Nov 26, 2020

McKinsey: realise the potential of advanced process controls

McKinsey
reports
controls
Dominic Ellis
2 min
Managers must examine how advanced analytics can be used to generate maximum value from APCs and focus on people, processes and technologies
Managers must examine how advanced analytics can be used to generate maximum value from APCs and focus on people, processes and technologies...

If your company is on top of Advanced Process Controls (APCs), you may be in the minority. 

Less than 10 percent of installed APCs are activated or optimised in some industrial companies, according to a new McKinsey report, while others haven't been re-evaluated to ensure inputs and constraints are properly tuned.

Even those companies that do tune their APCs sometimes fail to sufficiently test them or lack adequate management systems to track and report performance, and rely on external vendors for maintenance, the report adds.

The way organisations utilise control logic can be visualised as a pyramid. 

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In the mining industry, APCs commu­nicate with different feed sources to deliver the target particle mix to a mill1 to be processed. They also help ensure an optimal retention time by controlling the feed rate of ore and water (“ore hardness”). Each real-time controller drives a single controlled variable to a prescribed set point. 

CIOs, CTOs, and COOs responsible for optimising their organisations’ technologies should closely examine how advanced analytics can be used to generate maximum value from APCs. Doing so requires a comprehensive approach that addresses challenges across three categories: 

  • People Improve the utilisation of APCs through better performance management of operators and vendors and take a comprehensive change management approach.
  • Processes Improve underlying layers of APCs with better processes to maintain the health of sensors, instrumentation, and BLCs.
  • Technologies Improve APC design and logic by identifying the right objective function and input–output relationships, reviewing the constraints, and employing advanced-analytics models.

Companies interested in extracting more value from suboptimized APCs should look for any of the following indicators:

  • a high degree of variability in critical process indicators, including throughput and recovery
  • a low utilization rate (less than 80 percent) of existing APCs that control key processes
  • no process to periodically (at least once a year) review APC logic or set points
  • no rigorous management system to track the health of underlying BLCs, instrumentation,and sensors

If any of the above conditions are observed, there is likely significant opportunity to unlock additional value through APC optimisation, the report concludes.

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Apr 18, 2021

Battery-powered future depends on a few crucial metals

batteries
Lithium
Cobalt
Nickel
Daniel Brightmore
2 min
Battery Metals, EVs, Lithium, Cobalt, Nickel
Meeting the rising demand for lithium-ion batteries depends on lithium, cobalt and nickel production...

In the big, exciting future that’s measured in kilowatt- and gigawatt-hours, batteries are enabling mass electrification across many sectors. The rapid decline in battery prices has ensured burgeoning interest from electric-vehicle makers and consumer-electronics manufacturers- even from the energy industry, for enormous stationary storage systems operating on the power grid.

Companies such as QuantumScape Corp. are developing next-generation batteries that could accelerate the transition. The field is so competitive that the industry is shrouded in secrecy, but the market still values the company at more than $16bn despite no promise of real revenue for many years to come.

It will be years before any battery breakthroughs reach the mass market. But it’s already virtually certain that rising demand for existing lithium-ion batteries will be exponential and can be matched by manufacturers only if the materials used to make batteries - primarily lithium, cobalt , and nickel - are also supplied adequately. These curves will become steeper in the decade ahead. Take a look at the charts below that show where things are headed.

Batteries

Electrification has become a key theme for automakers in the US and Europe. While it was barely mentioned a decade ago, company executives are increasingly talking up batteries and electric vehicles to investors.

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Lithium

The rapid decline of battery costs over the past decade has surprised even the most optimistic analysts. That has played a crucial role in opening up new markets for batteries to find applications.

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Electric Vehicles

Electric cars will be the biggest force behind the boom in demand for batteries this decade. But batteries will also increasingly be used for smaller vehicles like scooters, commercial vehicles and to store electricity from the grid.

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Investment

The decline in battery prices have helped grow the investment case for storing electricity. Companies and financial firms are now investing over $100 billion a year on energy storage and the electrification of transportation.

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Energy

All the energy stored in a growing number of batteries will require a significant increase in a few key metals, lithium, cobalt and nickel.

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(By Will Mathis and Akshat Rathi)

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