The 4th industrial revolution: robotization
After steam, electricity and automation, the fourth industrial revolution is currently in full swing. This fourth revolution is all about the use of robotics and new digital technologies, making work even safer and more efficient. At Dow, we are also looking at innovative opportunities in order to strengthen our market position and work more safely. In 2018, the Center of Expertise for Robotics was launched. Dow Terneuzen is one of the three locations in the world. Significant investments have been made in our own equipment to get the use of robotics off to a flying start within Dow.
The goal of Robotics
The main goal of robotics within Dow is to increase the safety of employees. Arjen den Hamer, Lead Engineer Robotics EMEAI, says: “We are already well advanced in development when it comes to working with robots equipped with cameras to detect problems. By using these cameras, an employee can perform a visual inspection remotely. This, for example, prevents an employee from having to enter a confined space, thus avoiding a potentially dangerous situation.” In addition to safety, robots can also increase efficiency. “For example, by having a robot perform inspection during production, which may mean that a tank does not need to be taken out of service. This saves time and money,” says Arjen. As a final important goal of Robotics, Arjen mentions that robots will be able to detect and recognize more and more targeted problems using data and advanced algorithms.
The major advantage of Robotics
Robots don't get tired or sloppy, they don't get distracted, and they can record observations exactly. A robot can repeat exactly the same action without a break. In addition, everything that is detected is immediately stored and you can therefore compare situations 1 on 1. “If you let a detection robot drive through a hall, for example, the system will notice that a machine starts making a different sound after a while, which could indicate that a problem is developing in the machine. These are things that a human being does not immediately notice, especially when inspection is carried out by several people over several shifts. In addition, the data can be stored and analyzed better, which means that you can potentially compare a compressor in Terneuzen with one on the other side of the world.” Says Arjen.
The challenge of Robotics
Now the robots are still mostly controlled by employees and mostly used for visual inspections. This is the important first step that has ensured that employees have to work a lot less in high-risk environments. But the possibilities are in principle endless. Arjen: “The next step is for robots to actually carry out repairs or maintenance, such as cleaning tanks or applying coatings at heights. A concrete goal in this area is that Dow wants to have completely eliminated employees entering confined spaces by 2025. The technology needed to perform all the work with robotics still needs to be developed in part, but great strides have already been made.” One thing is clear, robots will make a lasting change in the work landscape in terms of efficiency, data processing and safety.