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2021 Connected Plant Conference Game Changers Award Winners

| By Scott Jenkins, Chemical Engineering magazine, and Sonal Patel, POWER Magazine

Behind the digital tools that make the industrial internet of things (IIOT) in the power generation and chemical process industries are people. The 2021 Connected Plant Conference in Austin, Texas recognized the achievements of several individuals and companies who are fast risers in the field. Through insight and experience, these “Game Changer” champions have contributed to innovation, solved problems, or made extraordinary improvements. The following are descriptions of the 2021 award winners. 

Ontario Power Generation 3D Scanning Team.

When Ontario Power Generation (OPG)—a  Crown corporation responsible for about half of the electricity generation in the province of Ontario, Canada—set out to achieve ambitious sustainability goals, the power utility tasked its 3D scanning team with a leading role in developing a comprehensive strategy for digital remote management. The team identified and implemented laser scanning technology in February 2019 with several key objectives. “The technology had to integrate smoothly with OPG’s existing governance and workflow,” the team noted. The technology also had to be deployed easily on their server to provide easy access for all employees, it said. Finally, it had to support and import all third-party laser scan data, and it had to meet accuracy specifications of less than or equal to 1 millimeters. To enable detailed visualizations, the team chose to integrate 5K imagery with the scan data (point clouds), which required a robust system architecture. While the complex task was challenging, the innovative approach to digital remote management contributed markedly to OPG’s success in its clean energy transformation.  

The Game Changer Award goes to all members of OPG’s 3D Scanning Team: Jaydev Chauhan, Khizar Hamid, Eric Heyen, Dax Patel, Richard Sunnucks, Arnes Turkanovic, and Martin Vanderheyden.

Fero Labs. Fero is a startup aimed at improving manufacturing efficiency through machine learning. Fero’s easy-to-use software allows plant personnel to optimize production and address root causes of quality issues without a specific background in data science. Fero has demonstrated the effectiveness of its software at companies like Covestro, Henkel and others, which have relied on limited data analysis methods that were hard to scale. Fero’s automated ML software suite allowed them to model an entire process without coding, share insights with operations teams using visual dashboards, and quickly scale the models to other plants within weeks. Once deployed, these models offer real-time optimization suggestions that constantly learn from the latest production data. Some recent results clients have shared include improving yield by 11% and reducing raw material costs by 9%.

The Game Changer Award goes to all members of Fero Labs Team: Berk Birand, Alp Kucukelbir, Pamir Ozbay, Todd Gardner, Elisabeth Rosen, Chloe Zeiss, Tim Eschert, Ayo Aridegbe, William Brinkerhoff, Theodore Brundage, Luke Grecki, Alican Mutus, Paris Leach

Colin Xander, Corporate Turnaround Manager, Chevron Phillips Chemical.  As a leader and educator, Colin Xander is particularly enthusiastic about championing new technologies and innovations. Viewing digitalization as the only path forward, he attends many conferences and listens to experts and peers so that he can successfully champion, share and implement digitalization in his company, where he is responsible for its implementation in all turnarounds. Colin is a game changer because of his vision, strategy, and detailed implementation of a Connected Workforce platform, Mobideo, for his turnarounds at CPChem. Faced with multiple sites worldwide, often working independently at the site level, he is currently working on implementing digitalization in four different sites.

Lorena Souza, Senior Consultant Engineer, Process Systems Engineering. Within two years of starting her industrial career at PSE, Lorena played a key role as one of a 5-person team deploying an energy system optimizer on a large European refinery. Souza led the digital application activities to deploy a connected-plant system on ethylene crackers in the Middle East, soft-sensing difficult-to-measure cracking furnace yields and effluent compositions. Her drive for innovation; her ability to motivate coworkers; her genuine interest and efforts promote digital technologies have made Lorena stand out as a game changer.

Victor Ortega, Vice President of Technical Site Management at Covestro. A champion of change within his organization, Victor anticipates and addresses the challenges in fostering a new organization work culture and motivating his teams, placing digitalization squarely as a cornerstone of all future process improvements. He adopted a platform to connect his workforce and connect between multiple enterprise systems, in order to improve work efficiency, time on tools, and communications. Digitalized maintenance and turnaround processes provide access to real-time information on the status of work from scheduling through to execution. Consequently, just as airport monitors clearly display delays and updates, they enable continuous tracking of status, sharing of updates, and communication of challenges and changes between site contractors, employees, and their supervisors. Victor leads Covestro’s maintenance and turnaround programs to the future by using a connected workforce platform and striving for process improvements with digitalization.

James Martin, Global Operational Excellence Manager, Allnex. As the manager of Global Operational Excellence at industrial coating resin and additive firm Allnex, James Martin has been instrumental in helping the company improve operations, performance, and sustainability through advanced process modeling. Allnex’s efforts involved reducing industrial process energy consumption by pairing variable frequency drives on motors with fans and centrifugal pumps. Efforts also reduced the use of distillation processes by implementing more efficient solvent recovery systems. In addition, advanced process modeling has helped the company reduce energy consumption in highly integrated distillation columns. Martin also noted that operational analytics have helped Allnex to better understand and monitor energy systems and energy flows, allowing the company to more efficiently identify new opportunities for energy consumption.

Ihsan Erbil Bayl, CEO, Enerjisa Uretim. Enerjisa Uretim, a 1996-established power supplier in Turkey, has set out to harness digital tools to leverage the performance of its 3.6-GW diverse fleet. Leading that charge is CEO Ihsan Erbil Bayl, who has shown  transformational and inspiring leadership skills. Bayl’s led his company to set up Senkron, a 24/7 central command and control center  center of Istanbul that can manage all its hydroelectric power plants from a single point. The command center, which is sited at the center of Istanbul, also allows the company to observe its other assets and analyze their data, increasing the synergy between them. Bayl earned a Game Changer award for implementing  Senkron despite challenges posed by the pandemic.


Honorary Mentions

A tough competition, the 2021 Game Changer competition unveiled several innovative technologies and digitalization pioneers. Here are some Game Changer Award honorary mentions.

Engineering and Technology Development Team, IHI Terrasun Solutions. This team tackled an energy storage issue and came up with a platform to solve many issues including integration of full lifecycle automation , a PromQL-based data layer, and a forecasting engine for programmatic automated operational automation, programmatic networking, and monitoring.

Kerron Duncan, Director of Architecture and Engineering, Northrop Grumman. Duncan has been a key driver of innovation at technology firm Northrop Grumman as part of his role as the director of enterprise architecture, data analytics, and engineering, a position he has held for more than 20 years. Among his many achievements are the implementation of model-based engineering architectures and best practices into digital power systems for next generation sensors. Duncan has also led the firm’s mission modeling, simulation and analysis team within Systems Engineering, and he has served as a program manager for its Artificial Intelligence campaign.

Mahdi Sharif and Ray Simonson,  Co-Founder and CEO, Glove Systems. Glove Systems is a startup that has patented a new 3D laser scanning program that ensures the precision of pre-fabricated modules before they. are shipped to customers. The company says its software solves costly problems using digitization and allows for anyone who uses their product to make extraordinary improvements.   

Larsh Johnson, Chief Technology Officer Stem, Inc. Johnson was instrumental in delivering significant customer value by lowering energy costs, stabilizing the grid, alleviating intermittency, reducing carbon emissions, addressing electric grid constraints, and driving the rapid global transition to zero carbon and renewable generation.

Thomas Judge, Managing Director, Simtronics. Through Judge’s leadership, Simtronics has developed a device-agnostic, touchscreen program that runs on standard web browsers. The encrypted technology is scalable, it can seamlessly upgrade on a continuous basis, and it has guaranteed levels of service.

Chris Marek and Josh Greer, Customer Support Engineers, HanAra Software. Marek and Greer were instrumental in the creation of HanPHI, a collaboration tool that supports its customers’ digital transformation journeys. During the pandemic, collaboration tools have become key to remotely monitoring plants and operations. “Asset performance management and predictive maintenance software has been used in centralized monitoring and diagnostics centers for remote operations, but the pandemic has resulted in unexpected remote operations,” the engineers said.


—Chemical Engineering and POWER’s staff.