With digitalisation – the technology focus of Industry 4.0 – set to impact the UK chemicals sector, we outline the all-important financing options available for chemical companies looking to fund their own digital revolution.
IF SUCCESSFUL, the adoption of industrial digitalisation solutions could, within ten years, boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, drive sector growth by 3%, and create 175,000 new jobs. This is according to the recently-published, Made Smarter industrial digitalisation review, which aims to set out a roadmap on how best UK companies can adopt digital technologies.
Digitalisation is the technology focus behind Industry 4.0. However, if the chemicals sector is to benefit from its widespread takeup, a number of challenges must be overcome.
If they are, it opens up opportunities for enhancements in a number of key areas such as increased competitiveness, better operational efficiency and flexibility, enhanced productivity performance, improved plant availability, and the analytic use of intelligent plant data to inform current and future strategic decision-making.
New digital technologies can drive many areas of day-to-day chemical plant operation, including tackling the high energy levels prevalent in the sector, allowing energy consumption in the face of ever-rising utility costs to be measured, monitored and, ultimately, controlled for bottom-line benefit.
Likewise, efforts to connect, optimise and integrate plant-wide control and automation systems at all levels from raw material intake to process stages, as well as provide process visualisation and scheduling can be positively influenced by adopting digital tools.
They will enhance performance efficiencies, provide data-driven business insight, and enable operational assets to be maintained safely and securely. Indeed, issues of operational safety and cyber security threats remain top priorities for the sector, and digitalisation offers many proven solutions.
Whilst the various challenges of undertaking a digital culture change within organisations, sourcing experienced technology partners and upskilling employees within what is a traditionally conservative sector must be recognised, a primary concern for many looking to embark on a digital journey is that of finance!
Should they invest? How best to invest? What are the options available?
For those chemical companies already preparing for a digital future, it is clear that many have strong ROI expectations when it comes to investment payback. According to recent research, 48% of chemical companies expect to see digitalisation-linked ROI of two years or less, while just 10% forecast a ROI timeframe of over five years.
This emphasises the need not only to partner with a trusted and long-term technology vendor, but also to ensure that chemical companies seek out the right kind of smart financing solution that matches their particular need and secures the best option to underpin significant and far-reaching digital aspirations. By doing so, it also removes the immediate need for large capital outlay and increases the availability of CAPEX funds for other much-needed expenditures.
Some current and innovative financing options to suit a wide range of situations include:
The digital revolution is an exciting time for the UK’s chemical industry as it looks to compete on a global stage. It is the technology foundation that will enable the chemical sector to plan asset and plant management more intelligently, link together disparate elements of plant processing operation to maximum effect, and support ambitions to gain a technology and commercial edge over the competition. Those that fail to invest in their digital futures risk being left behind.
No longer do chemical companies have to fear the finance barrier when it comes to implementing digitalisation strategies alongside a trusted technology partner. The range of flexible financing options now available means that the largest operator to the smallest SME can specify the right financing package for them, safe in the knowledge they will be investing smartly in their future.
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