When someone thinks of the petrochemical industry, they may picture engineers wearing hard hats walking along pipelines amid stacks. But like any industry, digitalisation is poised to offer massive transformations.
For example, a 2017 World Economic Forum report predicted that digitalisation of the oil and gas industry would provide US$1.6 trillion value to industry participants by 2025 (with US$1 trillion alone for oil and gas firms).
There are some in the industry who have acknowledged the reality of this future and are working towards it with total dedication.
One such figure is Andreas Krobjilowski, Director of Shell’s Singapore Chemical Manufacturing Complex on Jurong Island, who is passionate about the potential for digital transformation.
“To deliver these benefits, we need a combination of skilled people and the right technology, and we can only embrace this with the right partners,” he says. Jurong Island lies five kilometres off Singapore’s coast.
The man-made island isn’t open to the public, instead serving as a home to many oil and gas companies, including Shell, where the industry ‘supermajor’ manufactures petrochemicals for Asia–Pacific.
It’s the largest export and production facility for petrochemicals in the region, and its products are indispensable in industries such as automotive, electrical, appliances and packaging.
Andreas first joined Shell in 2003 because he was impressed with the company’s global presence and brand. Its innovation and cutting-edge technology were particularly exciting to him due to his background as an engineer.
Of course, the opportunity to embrace an international career, working across cultures, also really appealed. But he soon found that wasn’t all the job offered.
“Sixteen years later, all that has indeed proven true. But even more, what now truly stands out for me is the people in Shell – the culture. We have people committed to driving innovation and responsible success, supporting our customers and society to meet the energy challenges and the demands of today and tomorrow,” he enthuses.
“What I do enjoy today is simply being part of this great team, delivering my share of Shell’s overall success and journey.” Having previously worked at Shell manufacturing plants in Germany and Denmark, Andreas became Director of the Shell Chemical Manufacturing Complex on Jurong Island in Singapore in 2018. While he’s only been there for a short time, it’s evident he’s already established a laser focus on digitalisation.
“Our world is largely shaped by the ongoing interactions between three things: technological developments, how human capabilities are enhanced and enabled by technology, and people’s choices individually but also together as societies,” he asserts.
“Pervasive new technologies have the deepest impacts. For example, the invention of the internal combustion engine has widened human horizons and impacted global economies and trade, in particular.
“Today, two of the most pervasive aspects of modern life again are energy and information. It is impossible to do, build or move anything without energy and, at the same time, it’s impossible to direct any of these activities without information. Those two big themes, energy and IT, will drive our future and be the main drivers for decades to come.”
Andreas notes that by 2050, the world will be facing a population of nine billion; twice the demand for energy, and higher living standards will become more widespread.
“At the same time, the amount of data is growing exponentially and that data is becoming a highly valuable asset. Like any other asset, data needs expertise to be managed and to deliver expected returns,” he explains.
“Companies that operate assets like we do in Shell will have a competitive advantage if we’re able to manage this huge amount of data, and if we can leverage this to improve our performance. Digitalisation simply helps us to turn data into insights, into action and then into replication. We see technology as an enabler, to make our activities safer and more efficient.”
Shell’s efforts towards digitalisation, says Andreas, already generated US$1 billion in value in 2019. Specific goals for the company include reducing hazards and providing a safe working environment, as well as reducing its environmental impact through energy and greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Shell will be able to leverage big data to optimise client operations, while mobile technology will improve employee efficiency.
The latter is particularly integral to a concept Andreas calls the “connected worker” – using sophisticated technologies such as robotics, RFID tags and mobile devices to enable field workers to have access to all the information they need to make the right decisions and become most effective.
Those two big themes, energy and IT, will drive our future and be the main drivers for decades to come.
To enhance its digital capabilities, Shell has partnered with leading companies from various sectors such as software and electrical engineering. “We’re convinced that as a company, but also as part of the energy industry, we’re facing substantial challenges and changes,” Andreas says.
“We understand that we can only be successful if we collaborate with partners. All parties involved must have the space and opportunity to gain and thrive. We know, for example, that in digitalisation we need an ecosystem to succeed, because we don’t have all the capabilities in-house.”
Such ecosystem partners, as well as other players like universities, startups and digital incubators, offer Shell expertise in essential fields that it would otherwise lack.
Shell’s focus throughout remains around creating value for the customer, prioritising customer-centricity. Digitalisation is, of course, essential in pursuing this, but Andreas equally recognises that such evolution has to be driven by a transformation in the company’s attitudes.
“We in Shell have to recognise that the challenges of tomorrow may be different than those of today and that being successful requires an evolution in our culture,” he says.
“We recognise that digitalisation requires a true cultural transformation. To be successful, we need to adopt new skills, we need to optimise our work processes, our organisational design, we need to leverage the scale and big data in Shell, and we need to become quicker and more agile in finding and implementing solutions.”
Proudly supported by: