The challenges of APC
APC as a concept has been around for some time: the first description of the use of MPC to control applications was presented in the 1970s by Jacques Richelet. Despite its potential advantages, however, APC has acquired a mixed reputation.
A typical APC project starts with the design, installation and commissioning of the applications, at which point the benefits are realized. With the system performing as promised, the user might well decide against the cost of a service-level agreement, preferring to maintain the system via an onsite champion. Over time, however, this onsite champion moves on, while operating conditions, such as raw materials and fuels, gradually change to the point that the predictive model no longer reflects the actual operating conditions. As a result, performance of the application starts to decay and it is eventually turned off.
The development of new digitalization technologies, such as IoT and cloud computing, offers a solution by moving APC from a CAPEX-led investment with separate software license and maintenance agreements to a collaborative and continuing partnership between APC supplier, such as ABB, and plant, based on the idea of subscription licenses and services. Not only does this mean that the advantages of the system are maintained, but it opens opportunity to achieve enterprise-level multi-site optimization.
The benefits of this approach can be summarized in three words: collaborative, faster and lower risk:
Collaborative: information is accessible to anyone, anywhere, on any device, at any time. This brings operational visibility to all levels of a business: from a top-level fleet view to compare and benchmark plants, to looking at individual plants to assess critical KPIs, down to viewing individual operations and assets.
Faster: quicker reaction to changes in the process.