Key Ingredients for a Successful Chemicals Supply Chain

Supply chain and logistics are vital to effective visibility and process integration in the chemicals sector


  • An easy to use, interactive interface for viewing the schedule and providing forward visibility of inventory positions
  • Modeling of detailed operational constraints at the level of detail required to accurately represent the real-world capabilities with enough fidelity to accurately evaluate alternatives
  • Fast optimization and robust what-if analysis to holistically simulate the impact and trade-offs of business decisions
  • Advanced visual exception reporting that supports the Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) process by highlighting the most urgent problems along with guided analysis to resolve them
  • Dynamic scheduling with real-time response, allowing the scheduler to quickly make feasible changes to the schedule, respecting equipment constraints, raw material availability and batch dependencies

 

There is also a drive to standardize and simplify supply chain solutions. Chemical companies are moving away from the highly customized applications that they had a decade ago and want solutions that are easier to use and easier to support. For example, AspenTech customers use Aspen Plant Scheduler as their global scheduling solution for all of their plants worldwide. Plant-specific customizations are limited, resulting in a scalable application with a common look and feel and similar capabilities, regardless of location.

Track and trace

Chemical manufacturers typically need to have sufficient insight into the entire process to trace or assess materials and identify any discrepancies in the production process. Obtaining this kind of feedback is vital for plant planners and schedulers if they want to improve performance. It is a continuous cycle, which improves planning continually over time.

In batch process industries such as specialty chemicals, traceability typically takes on two forms. The first, known as product tracking, is the capability to follow the path of a specified unit of a product (or asset) through the supply chain as it moves between organizations. The second, product tracing, is the capability to identify the origin of a particular unit and/or batch of product located within the supply chain by reference to records held upstream in the supply chain. Products are traced for purposes such as quality problems, product recall and investigating complaints. AspenTech helps companies address these issues.

The aspenONE product suite contains traceability solutions which are able to collect and capture data and ‘interrogate’ it to find the source of problems across the manufacturing process. The additional benefit of these tools is that they successfully integrate with such systems as distributed control systems (DCS); laboratory information management systems (LIMS); and ERP.

Visible benefits

One of the key objectives of traceability is to provide visibility across the supply chain, where all key stakeholders have a common view of activity across the chain. In a typical chemicals supply chain, visibility of plan versus actual information is an essential metric for detecting potential problems in time to make necessary adjustments going forward.

A main requirement of chemical facilities is to comply with existing and impending regulatory, business, and operational requirements. Accurate representation of these requirements through models and constraints benefit chemicals producers in both the short and long term. In the short term, it enables quick decision-making when a planner or scheduler is faced with an unexpected production upset—such as an equipment failure or raw material shortage. In the long run, detailed planning and scheduling models give chemical companies the ability to manage long lead-time raw materials; avoid delivery date violations; optimally position inventory; and plan for scheduled maintenance activities.

Timeliness is also a key issue here. Chemicals companies need to ensure that they receive information quickly enough to be a useful aid to decision-making. Technology investment—including process optimization software solutions—allows them to see and use real-time information from operations. These solutions facilitate excellent manufacturing performance and enterprise-wide process synchronization.

Positive prospects

The chemicals industry today is in a dynamic growth phase and the prospects for future development look positive. However, if the sector’s potential is to be fulfilled, clear visibility and high-quality integrated supply chain management are essential ingredients for success. The use of process software optimization tools need to be an integral part of monitoring and measuring plant performance and should be seen as mission-critical to achieve high levels of efficiency across the entire chain.

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