By: Abhay Bhargava, Director, Industrial Practice - MEA, Frost & Sullivan
The Middle East is witnessing a rapid growth in process industries, not just within the obvious applications across the Petroleum and Chemicals sectors, but also in the food and beverages industry, as well as the metals sector. This growth is also characterised by the construction of assets that are scalable, agile, and flexible (example - delivering limitless combinations of output with minimal changes in process configuration) that would be competitive at a global scale, and deliver a comprehensive customer experience.
This unique growth is spurring the demand potential for digitalisation in the Middle East, and is also creating a strong demand case for IIoT within the process industries regionally – which promises enhancements to operations (remote/ real time), maintenance (predictive, remote, integrated), safety (especially hazardous zones), and to the overall asset life cycle.
One may argue that the underlying need for efficient operations and maintenance of these assets is well met through pre-existing solutions – SCADA, PLC, DCS are seen as prominent “incumbents” for the process industry. However, in the short to medium term, we see IIoT solutions complementing conventional automation and process control solutions, especially in the process industry, with the industry seeing some clear benefits emerge:
Scalability & Interoperability
SCADA solutions serve the functional purpose they were created for, and have come a long way from being standalone, to their current networked avatar. However, IIoT brings in the next level of evolution, providing much needed scalability, and interoperability.
Now, with the development of internet infrastructure (e.g. 5G), we can expect to see increased achievability in implementing increased number of sensors/ measurement points to track every possible (pertinent) reading that can support in asset monitoring, maintenance and life extension.
IIoT solutions can facilitate the flow of information from more devices/ more measurement points, delivered seamlessly over an architecture that enables interoperability. This is a perfect environment for enhancing analytics, and to create a structured based for digitalisation.
Organisations that have deployed IIoT solutions effectively have been able to reduce the visits required to hazardous areas by as high as 70 per cent . This in turn facilitates the process industries in meeting their HSE requirements more effectively, which are becoming increasingly stringent over time.
Organisations that have implemented IIoT have been able to utilise the real-time characteristics, to enhance operations. For the process industries, the benefits are multiple - sizes of batches can be reduced, batch production can be quickened, higher energy efficiency can be attained.
This evolution can result in creation of commercial/ strategic opportunities for the region:
Demand for integrators with expertise in IT and OT, resulting in the creation of more skilled jobs, fitting in well with the localisation agenda of most regional governments
Increased demand for sensors, and edge equipment
Creation of assets / facilities that are “best in class”, future proof, and are competitive at a global level. This would especially hold true for the region’s petrochemicals/ refining/ other downstream process industries, all of which need to orient themselves to a very rapidly changing customer demand, and a major shift in centers of demand
However, as with any evolution in the past, we can expect to see some challenges that may restrict the adoption of IIoT in the region:
Cybersecurity – This is seen to be a concern for IIoT globally as well, especially in the wake of past cyber-attacks that have been aimed at national infrastructure assets in other regions. In the Middle East, concerns on cyber-security are higher, and hence IIoT adoption may get delayed till clear commitments are provided by solution providers
Digitalisation evolution – The adoption curve for IIoT is significantly linked to that of digitalisation. Though many organisations claim to have strong implementations of digitalisation, these are seemingly at the initial levels, and not mature to the extent that can drive the demand for IIoT. This challenge is expected to decline over the medium term.