Digital Use Cases for Chemicals : 3 Non-Obvious Mobile Applications

The chemicals industry is going through very interesting times. This is an intense period of building new plants in the Gulf Coast, mergers and acquisitions are frequent along with divestitures, and products are becoming commoditized. Supply chains are ever complex, and safety/compliance issues are paramount. At the same time, the workforce is beginning to retire, and with that, a lot of knowledge is walking out the door. Uptime has to be maximized, processes have to be optimized, cycle times reduced, and the workforce has to be engaged by leveraging digital technology. The need for real-time information to manage demand and supply is making chemical companies adopt sensors to collect data and make predictive decisions. Digital, indeed is being embraced by chemical companies. As we talk to various chemicals/refinery customers in Texas and beyond, we have found 3 non-obvious Digital use cases for mobile applications (beyond Operator Rounds, Work Orders, Warehouse Management):

1. Supply Chain/Transportation: Chemical companies ship products that are frequently hazardous. Many times, they outsource the shipping to third-party carriers. These carriers can be shipped via trucks and rail. However, the liability to ensure that the transport vehicle is roadworthy still rests with the chemical company. So, the employee of the chemical company has to do inspection checks and record them. Calculations need to be performed as the quantity of chemical loaded depends on various parameters. These are today performed manually, and results are recorded on paper. All this paper and manual work could be replaced by a mobile app that can record data on a smartphone/tablet, and send that data to SAP or some other system. Results in better safety/compliance, faster shipping, and better customer service.

2. Production: In chemical processes, the yield is different from the theoretical value due to process parameter variations or impurities. Hence, it is difficult to know beforehand the exact quantity of a product produced. So, frequently, the production order has to be adjusted or a new order created. Mobile apps on tablets/smartphones can be used to adjust/create production orders in SAP straight from the shop floor.

3. Product Shipping: It is not uncommon for wrong products to be shipped—the chemicals industry is no exception. However, shipping a wrong chemical is vastly different from shipping a wrong pair of sneakers. There can be serious legal and financial consequences. Mobile apps that scan barcodes to compare material number in various documents like Shipping Order, Certificate of Analysis or Bill of Lading can minimize the probability of wrong product shipments by alerting warehouse workers in case of a mismatch.

Hope that you found the above non-obvious mobile use cases in Chemicals interesting. If you have ideas related to these, pl. share them.

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Unvired Rounds for SAP Plant Maintenance – Infographic

Unvired Rounds (Inspections) for SAP Plant Maintenance helps maintenance operators to inspect equipment and locations easily. The following infographic provides a process flow view of the mobile application:

 

 

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Upcoming Days in the Life of an Internet of Things “Connected Sensor”

I am a sensor, a device that senses the environment. Humans first made me to enhance their industrial operations, and now I gather, my species can help them monitor their health too. My host is a machine called a turbine, and my particular DNA enables me to detect vibrations in my host. I was born in Taiwan and shipped to Houston, Texas as an infant. Maintenance folks every so often visit me, inspect my readings, and record them on a paper form. Or at least that is how they used to. Nowadays, they whip out their iPads with a flourish and use mobile applications leveraging Mobile Application Development Platforms. But, I hear from analysts that all that is about to change. Technicians will not visit me to inspect my host-instead, I will send data to them. For, we have arrived at a momentous event—the Internet of Things (IoT) is here. I am told that the IoT will connect Machines to Machines (M2M) and things to humans, and everything to everything.

I for one, am confused. For decades, I led a lonely life isolated on the shop floor with only the occasional visit from the Maintenance Technician. Now, in one fell swoop, I am going to be connected to what they call the Internet. Others say that I am going to talk to the cloud. I will be sending vibration data about my host—not plain old data but Big Data. This Big Data will be analyzed in real time using frameworks like Hadoop. All this vibration data analytics will actually help keep my host healthier and enable humans to run their industries better. But, I feel like Brutus, in that I have betrayed my turbine host, by sending data every minute without permission. Is there no data privacy for machines?

The other day, some reputed consultants had come over to “Connect” me. They were repeating a mantra incessantly—what I could decipher was Social, Mobile, Analytics, and Cloud (SMAC). I felt like “smacking” them on their faces. “Bluetooth Low Energy” will make it feasible for me and my brethren to be connected in droves of billions—in fact over 50 Billion things will be connected within 6 years. I am anti-social and do not want to be connected. Just because humans have replaced reading on Facebook, doesn’t give them the right to impose this state of “always on” on me. I like my quiet time.

In any case, my turbine host will also not be spared. Augmented Reality will be used to perform better maintenance on her. Our technician visitors will come armed with Wearables when they come to repair us—novel looking Google Glasses and fashionable smartwatches powered by Android Wear. Beacons may be deployed on the manufacturing floor, I hear to deliver contextual data.

I guess I am being a spoilt sport. Rooted in the past. Isn’t progress the purpose of life—even for a lowly sensor and a turbine? Are Cars not being connected too? Are Homes not being Nested? So, I am going to embrace this brave new world. I say, usher in the era of the Internet of Things.

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Unvired Inventory Manager App Brings SAP on Google Glass

An operator in a warehouse is driving a forklift and has to check a particular material’s stock level for delivery. The operator has an iPad where he can get the stock levels from the SAP. To do that he has to free his hands and use the iPad. Instead, the operator talks to his Google Glass scans the barcode on the material pallet and gets the stock levels for that material across all storage locations and batches by categories (quantity that can be shipped, quantity in quality inspection, etc.) on the Google Glass. He quickly glances at his Glass and knows exactly which storage locations he needs to visit in order to prepare for his delivery.

Then the operator has to move some materials to a different storage location to make space for his delivery. Driving the forklift he moves the materials. Once he moves the materials he scans the barcodes of the material, quantity and batch on his Glass. He dictates the from and to storage locations and moves the goods in SAP using his Glass!

Yes, this is the new way of working in a warehouse! All this is possible because of Google Glass and Unvired Inventory Manager (based on SAP ERP) on Google Glass.

Yes! Unvired Inventory Manager is now on Google Glass!

Google Glass is an enterprise device that can be used in multiple industries – manufacturing, oil & gas, chemicals, utilities, etc. Inventory management on Google Glass is a classic case across these industries to manage the warehouses. Operators in the warehouses are very busy carrying goods and driving forklifts desiring hands-free access to data and business processes. While smartphones and tablets provide instant information, Google Glass can provide the same information in a more convenient manner. Operators in the warehouse can now use the Unvired Glass application to manage inventory more conveniently (apart from using the app on tablets). Unvired Inventory Manager on Google Glass glassifies 2 processes – checking stock and moving goods across locations.

Stock Overview: Lookup stock levels in the warehouse from the Glass.

 

Goods Movement: Move goods in SAP from the Glass.

 

More processes from Unvired Inventory Manager and other Unvired applications will be on Glass shortly! Watch this space for more news.

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Unvired Primer on Google Glass

Unvired started innovating with Google Glass very early and has developed multiple applications on Google Glass. We have had many inquiries on how Google Glass can be used in the enterprise and if Glass can be used in the enterprise at all. Our answer is a resounding YES based on early results.

Early trends show Google Glass use cases in the enterprise as:

  • Collaborate with Remote expert helping the Glass user solve problems
  • Just in time training or training content creation
  • Hands-free Digital checklists/surveys enhancing compliance
  • Remote data access from ERP and other systems
  • Capturing images and videos, and sharing them with colleagues

Unvired is working with early adopter companies to develop applications on Glass. Watch this space for more updates and demos on Google Glass apps (integrated with SAP ERP and other systems). For a full primer on Google Glass click here.

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