Texmark Chemicals is a leading chemical processor and the No. 1 merchant producer of dicyclopentadiene (DCPD) in the U.S. Several years ago, the company embarked on a mission to build a “Refinery of the Future” that would enable it to leverage advanced industrial internet of things (IIoT) capabilities. Key goals were to realize tighter process controls, gain visibility into operations, get ahead of the competition and build a foundation for current and future innovation.
Texmark’s initiative has transformed from analog to digital, constantly evolving to meet new challenges and transform the industry. This article explores the groundbreaking ways in which Texmark is leveraging data and technology at the edge to set a new standard for safety, productivity and efficiency in process manufacturing.
DCPD production involves complex manufacturing processes with highly reactive, hazardous and flammable materials. It requires stringent safety measures, granular visibility and adherence to regulatory oversight. As demand for DCPD grows, Texmark must increase productivity without compromising safety or quality. For Texmark, safety is always the top priority.
The company’s digital transformation addressed many key requirements, including the ability to:
- Adapt to changing customer requirements. As a contract manufacturer, Texmark must have the agility and resiliency to meet customer demands, which can change quickly.
- Drive continual improvements in plant efficiency and productivity while maintaining the integrity of industrial assets.
- Reduce the time and resources required to inspect equipment. Historically, Texmark inspected equipment through time-consuming and labor-intensive walk-downs requiring highly specialized and experienced employees.
- Support analytics at the edge to deliver real-time visibility into equipment and processes without being limited by latency.
- Maintain leadership in a highly competitive market to align with the company’s commitment to ethics, safety and community.
A New Vision for Process Manufacturing
Texmark’s Refinery of the Future vision hinges on the combination of edge computing and the IIoT. Implementing IIoT in a petrochemical plant requires specialized infrastructure. Texmark’s edge environment demands ruggedized technology, stringent safety standards and ubiquitous connectivity. Seconds count in manufacturing, and to avoid data latency, analytics insights have to be delivered at a speed that only the edge provides.
As described by Linda Salinas, vice president of operations, “We’re building a Refinery of the Future that combs through data and reveals how the entire plant is interconnected. It becomes like a living, breathing organic plant that knows how it should operate; if any part falls out of line, it flags for intervention.”
The initiative also involves the tight integration of IT with operations. Pumps are the lifeblood of the business, and if a critical pump goes down, it can shut down the entire operation. To implement this vital aspect of the vision, Texmark has had to digitize pumps, pipes, processes and utilities.
Transforming the Vision Into Results
To build its Refinery of the Future, Texmark brought together a partner consortium that includes CB Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which, with its partners, provides hardware and software, along with IIoT, networking and edge solutions.
First, Texmark established a digital foundation with edge-to-core connectivity provided by a secure wireless mesh network from Aruba, an HPE company. For edge analytics, Texmark uses the HPE Edgeline Converged system, which delivers ruggedized computing for manufacturing environments. The HPE Edge Center solution integrates compute and networking within a single cabinet that is connected to Texmark’s control room, edge devices and sensored assets such as pumps.
The infrastructure also receives data from Texmark’s Distributed Control System software, enabling real-time data collection and analytics. The infrastructure is the backbone for Texmark’s five solution frameworks: Predictive Maintenance and Analytics; Video as a Sensor; Worker Safety and Security; Connected Worker; and Asset Integrity Management.
The Refinery of Tomorrow—Here Today
The solution provides transformative value to Texmark and its customers in productivity, efficiency, quality control, condition monitoring, predictive maintenance and, of course, safety. Here are some examples:
- By monitoring pump conditions at the edge—such as pressure, temperature and vibration—potential malfunctions are immediately detected and reported, allowing response before workers or production are endangered.
- Video analytics provide automated, cost-effective, point-of-entry surveillance. In case of emergency, insights from varied sources and edge sensors—geolocation, alarm system and weather conditions—help determine the safest response.
- Real-time insight from sensors, combined with historical data and machine learning, are turned into actionable dashboards, personalized for each role. Employees can respond faster while reducing manual, repetitive tasks to focus on high-value activities.
- Operators can access the data they need, when they need it, through mobile devices and hands-free, voice-activated wearables and via HPE Visual Remote Guidance secure enterprise software.
The results have been and continue to be transformative for the overall business. Texmark has achieved:
- 50% reduction in planned maintenance costs.
- 100% satisfaction of customer service-level agreements.
- A target of zero safety incidents and unplanned outages.
- Reduced risk: for example, monitoring fluid levels to reduce the risk of spills and protecting workers in an emergency by tracking their precise locations and movements.
- Streamlined development times and processes by using IIoT data gathered during research to quickly determine project feasibility.
One of the huge benefits of Texmark’s vision is that the digital foundation enables continuous, ongoing digital transformation and innovation. For example, by adding artificial intelligence, asset tracking and ERP interconnection to its 3D plant model and mechanical integrity software, Texmark will be able to enhance its vision for the Refinery of the Future.
Already, the system has delivered dramatic benefits to the company in the form of new business lines and income sources, lower insurance premiums, streamlined operations, reduced downtime, more efficient inspections, and a greater ability to hire and retain top talent.
As described by Texmark CEO Doug Smith, “Texmark is a leader in innovation, and from the beginning—when my dad founded the company—we embraced ideas that were ahead of their time. This innovative IIoT technology will help us become safer, more competitive and better at everything we do.”