Preventive maintenance and using AI to predict better models for customers is our mission: Lawrence Ng, VP, Sales - APJ, Aspen Technology

  • May 11, 2022
How is Aspen Technology gearing up to help Chemicals and Petrochemicals companies reach new levels of operational excellence and also achieve ambitious sustainability targets? 
As you are aware, the sustainability targets are not easy to reach. In order to achieve breakthroughs, we have been using a lot of new innovations especially in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), incorporating more software functionalities, so that the industry can use them. We also have several challenges in order to help our customers gear towards a higher level of operational excellence. 
 
Companies need to also make themselves attractive to new talent or it will be difficult to retain new talent, especially in industries like oil and gas, where the fight is ongoing for talent, as newer technologies can entice them away. In order to make our customers attractive, the company has built AI and ML into its software. 
 
I also feel that we can make contributions to the environment by using technologies from Aspen Technology, customers can optimize processes, reduce wastage, and reduce carbon footprint. Overall, customers also become more efficient as employers. Lastly, with AI and ML, we help our customers to acquire new talent and make them more productive as quickly as possible.
 
We see a lot of DeepTech technologies like AI, ML, Internet of Things (IoT), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, Intelligent Automation (IA), and Cyber Security deployed in AspenTech software. How are companies accelerating and transforming keeping in view DeepTech technologies? 
In this area, the impact is tremendous. There is a huge amount of data available nowadays with companies and 50% of the companies don’t even know where 90% of the data is located. Such technologies help companies to do predictions based on data and do automation of the process. First, is in the area of preventive maintenance where they can predict the health of the equipment. Second, in the area of modelling, AspenTech is pioneering non-linear modelling to help customers to plan and model even accurate simulations. 
 
Taking traditional modelling and using AI to predict better models for our customers thereby making it easier for customers is our mission. These should work longer, safer, and easier.
 
Are the solutions provided by you secure in terms of cyber security?
Yes, our solutions remain secure within the customer’s deployed security solutions.
 
What is the size of asset optimization software in 2022? How do you see the Asia Pacific, Japan and Indian market growth in 2022? 
It is hard to put an exact number to the size, but I can see growth in Asia Pacific, especially in South Korea and Japan. Areas, such as refining, petrochemical, oil & gas, LNG, present good potential as well. For example, it is reported that the Australian government is planning to invest in the industry over the next five years. In India, the government has an ambitious plan for the petrochemicals and oil & gas industry to produce nationally. I am bullish about the mentioned areas in Asia Pacific in the near future.
 
The way AspenTech is moving forward, the company is not far away from providing a completely automated plant where all the functions are getting monitored by sensors and data is stored in computers? Is AspenTech working on such models and when do we see it happening? 
At AspenTech our philosophy is augmenting the human experience. We believe humans and processes should work together and complement each other so in our optimization philosophy there are three parts. One, is the plant utilizes the data to get smarter, increasing accuracy, and sharper prediction. Second, it is self-adapting in real time adaptation to changing conditions and adjust, commit our targets. Finally, it is self-sustaining. So not only will it improve the solution but also can self-optimize. All of these aspects have the human in the centre, so the human, process, and machine work together. That is what our vision is in terms of self-optimization.
 
How bullish are you about India in terms of your software? 
I am very excited about developments in India. Every week, I receive news about initiatives and projects coming up in India. I have read about plastic parks, new refineries being built, so I am very bullish. I think India is definitely on its way to becoming a bigger economy and AspenTech is ready to serve the needs of our clients.
 
Why stepping up digitalization and industrial AI is crucial for efficiency, productivity, and organizational excellence in the Chemicals and Petrochemicals sector? 
It is important to make such technology available to the customers so that they can operate in a safer way. Here they can have sensors that can prevent disruption, for example capturing the data, analysing, and predicting when the next disruption will be such that they can operate safely and save lives. Safety is of paramount interest besides improving the profit margins and extending the life of their assets. 
 
How does AspenTech help in asset management and realizing sustainability and profitability goals? Any study which proves that digitization and asset management help companies? 
We believe that there is tangible value for the customers. Globally, customers have derived US $59 million in value, and this is evident how AspenTech has helped customers achieve tangible value.
 
AspenTech is working on 50 sample models related to end-to-end carbon capture, emission reduction, bio-based feedstock, hydrogen economy, and materials recycling. How will these models help Chemicals and Petrochemicals companies and how flexible are you with these sample models? 
These 50 sample models are the accumulation of our domain expertise over the last 40 years. For example, the hydrogen economy is where we design the keys to innovation, rapidly scale up, and optimize operating strategies. We develop technologies for end-to-end carbon capture -- including carbon dioxide capturing from fuel combustion, cleaner transport, and develop storage options. We integrate the bio-based feedstock with existing production processes. 
 
In areas of emission reduction, we track and reduce emissions across planning, operations, supply chains, and utility sourcing. In the areas of material efficiency recycling, we have bio-simulations and scale up solutions, and supply chain for post-consumer recovery. Sustainability sample models are for our customers to choose and use in these areas. Additional unlocking of values could be done in consultation with our consultants who will understand the requirements of the customers. 
 
We always believe that we have to be problem solvers and we need to understand our customer needs, look at the problems they have and help them using these sample models to achieve optimally what our customers are desiring in a collaborative manner.
 
Since you come from Cisco and Oracle background, you would have heard CIOs looking at reducing their IT costs. AspenTech is considered to be an industrial AI company so how does this tag help your company and how does it help in reducing automation cost for clients? 
When I was in IT companies, often there was a struggle in terms of how we show real values to our customers. In AspenTech, we have established ourselves as trusted advisers to the companies because we have proven 40 years of knowledge and domain expertise. In this aspect, technology has helped us a great deal because of our rich history. Moving forward, we have always established true values in terms of optimization. We are able to pinpoint to our customers how much value they can derive. 
 
I was amazed when I joined AspenTech and found that some of our customers could recover the cost of investments within months or even weeks after implementing the solution. This shows the power of Industrial AI companies like us are now helping our clients to grow. I am proud that we are able to establish the very true value that we are able to measure.
 
How can customers drive organizational excellence with AspenTech? 
Technology alone is not responsible for unlocking success. People are an important factor to consider and in order to scale up, business requires the right culture, right competencies, and capabilities. The right skills and capabilities will drive changes in the organization, process and the people. These three pillars - organization, people and sustainability will design the future. 
 
Another important area is that of continuous learning. I tell customers to always keep learning more to unlock their true potential. There are a lot of features of AspenTech products that they need to unlock. Also, in terms of capabilities, how do you sustain the sustained sustenance, there is true learning, succession planning, continuous investment into the organization and people. And all of these when well supported by automation, then journey to digitalization will definitely create an impact for the company.
 
How is Aspen Technology supporting the world with the dual challenge of meeting the needs of an expanding population while also addressing critical sustainability imperatives, such as decarbonization and waste reduction? 
The dual challenge is about meeting the growing demand for resources from a growing population, with increasing standards of living, while also addressing sustainability goals. The dual challenge requires companies and industries to achieve new levels of operational excellence.
 
For example, AspenTech’s customers create about US $59 billion in value every year. The annual value delivered by European refining customers works out to US $4.2 billion of that value every year. With an incremental US $4.2 billion in profitability, these customers also managed to reduce about 2.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide as a result. Hence, it is possible to achieve both profitability and sustainability. In the longer term, these refiners are working towards Net Zero Carbon goals in the next few decades.
 
Recently, in India, AspenTech was awarded Digital Technology Provider of the Year 2021 by the Federation of Indian Petroleum Industry (FIPI). A landmark Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) customer case study anchored this win by showcasing how Mumbai Refinery adopted a real-time digital twin, based on the use of AspenTech’s digital twin, and Advanced Process Control (APC) products.
 
The digital twin has been implemented online and integrated with an associated advanced process control (APC) solution such that the optimization engineer uses the digital twin, on an hourly basis to provide information, on adjusting the APC levers for optimum steam use efficiency, and amine utilization effectiveness. This customer had deployed Aspen DMC3 software with a digital twinning approach – to achieve about US $1 million savings in utilities annually. 
 
With an estimated payback of less than six months, the company could effectively reduce energy usage in changing sulphur content in crude state, which had originally resulted in sub-optimal amine regeneration.

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