storing and shipping.

In general the project of the launch of automated quality control systems in Synthetic and Butyl Rubber Plants is 85% complete now. The work in this area goes on, and it is planned to install another two systems in the foreseeable future — control over isoprene rubber surface and butyl rubber crumb dose.

Automated air monitoring

The role of professional ecologist in controlling the environmental impact is still high. But digitalisation also comes to their rescue where a quick response is needed.

So an automated air monitoring system allowing receiving data about the state of the air on both the territory of the enterprise itself and the adjacent sanitary and protection zone and biological treatment facilities was put into operation as early as 2008. In 2019, three control posts were equipped with automated sewage quality sensors measuring pH and total organic carbon on the industrial site of NKNK. In 2021, online exchange of data on the state of air with public agencies was set up.

Repairmen with flame-proof smartphones

Digitalisation helps to protect the factory itself from emergencies and solve a problem in case of failures in operation.

In December 2018, TGC-16 became one of the first pilot sites in Tatarstan to introduce the concept Industry 4.0. The company’s new energy unit is equipped with software solutions allowing collecting and analysing data, see key performance indicators of equipment in real time, calculate the economic efficacy of processes and forecast emergencies in advance. Any deviations from the normal working mode of generating equipment is instantaneously evaluated by the system. This helps making decisions quickly saving time and money for repair, reducing operational risks.

Kazanorgsintez is another example. In 2020, the enterprise completed the first stage of a programme designed to develop business processes of technical maintenance and equipment repair management. Repair and accident response personnel of the company’s plants received special flame-proof smartphones connected to the system of technical maintenance and equipment repair management. An installed mobile app allows receiving applications to do works, helps identifying equipment with the help of QR codes and NFC, register defects, order necessary spare parts and instruments, quickly send data on the complex of repair works. All this information is stored on the company’s servers allowing very accurately forecasting further repairs, do inventory of supplies and evaluate the efficacy of the repair and accident response personnel.

A system Digital Work Permit has been introduced both at Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Its launch allowed not only reducing time it takes to prepare for very dangerous works but also helped the companies to provide recruiting staff with optimal qualifications to do specific tasks, control the quality of execution in real time. A 5% rise in workforce productivity is just one of the effects achieved thanks to the introduction of the novelty.

Digital working day model

And, of course, if we’re talking about the impact of human factor, digital solutions penetrate industrial safety more and more. One of the key purposes of innovations is not to cope with the consequences of events that already happened but prevent them.

Every worker’s digital working day allows fully understanding the activity at certain production stages, evaluate the duration of operations and any deviations from norms. A work time tracking system, information collection sensors in shops and production equipment, CCTV systems and so on are the instruments allowing accurately knowing the location and employment of an employee any time. Such systems successfully operate at NKNK, KOS, TGC-16.

Due to such solutions, SIBUR’s Tatarstan sites can quickly respond to any workplace accidents, including those that used to be unnoticed: a violation of the regime of being in dangerous or closed areas, neglect of individual protective equipment and so on. As a result, there was a sudden fall in emergencies and workplace traumatism.

Electronic archive

Many enterprises switch to electronic document exchange, and the gas and petrochemical industry aren’t an exception. At the same time, with the transition to the electronic document exchange, an electronic archive started to be needed too. Electronic storage provides reliable and permanent storage of documents about any activity of the enterprise. Moreover, an archive allows reducing the wear of original paper documents and significantly simplifies their search.

Kazanorgsintez launched the unified electronic archive in test mode in 2021. Earlier, electronic versions of documents had been available on the internal portal of the enterprise, in the electronic document exchange system, in the ERP system. But the enterprise had to store most documents (especially old ones) in ordinary archives.

Smart warehouse

Digitalisation allows simplifying the storage of not only documents but also materials, spare parts and ready-to-use products. Digital solutions for these purposes were commonly named a smart warehouse.

The launch of an automated warehouse control system where every item has a QR or NFC code allows having accurate information about the amount and location of materials and equipment (equipment, spare parts, instruments, fittings, feedstock) and ready-to-use products in real time. The technology and methodology of optimal storage allows organising as effective as possible redistribution of materials and equipment and their storage, reducing the time of reception, placement, packaging, inventory and shipping to subdivisions and increasing the usable area of warehouses.

Thanks to the launch of digital solutions of Smart Warehouse at Kazanorgsintez and Nizhnekamskneftekhim, it became possible to increase the usable area of existing storage areas by 46% and the use of QR codes and NFC labels provided absolute transparency and accurate track of the movement of spare parts, products and so on in the enterprise, optimised the load of warehouse staff and shortened the execution time of applications.

Electronic queue and electronic plans

Logistical tasks — solutions designed to manage the transportation of end products to clients — are closely connected with the smart warehouses. The project goes on at Nizhnekamskneftekhim. Last year, the company completed the works to introduce an Electronic Queue module and started testing it and using the system in general.

In the future, the scheme is due to cover the full cycle of tasks — from the creation and control of the electronic queue to order management, planning and transportation, interaction with carriers, tariff and payment management in the services that are offered and received.

Nowadays the project is 75% complete, but thanks to the elements and modules of the system that have been launched, the company has managed to significantly reduce the time it takes to fill transport with products, lower storage and transportation management costs. More than 48,000 vehicles provide the transportation of the company’s products every year. It is simple math: if just a minute is saved to load a vehicle, it is 800 hours of time in reserve a year to raise the efficacy of the company in general.

Data security and physical protection of facilities

The transition to an electronic format of business processes increases their speed and makes information exchange more convenient. However, information centres and the data stored there can become an object of different attacks. Therefore a reliable security system needs to be created simultaneously with the job done to support and develop digital systems. We’re talking about both the work of the information security service and its cooperation with services providing physical protection of factories.

For instance, KOS and NKNK use electronic ways of counteracting the attempts of illegal entrance to the territory of facilities of the Fuel and Energy Complex: video analytics systems with machine training instruments, automated car inspection systems, electronic control and pass management systems, electronic anti-unmanned aerial vehicles are used.

For the future

After the merger between TAIF and SIBUR’s gas, petrochemical and energy assets in 2021, not only strong common feedstock, resource, logistical and management links are created in the company that became a single organism but also there is an active process of exchange of experience and groundwork. In the creation and launch of digital solutions too. SIBUR enterprises are pioneers in many areas not only in the petrochemical sector but also in the Russian industry in general. And they are ready to generously share knowledge and technologies with the Tatarstan arm that recently joined the holding. In 2022, new digital solutions will be launched at KOS and NKNK within the exchange of the best practices with SIBUR enterprises. More effective digital solutions of SIBUR are expected to appear in the enterprises in Tatarstan to improve the production.

Among them, there are in particular advanced manufacturing process management systems, its online optimisation (RTO) and the introduction of EKONS instrument to manage production effectiveness. EKONS is a system that visualises the impact of more significant parameters of production, for instance, a fall in pressure in the column, feedstock, energy and reagent consumption on the economy of the enterprise. The instrument is based on accurately mathematical models of varying complexity, which calculate indicators in real time and show them on users’ screens.

The advanced manufacturing process management system, which is also known as Advanced Process Control (APC), can be compared with a plane’s autopilot. Controlling all production parameters and making amendments once in 30 seconds, the APC increases the production of target products and reduces the consumption of energy. Besides economic effects, the use of APC allows decreasing the information load on the operator.

The system of real time optimisation additionally enhances the effects of APC. The system allows obtaining the greatest operational incomes considering different variables: costs of feedstock, materials and energy and sales income. Depending on the parameters, the system optimises the process in real time to ramp up the production of more profitable products.

Except for the systems that directly boost the efficacy of production, KOS and NKNK will have auxiliary digital solutions for production, for instance, Industrial Internet of Things to automate the collection of non-vital data from equipment, a drone service for remote equipment control, predicative diagnostics to analyse deviations from the manufacturing regime, an improved mobile round system to control equipment maintenance, etc.

After the first stage of exchange of practices, SIBUR is going to expand the necessary portfolio of digital instruments to all factories of the company in Tatarstan in the next 3-4 years.

Arseny Favstritsky