Factories born digital save 10x conversion cost

A digital-first smart-manufacturing plant to recycle polypropylene is expected to save 10 times the cost compared to facilities that convert from manual or analog in a digital transformation process.

By Mark T. Hoske July 12, 2022
Courtesy: PureCycle, ARC Advisory Group

 

Learning Objectives

  • Learn savings related to using digital technologies in a series of polypropylene recycle plants.
  • Understand that digital use matters for predictive analytics, training and useful data.
  • Examine how digital use applies to servers, wireless, Ethernet and smart alarms.

We want to have the smartest plant on the planet, said Dustin Olson, chief operating officer, PureCycle Technologies, at the ARC Forum, held June 6-9.

“With digital transformation, the problem is the transformation,” he said, talking about a series of planned smart manufacturing polypropylene recycling plant, the first expected to start up fourth-quarter 2022. A pilot plant is operating now. The born digital concept will save 10x the cost of doing a digital transformation later, Olson estimated. “Let’s skip the transformation part.”

Pure digital technologies from the start

The idea of going pure digital to start fits well with the new plants, which, Olson said, “Revolutionize plastics recycling” with advanced patented advanced recycling technologies that result in virgin polypropylene stock. With many other efforts, the results contain colors or scents or are less structurally durable as virgin polypropylene. Polypropylene (recycling triangle #5), Olson said, is the largest plastics group; 150 billion lbs. per year is produced, and less than 5% is recycled. Because it’s so modified, it’s more difficult to recycle, he said. The PureCycle Technologies process removes dies, odors and contaminants.

Starting with a clean slate with plants has helped Olson and his team realize digital is cheap, relatively speaking, and digital transformation costs 10 times as much as starting with the right digital.

Acknowledging challenges in getting labor for manufacturing jobs, he said mindset is a big deal. “Being in recycling is cool.” Getting people that believe in digital helps and helps them realize we don’t have to perpetually train people with what we’re doing.

Digital matters for predictive analytics, training, useful data

“Predictive wins. Integrated training wins. Organized useful data wins. If you don’t have those, you’ll always be chasing your tail. Digital matters.”

Olson said they’re assembling a large, diverse and nimble team, adaptive interested in growth, with process support knowledge in safe, environmentally friendly, energy and cost-efficient setting, with interest in maximizing uptime and throughput.

He acknowledged Emerson and key partners for help.

PureCycle Technologies digital tools for polypropylene recycling include high-performance graphics, tablets, alarm rationalization, an offsite hub for integrated visualization and to support global activities, an ergonomic building design and use of artificial intelligence, according to Dustin Olson, chief operating officer, PureCycle Technologies, at the ARC Forum in June. Courtesy: PureCycle, ARC Advisory Group

PureCycle Technologies digital tools for polypropylene recycling include high-performance graphics, tablets, alarm rationalization, an offsite hub for integrated visualization and to support global activities, an ergonomic building design and use of artificial intelligence, according to Dustin Olson, chief operating officer, PureCycle Technologies, at the ARC Forum in June. Courtesy: PureCycle, ARC Advisory Group

Servers, wireless, Ethernet, smart alarms

In a post-presentation discussion with Control Engineering, Olson said the pilot plant operates at 107 million per year, and the full-scale plant will operate at 260 million lbs. per year with the output to be offered at a price premium, taking advantage of sustainability initiatives. Digital tools include servers, other processes, plantwide optics, predictive maintenance, Ethernet, wireless, smart alarms and simulation software. 3D graphics help with work process integration and includes augmented reality and virtual reality for training and operations.

“Most hired think digitally, and the analog thinkers will see the value and get there,” he said. “There’s such a social desire to see us succeed. People love the idea of being digital.”

Mark T. Hoske is content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, mhoske@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Digital transformation

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Mark T. Hoske
Author Bio: Mark Hoske has been Control Engineering editor/content manager since 1994 and in a leadership role since 1999, covering all major areas: control systems, networking and information systems, control equipment and energy, and system integration, everything that comprises or facilitates the control loop. He has been writing about technology since 1987, writing professionally since 1982, and has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree from UW-Madison.