The Sirius Effect:
Artificial Intelligence may seem to be the stuff of science fiction, but the applications touch many parts of the chemical industry. Sirius considers approaching holidays in our manufacturers’ countries before they do. We collect data on historical supply and demand to learn and become better at predicting our customers order patterns. Sometimes we anticipate an upcoming campaign even before our customers do. Sirius casts a shadow planning ahead of each of our customers.
And can AI help build a more sustainable world as well? Read on to find out that as well.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is driving the rise of Industry 4.0. The first industrial revolution changed the world through water and steam, the second through electricity and assembly lines. The third embraced robotics. But Industry 4.0 is taking the digital world and melding it with the physical world to bring about new advances in the how things are made, analyzed, verified, and transported. These changes have touched the chemical industry as well, and likely for the better.
This is not just about digitizing the process of collecting and using data, but using this data to make substantive changes to many of the processes involved in the manufacturing and transport of product. The chemical industry is highly dependent on the logistics networks of rail, road, and ocean transport, to make and deliver large quantities of hazardous and highly-regulated products. This interconnectivity can make it difficult for human operators to decide how to optimize operations. For example, transporting chemicals from China to Europe might seem like a relatively straightforward endeavor. But things like typhoons can stir up unexpected distant ocean currents that increase fuel consumption that might make a longer route more cost-effective. By tracking and storing the information, AI learns what makes a better route and gets faster every time.
For transportation, “cost-effective” goes together with reducing emissions. AI can assist in figuring out how to most-efficiently consolidate and route freight, which is a complex interaction of shipment sizes, modes of transportation, service requirements, delivery dates. Autonomously moving vehicles take into account changes in wind speed and direction to calculate their optimal routes. The Yara Birkeland is a ship that was designed to be fully autonomous: when fully functional, it can undock, go to its destination port, and dock, entirely on its own (as of this writing the ship is still manned, as COVID-19 has disrupted the self-learning cycle necessary for complete automation). And, being entirely electric, there are no emissions.
The International Maritime Organization has determined that the amount of sulfuric oxide emissions must be reduced to 0.5% by mass this year; an even stricter limit of 0.1% by mass has been established in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and North America, while countries bordering the Mediterranean sea are looking to follow suit. Any means to reduce emissions to get to this goal is helpful.
Also in the works are trucks which are capable of “platooning” safely (driving close to each other to minimize air resistance and asphalt occupancy), which saves fuel and reduces emissions. Artificial Intelligence is vital to coordinate the speeds of each truck and the distance maintained for each one.
Artificial Intelligence might not be involved in convincing consumers to switch to greener detergents, but it does help us understand how our actions impact the planet and what we can do to mitigate the changes. Optimizing processes means less waste, less downtime – and higher profits. Making smarter choices isn’t just good business, it’s good for the planet, as well.
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