Stepping into the engineering 4.0 space, Process Industries, a business line within thyssenkrupp Industrials, delivers turnkey project solutions, from pre-feasibility studies through to full operation, for Africa’s liquid fuel storage sector.

“Having looked closely at this market, we have identified good growth potential not only in South Africa but also in countries with rapidly growing populations like Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania,” says Process Industries business product developer and futurist Louis W Coetzee.

“Rising populations drive up the demand for water, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, which require vehicles, machines and equipment. This, in turn, prompts the development of tank farms to store the fuel.”

Coetzee points out that, opportunities aside, liquid fuel storage is a highly competitive industry with costs such as accumulative transportation tariffs along each leg of the supply chain, from terminals to storage depots to fuel stations. Recognising that the sector needs and is ready for a cost effective, efficient tank farm solution, thyssenkrupp looked outside the box and shifted its overall project capability focus to be able to deliver a holistic offering.

“Not only are we revisiting our standard engineering expertise to be able to develop new products for customers, but we have also adjusted our horizontal approach to a vertical one to add holistic Front End Loading (FEL) to our traditional EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) portfolio.”

In the pre-feasibility phase (FEL 1) and feasibility phase (FEL 2) Process Industries delivers a tariff target-based solution to ensure client competitiveness. Future plans are to automate the basic engineering phase (FEL 3) as well.

‘’What the future will hold for engineering 4.0 is difficult to foresee but we have done its foresight development and are working towards it. This was a relatively simple evolution given the fact that thyssenkrupp has earned a reputation for innovative product development, cutting-edge technology and specialist engineering. This proactive move will enable us to create products that customers need even before they realise that they need them,” he says.

Coetzee emphasises that for any company to remain competitive and Industry 4.0 relevant, basic engineering can no longer be the prime focus; it must be the means to an end – meaning the final product that is produced through basic engineering.

“We are focused on reducing the engineering time and effort required to develop a product so that we can get it deployed as quickly as possible. A perfect analogy here is the progression from finding directions using a map book, to using a satellite navigation device and now to using a cell phone. With each development, the amount of effort required by the driver to look for a road is lessened. The advent of autonomous vehicles will eventually diminish this effort altogether, creating a completely different business model.”

In the EPC phase, thyssenkrupp provides services such as instrumentation and control, structural and civils through third part collaboration.

“We are fastidious in selecting reputable partners who are aligned with our world-class standards,” says Coetzee. He adds further that for this holistic solution, instead of taking risks on behalf of third party contractors at a cost to customers, thyssenkrupp has adopted a horizontal consortia approach where the risk responsibilities now lie with the particular executing contractor. “This enables us to reduce costs for our customers.”

To ensure that customers receive the best possible solution, thyssenkrupp has the ability to source detail engineering required in the EPC stage from its centre of excellence in India. “Our ability to tap into thyssenkrupp’s global knowledge pool also gives us an added competitive edge in the market.”

Process Industries has considerable experience in the petrochemical industry but the business line’s in-depth expertise in the field of liquid fuel storage motivated the decision to develop a cost-effective holistic solution for this sector. “A key value add for us is that we are able to implement this new-knowledge age strategy across any industry, the only proviso being that it must lend itself to standardisation,” highlights Coetzee.

Coetzee predicts a future that will see the rise of project engineering where Process Industries will, together with the customer, design a complete plant using VR (Virtual Reality).

“There can be no doubt that we are on the cusp of an exciting Engineering 4.0 future that is poised for the taking, giving us the ability to automate the boring and engineer the awesome!”