August 18, 2020
Bob Patel’s keynote presentation at the AIChE Spring Meeting discussed the current challenges the marketplace is facing because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and future challenges to come when the pandemic passes. In fact, Patel stated there is no shortage of challenges to address.
There’s a need for your workforce to have some training on analytics to support a fundamental understanding of data. That doesn’t mean your employees need to be data scientists, but these skills are in high demand. He also discussed the need for a foundational understanding of manufacturing for chemical engineers, because information management will be a large part of what differentiates companies in the future.
One area Patel discussed at length was digitization and a need to address your organization’s remote workforce. There will always be a need for technology and companies need to be aware to stay competitive. While COVID-19 has created uncertainty in the marketplace, it has also helped companies realize that they need to accelerate digitization.
Patel also addressed a need for companies to be aware of the political climate; sustainability will be a big deal moving forward. Companies need to be transparent about how their waste streams and carbon footprint will be improved. He made the case for plastic packaging over traditional materials, like glass bottles and aluminum cans (which are equivalent from a water usage and CO2 perspective). He also discussed the need to continually improve materials used to reduce your company’s carbon footprint.
In addition, energy management has triggered some renewed interest in Asia and other regions, coupled with a focus on sustainability reporting. Sustainable investing has been a driving force since the late 90s when it was a very new trend. Today, investment firms are putting together funds that attract trillions of dollars each year earmarked for Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investors. ESG is a growing category of investment choices to blend environmental, social, and governance factors into traditional investment evaluation. At OS, we think this is a driving force for the leading chemical manufacturers today, with other companies to follow as sustainability moves toward a requirement, not a recommendation, in the US.
At OS, we believe companies must focus on Operational Excellence to encourage sustainability and digitization. We will discuss our OE perspective, and the Intelligent Operations pathway to achieving it, at our Virtual Workshop on September 9th.