Like many industries, the chemicals and plastics manufacturing space has drastically transformed over the past several years. An uncertain global economy, transportation disruptions, and changing sustainability legislation have led manufacturers to rethink how they approach production. Heading into the new year, it’s certain that 2023 will bring new challenges and further innovation. Here are some ways the industry is likely to shift in the coming months. 

Further Efforts for More Sustainable Manufacturing in Chemical & Plastics

Sustainability is front of mind for most leading manufacturers. With tightening regulations on environmental aspects of the production process, chemicals and plastics manufacturers must focus on accurately monitoring and improving occurrences like CO2 emissions. Many industry leaders have set ambitious goals regarding emissions reduction efforts – with 2030 being a common target for hitting reduction goals.

Complying with emissions regulations first requires accurate data collection to both develop baselines and monitor progress toward reduction goals. Most forward-thinking manufacturers choose to implement energy management solutions to accurately monitor the quantity and cost of each machine used in each manufacturing operation. Robust energy management software also comes equipped with analysis functionalities, allowing manufacturers to determine the most cost-effective energy sources and implement decisions that both balance production and avoid peak charges as well as reduce CO2 emissions – allowing them to comply with regulations and qualify for efficiency incentive programs. 

Greater Reliance on Augmented and Virtual Reality

One of the most expensive aspects of designing, creating, and manufacturing a new product is developing prototypes. Creating a physical prototype can cost upwards of six figures, depending on the product and its materials. Technological innovations, like augmented reality (AR), allow manufacturers to produce a digital prototype at a much lower cost. It also lessens the cost of product innovation and improvement. As products are evaluated and improved in terms of design, the ability to test changes via a digital prototype is cost-effective as well.

The use of AR in the chemicals and plastics industry won’t be limited to just prototyping. It can also be a great tool when it comes to machine maintenance – making it quicker to identify and resolve equipment issues, often with fix implementation happening on the shop floor by machine operators as opposed to a maintenance team. This leads to quicker and cheaper problem resolution and less unplanned downtime. It’s likely that reliance on this type of technology will increase in the coming years, with further AR and virtual reality (VR) innovation expected as well.

Process Optimization and Decision-Making Automation

Automation saves time by removing or limiting the amount of effort needed from a human for a process to happen. In the past, even automated processes required a human trigger at some point, but decision-making when it comes to initiating a process is moving towards becoming fully automated.  AI software combines artificial intelligence with data collected over time to make predictions and ultimately – decisions based on those (highly accurate) predictions.

When it comes to machine maintenance, the process of detecting issues and implementing maintenance fixes becomes more optimized with the use of AI. Producers are able to predict future machine breakdowns or malfunctions much sooner, reducing downtime and overall cost to maintain equipment.

Improved automation and decision-making capabilities won’t just affect manufacturers on the machine maintenance side of production next year. Increased reliance on digital technologies to optimize various processes within the production process is expected. It’s likely new technology will come onto the scene in 2023, but even with solutions currently on the market – chemicals and plastics manufacturers will be making decisions a bit different moving forward.

Chemicals & Plastics Manufacturing Solutions from IMCO Software 

Among the top industries IMCO Software consistently supports, chemicals and plastics are spaces in which our team continues to bring innovation, technology, and solutions to top manufacturers. We find that industry leaders looking to improve operations and grow annually focus on three key areas of improvement.

Visibility – Improving visibility across each department, individual, machine, and process throughout production. Manufacturers are looking to implement valuable software applications that provide visibility as well as help utilize it to manage inventory, personnel, and compliance measures.

Accuracy – Achieving end-to-end traceability of all materials, personnel, machines, and tools. Achieving and maintaining high levels of accuracy throughout the production process allows manufacturers to make improvements based on data, reduce waste that occurs in the forms of scrap, rework, and spoilage and free up more working capital for the organization.

Control – Data is powerful, but accurately analyzing information and developing clear action steps based on that analysis is something all manufacturers need to focus efforts on. This applies to all processes that occur throughout production, including energy consumption – the need to reduce that is another reason achieving control is critical for manufacturers heading into 2023.

The IMCO team had been partnering with chemicals and plastics manufacturers for decades, one of those being LyondellBasell (formerly A. Schulman). With the right combination of software solutions, including a manufacturing execution system (MES), the manufacturer was able to drastically increase traceability in a number of their plants – stretching across 10 countries. They gained access to reliable and real-time data and optimized processes worldwide.
The chemicals and plastics industry is highly competitive and success requires a proactive approach when it comes to implementing new technologies and best practices. If your organization is looking to stay ahead of the pack in 2023 (and beyond), we encourage you to reach out to the IMCO Software team today!