Industry 4.0 is here and some Louisiana manufacturers are embracing it

(iStock) While some plants remain hesitant, the appetite for Industry 4.0 has risen dramatically along the Gulf Goast as a means to remain competitive and viable.

What just years ago seemed like a far-out concept now plays a central role in Louisiana’s manufacturing space. The gathering, manipulation and extrapolation of data via smart facilities, digitization and the Internet of Things (IoT)—aka Industry 4.0—is rapidly gaining a foothold among petrochemical owners.

In its latest edition, 10/12 Industry Report explores how some plants are taking a leadership role. Last summer, Cornerstone Chemical in Waggaman kickstarted its efforts by appointing process technology engineer Aubyn Chavez as its first digitization leader. It stemmed from a desire to turn Cornerstone’s Industry 4.0 goals into a sustainable reality.

Tom Yura

“Like the old adage, if everybody’s responsible, then nobody’s responsible,” says Tom Yura, chief operating officer. “It became clear that we needed someone with a passion for digitization and a willingness to learn, read and ask questions.”

After assuming the new role, Chavez immediately began taking online classes to understand machine algorithms. She admits to becoming a little obsessed with “PI Asset Framework,” a repository that integrates, contextualizes, refines, references and analyzes data from multiple sources. She even attended the “PI World” conference and talked to people who use the program to collect process data.

“PI AF can support a lot of functions that enable process engineers to make their data work for them,” Chavez says. “It’s great for building out condition-based maintenance for equipment and for building out KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for processes.”

At Cornerstone, Chavez encourages the adoption and sustainability of digital methods through a mix of education and coaching. “It’s not going to do all the work for you,” she adds. “Instead, it enables the process engineers to become more intimate with their processes and develop some real insights so that we can be more agile.”

Somewhat counterintuitively, Cornerstone implemented its digitization effort from the ground up. Yura says it’s far too easy for companies to roll something out, then let it die on the vine.

“I’d say we have a better chance to be a global leader because we’ve grown the capacity from within,” he adds. “We’ve learned from within, so we can turn this into a fundamental manufacturing concept.”

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