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Digital collaboration – Four ways to Improve tank terminal operations

04 December 2017

At the StocExpo Europe 2017 Conference, Eduard J. Smits, Manufacturing IT, MES at Accenture, hosted two panel sessions, looking at the Global Energy Outlook and the Storage Market Outlook. Here he considers how digital technology can improve operations at tank terminals.  

The availability of advanced digital technologies, such as big data, analytics, cloud and connected devices are driving new opportunities to integrate storage terminal operations. Research conducted by Accenture into collaboration at tank terminals has created an outline of the current digital maturity in the market, and suggests there is still a lot of scope to grow.

Terminals, especially brownfields, frequently lack the digital maturity to fully capitalise on digital opportunities as they present themselves. Aligning the supply chain will have a considerable impact on the terminal’s operating efficiency and therefore also on reducing costs and improving customer service.

Historically low crude oil price levels have strongly increased the importance of efficiency across the industry. The exciting thing is that this has overlapped with a technology revolution, bringing a series of new digital technologies and applications that impact on the productivity of the oil industry. Tank terminals need to evaluate their supply chain capabilities and pursue development according to their needs. Nowadays, considerable time is wasted on data sharing between companies, since there is no protocol for communication between them. The following model helps with digitizing and aligning data sharing with tank terminals.

1. It is critical that businesses not only agree to communicate and work together, but they must also begin to function as a single entity, in a synergistic system. This process involves integrating and working various verticals to achieve the desired outcome, enabling demand-driven responsiveness, achieved by seamless execution across an end-to-end integrated network. Terminals, LSP’s and other stakeholders must work towards a unified system and synchronize with each other.

2. There is a need to identify the coordination mechanisms which help address the uncertainty in the supply chain. This includes developing global data standards and policies related to data sharing and security, and encouraging transparency in operations.

3. Visibility is the capability to track products in transit from refineries to terminals and when arriving at the final destination. Creating dashboards with KPI’s coming from heterogeneous data-sources enhances the decision-making capability by allowing privileged users to make changes on demand and redirect the supply. Where vendors often focus on one domain-specific aspect, real business benefits will come from a data driven end-2-end approach.

4. Process Automation is transforming supply chains into a simple, fast, and automated way of processing routine transactions. Robotic process automation tools are a way to cut costs, improve administrative quality, eliminate keying errors, speed up processes and link applications together. Machine learning explores the study and construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data.

New digital technologies often provide quick efficiency benefits, in small, incremental steps and may be developed in an agile way, whilst closely cooperating with the business they serve. Companies should think about how to take advantage of digital technology and its opportunities to increase revenue or to reduce costs. Organizations that master the right mix of digital supply chain capabilities will be best positioned to innovate, compete and succeed in an entirely digital business future. The world of digital communication will soon become the norm and not the exception.

About the author

Eduard Smits is a senior manager at Accenture and has over 20 years of experience in the Chemical industries, Terminals, Oil & Gas, Metals and Pharmaceuticals, with a focus on combination of Digital, Internet of Things (IoT), Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES), Operational Technology (OT) and IT, in the Europe-Africa-Latin America (EALA) region.


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