In 2018, Accenture conducted a second annual survey to understand how refineries are using digital. We also sought to understand what the 170 respondents believe are the benefits and barriers to adopting digital technologies. Five trends depict where companies are on their journey to becoming an Intelligent Refinery—and what they can do to speed it.
1. Convergence is a reality: Refining executives are addressing the convergence of information technology and operational systems by, for example, creating new organizational models, changing the role of IT, setting up steering committees and creating new C-level roles.
2. Digital is as digital does: Nearly 50% of executives rate themselves as mature or semi-mature with regard to digital technology deployment compared to 44% in 2017. Refiners rate themselves mature with the deployment of advanced process control (APC), cybersecurity tools and updated IT systems.
3. Most refiners are yet to realize potential value: By implementing only a small portion of the digital spectrum, refineries are missing value opportunities. The internet of things (IoT), AI, blockchain, robotics process automation and other cutting-edge digital technologies have yet to be tapped at scale.
4. Lack of digital investment increases risk: Change and disruption from digital is accelerating and might outpace a refiner’s ability to compete. Lack of investment can impede their ability to realize the cost savings and margin improvements that digital technologies can bring. This is augmented with the lack of a digital focal point within the organization.
5. Workforce skills are increasingly important: Our survey showed a sharp increase over last year in the number of companies citing a lack of workforce skills and subject matter expertise as barriers to success. While companies can hire digital talent, it is scarce and expensive. However, reskilling current employees, particularly those whose jobs will be impacted by automation, could be a cost-effective move.
Ready for digitization?
Companies should be aiming for a digital reinvention of their businesses where they use advanced digital technologies to transform their core operations, their worker and customer experiences and ultimately their business models. It involves making sure the right technology combination is being harnessed by industry to both lower costs and drive top-line growth.