“The time for technology is now”, says Wolters Kluwer Enablon

Complex and hazardous industries such as the refining and petrochemicals sector can be difficult to navigate, and organisations must be able to protect workers from workplace hazards while complying with industry regulations and promoting business and operational goals. To better understand how organisations may do so, Asian Downstream Insights speaks to Michel Tol, Head of Product Marketing at Wolters Kluwer Enablon.

To start off, tell us a little more about what you do.

Wolters Kluwer Enablon provides industry leaders across complex, hazardous industries with a fully integrated platform that supports them in achieving Environmental & Social Integrity, Business Resilience, and Operational Excellence. What we do is to cover the full value chain, from digital permit-to-work to incident management, and reporting.

We’re always looking for that balance between what can help our customers improve their operations, and how we can improve technology and drive innovation to get ready for the world of tomorrow – whether this is translating industry ESG needs into our platform to support global net-zero, or figuring out the next big step in digital process safety management with our downstream customers.

One challenge we have to face is in developing new ways to engage with the new – younger – generation of refiners, who are increasingly tech-savvy and have high expectations of their connected work environment… But it’s a challenge we’re happy to take on.

It’s certainly an interesting change that the industry has to reckon with – the rise of the younger, more connected worker. What are some challenges or anecdotes you could share with us?

A new generation of workforce in a complex industry obviously has its challenges, including updating ways of work and processes to match modern expectations. But in all honesty, I see more opportunities than challenges!

The industry is now in a place where they understand the long-term value of technological innovation for their operations and safety – and this newer workforce can help drive that transformation at a faster pace. We know that good technology saves lives, increases production and reduces environmental impact; the time is now to embrace this shift.

The advancement and implementation of such technology may be seen as a particular challenge for the refining and petrochemicals industry. Are there other such concerns that refiners have in mind?

I think refiners are coming to terms with the paradigm shift towards sustainability and transparency, and figuring out new ways to support this new perspective. Social pressure is growing, but this also provides an immense opportunity for refiners to “get in on the ground floor”, so to speak. Refiners who incorporate sustainability, productivity and safety into the core of their business have the opportunity to grow with and support a changing world.

When it comes to such topics – sustainability, productivity and safety – how does Enablon set itself apart?

Our Enablon Vision Platform and interconnected solutions are designed to support these three goals, with the platform tailored to the maturity level and expectations of our customers. This means we support a wide range of use cases – from digital Permit to Work for a single refinery, all the way to a fully integrated Process Safety Management, EHS and ESG system for an entire enterprise.

Whether our customers need to view live plant information in dynamic bowties, which deliver the data for predictive risk in their refinery visualization – or if they want to map their incident management process to their ESG reporting. This is all made possible by our core data platform, which uses more than two decades of expertise to operationalize all this risk data into useful outcomes. This has led to our customers achieving stunning results, from reducing incidents by 94%, to reducing maintenance backlogs by 60%, to preventing thousands of tonnes of CO2 releases.

In the industry’s current navigation of post-pandemic times, what should operators prioritise?

Prioritise long-term vision. Even in a rapidly-changing landscape, a well-supported long-term strategy always wins over ad-hoc solutions. We’ll have ups and downs – this is the same in every industry – but generally, you’ll see that those who keep close to their values are the ones who survive. Increased safety will generally support increased productivity (and thus increased value!), and sustainability will drive a better future for all of us.

Even so, the industry’s certainly changing! What are some new trends you have observed?

I’m seeing a strong push towards consolidation and connection – both in people as well as in tech. People expect a stronger connection to the work they do and the planet they inhabit, and technology is expected to work seamlessly to support both company and workforce goals. I see these as positive trends, which are driving more harmonious development, and more holistic innovation across, safety, productivity and sustainability. 

There are two main drivers in this industrial shift: This new generation of workforce and management, and an increased sense of urgency when it comes to how we can implement measures to achieve net zero. Going forward, I think there will be a stronger focus on the connected worker, and bringing safety, productivity and sustainability closer together as a core goal within an organization.

With sustainability being a hot-button topic, what can organisations do to adapt to or meet stakeholders’ sustainability demands?

First of all, communicate. Communicate about your goals, talk to your stakeholders – be honest, and be transparent. ESG and CSR can actually greatly improve not only operational stability, but also positively impact shareholder value – we’ve seen this happen multiple times, and what it takes is a balance between clear vision and effective execution. Develop a phased approach to rolling out your sustainability initiatives in tandem with your ESG/CSR strategy, and again: communicate.

There are three core challenges that come to mind with regard to achieving increased sustainability: Clarity of goals, alignment within the organisation, and the danger of greenwashing. As I mentioned earlier, clear and transparent communication, a strong vision and phased execution can play a big role in solving these challenges, especially when supported by integrated software platforms which support these goals inherently.