Processes in chemical industry need to be developed quickly, and production facilities designed as flexible as possible. At the same time, they should consume minimal energy and raw materials to keep the CO2 footprint light.
Dr Alexander Möller, coordinating projects at world leading show DECHEMA on modular production, artificial intelligence and digitisation, notes that the market demands ever-more adapted products. According to him, one approach to meet all these objectives is modular production.
Modularisation consists of two essential aspects. First, the process equipment must be subdivided into modules; second, the automation technology needs a modular structure. This combination results in a paradigm shift in process development. Unit-operation-based engineering is replaced by services provided by modules. Printer driver for the module, the Module Type Package (MTP), provides the “mixing” service instead of individual integration of feed valves, the temperature control unit, the stirrer and the required sensor technology into the automation of a stirred tank.
The research, published in European Journal of Operational Research, shows that modular plants increase the tactical flexibility of the supply chain substantially compared to centralized production with large-scale plants. Furthermore, production facilities can be flexibly opened, deactivated and reactivated. Modular plants can be relocated in the medium term, and their production capabilities can be reconfigured via process module changes.
Shorter product life cycles in the chemical industry have led to uncertain demand in terms of volume, location and type. Modular production concepts can be used to serve such volatile customer demand more efficiently. New mixed-integer programming formulations for the tactical planning of production networks in the chemical industry prescribe the volume, location, and process of modular plants in the production network over a multi-period planning horizon.