What will the process industry look like in 2025?

What will the process industry look like in 2025?
ACHEMA is the world forum for chemical engineering, process engineering and biotechnology.
Published: 6 December 2017 - 7 a.m.
By: Martin Menachery

Megatrends affect whole industries from equipment to processes to business models. Consequently, they cannot be covered within one exhibition group.

ACHEMA answers to this by defining three focal topics that draw attention to developments affecting all stakeholders in the process industry, from lab supplier to pump developer to plant engineer and operator. Thus, aided by markings at the stand to dedicated topical magazines, visitors can get an overview on where the process industry is headed. ACHEMA 2018 focusses on three trends.

Digitisation has been a major driver of the process industry for some time – and it is no end in itself. “Future chemical production has to react more flexibly – to different raw materials, to a volatile energy supply, and to customer demands for more individualised products,” said Dr Andreas Förster, subject matter expert, chemistry, DECHEMA e.V.

The focal topic ‘Flexible Production’ at ACHEMA 2018 specifically addresses these aspects:  modular plants that can be assembled from ‘plug and play’ components according to the requirements of different processes, production volumes or locations; robust technologies that allow for variations of production volume depending, for example, on energy supply; and automated process control that uses real time measurements to optimise processes.

“Numerous exhibitors offer relevant products or services,” said Dr Marlene Etschmann, who is responsible for communicating on the focal topics at DECHEMA Ausstellungs-GmbH. “The focal topics provide them with a platform to showcase their offerings across the whole exhibition,” added Dr Etschmann.

Closely related to flexible production are chemical and pharma logistics. These used to be perceived as something happening outside the factory gate, but in times of integrated supply chains, they have become a significant factor in production. In some areas like personalised medicine, logistics even become part of the product. New therapies rely on samples being transported fast and reliably from the bedside to the lab.

With track-and-trace technologies, the location of the sample can be determined at any time – an important feature in quality control not only in the pharmaceutical, but also in the chemical industry. ACHEMA 2018 takes this into account: New solutions are not only presented in the growing exhibition group pharma, packaging and storage technologies. In addition, the logistics hotspot in hall 1 offers a lot of opportunities for information and exchange.

The third focal topic ‘Biotech for Chemistry’ showcases the integration of chemical and biotechnological methods. They are no longer strictly separated; pragmatically, the method of choice is the one promising the best results.

Citric acid, for example, has been produced since the 1920s by purely biotechnological means, for acetic acid, the chemical process is still more competitive. This leads to questions regarding the development of robust production strains as well as the selection of solvents at the interface between biotechnological and chemical reaction steps.

“More than ever, biotechnologists, chemists and engineers have to cooperate closely in these processes. Backward reasoning becomes even more important than it is already the case in the chemical industry,” explained Dr Kathrin Rübberdt, head, biotechnology department, DECHEMA e.V.

ACHEMA as the forum that covers the whole development and value chain offers stakeholders the chance to explore exactly this type of cooperation. ACHEMA 2018 is slated is for 11-15 June 2018 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and will showcase the innovations for the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries from laboratory to large-scale plant through to the packaging line.

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