The Intersection of AI and the Process Industry


Siemen Vander Sande

Business Development Analyst

The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the process industry marks a significant chapter in the sector’s ongoing evolution. The process industry is defined by its operational focus on converting raw materials into essential products through chemical, physical, or biological processes. This industry has evolved from manual operations to advanced automation, and now, it’s embracing the era of AI.

As we navigate this technological shift, AI emerges as a central component in transforming industrial operations. Its applications span various aspects within these sectors, including boosting yield and throughput, improving energy efficiency, conducting in-line quality control, simulating processes and creating digital twins, optimizing setpoints, analyzing golden batches, and performing root cause analysis.

Faktion is at the forefront of this transformation driven by AI. The company’s mission to integrate complex AI solutions into easy-to-use software applications represents a major step forward in bridging the gap between business users and data scientists. Faktion’s approach to AI in the process industry is not just about automating existing tasks or providing more insights; it’s about rethinking and optimizing processes, equipment performance and planning.

Faktion’s emphasis on productizing AI applications distinguishes the company from its competitors. Our strategy extends beyond creating isolated solutions for clients; it involves developing scalable, user-friendly applications that enable clients to independently manage and update their systems. Business users can and should become “AI Operators.” This holistic approach, coupled with a track record of many successful client products for companies such as Tomra, Sprimoglass, Proximus, Belfius, Petersime etc and the incubation of our own innovative MLOps Platforms / spinoffs Chatlayer and Metamaze, confirms Faktion’s leadership status in the sector.

In this blog, we will delve into the process industry’s details, assess AI’s impact, and illustrate Faktion’s contributions to this changing industry with practical examples of use cases.

Understanding the Process Industry

The process industry, a term that envelops a diverse array of sectors, is the backbone of the global economy. As mentioned before, this industry is defined by converting raw materials into essential products through chemical, physical, or biological processes. This industry is known for the complexity of its production processes. The sectors within this broad category range from chemical manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, textiles, oil and gas, food and beverage production, each with its unique set of processes and challenges.

Key Sectors and Processes

Chemical manufacturing, for instance, involves intricate processes of chemical synthesis, blending, and purification. The pharmaceutical sector combines scientific research with strict regulatory compliance to produce medicines. The textile industry combines traditional fabric production methods with modern technological advancements. In energy & utilities, the emphasis is on optimizing resource management and operational efficiency. Food processing, meanwhile, balances safety, taste, and nutritional value, often scaling up to meet large market demands.

Each of these sectors demands precision, efficiency, and innovation in their operations. Whether it's fine-tuning chemical reactions, ensuring consistent quality in textiles, optimizing energy consumption, or maintaining food safety standards, the process industry represents a complex and fascinating array of challenges and opportunities.

Challenges and Opportunities

Despite the differences in their end products, these sectors share common challenges. They must navigate ever-changing market demands, stringent regulatory requirements, and the need for sustainable practices.

The opportunity lies in leveraging advancements in technology to tackle these challenges. Innovations in process automation, data analytics, and artificial intelligence are playing a crucial role in transforming operations. These technologies offer the potential to enhance efficiency, reduce waste, and optimize resource usage, leading to more sustainable and cost-effective production methods.

As we delve deeper into the process industry, it becomes evident that the key to unlocking its full potential lies in the smart integration of technology. This sets the stage for the next chapter, where we will discuss AI's role in enhancing the process industry, with a special focus on the innovative solutions that Faktion brings to the table.

Transforming the Process Industry with AI

The advent of AI in the process industry marks a shift towards more intelligent, data-driven operations. While this integration doesn’t imply an overhaul of all existing methods, it certainly introduces significant enhancements in how the industry tackles production, efficiency, and innovation challenges.

AI as a Catalyst for Change: Faktion’s Real-World Impact

In the area of energy and resource optimization, AI has been instrumental. AI algorithms are capable of analyzing vast amounts of data from production processes, identifying patterns, and suggesting optimizations that significantly reduce energy consumption and waste, enabling companies to meet their sustainability goals while maintaining high operational standards.

Take, for instance Faktion’s work with Wienerberger (), where AI was leveraged to optimize energy management, leading to more sustainable production methods and a reduction in their carbon footprint and operational costs. Similarly, in collaboration with Ajinomoto, AI played a crucial role in reducing gas consumption of a Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer, showcasing the versatility of AI in resource management across different sectors.

In sectors like chemical manufacturing and textiles, AI's impact is evident in the precision and control it brings to complex chemical processes. AI systems can monitor and adjust production parameters in real-time, ensuring optimal conditions for output quality, yield, throughput, etc. Faktion's collaboration with Glanzstoff () demonstrates this perfectly. By optimizing production parameters through AI, Glanzstoff achieved enhanced manufacturing efficiency resulting in a significantly higher yield, demonstrating how AI can bring precision and control to complex industrial processes.

Food and beverage production also benefits from AI, especially in areas like quality control and supply chain management. AI systems can predict demand trends, optimize inventory, and ensure consistent product quality vitual inline sensors, addressing one of the industry's most significant challenges – balancing scale with quality. Other challenges are dynamic compensation for the variabiliy within nature’s raw materials over seasons, varieties and geographies in order to deliver food products of constant quality. AI can be the master chef in this kitchen.

Faktion's collaboration with Tomra is a prime example of AI and more specifically Deep Learning’s transformative role in food sorting: more data result in better DL based classification systems. Deep Learning is taking the lead in today’s sorting industry, where tradional rule-based systems meet their limitations. The partnership between Tomra and Faktion is centered on developing a global Data Centralization & MLOps Collaboration Platform. The custom built platform centralizes all the data from Tomra’s sorting machines around the globe and empowers data scientists and sales engineers to efficiently manage and optimize AI models. Tomra can ship or update its sorting machines with best-of-class sorting models for each application, in just a fraction of the time.

These examples illustrate AI’s transformative role across various sectors of the process industry and smart manufacturing in general. AI is not just a tool for incremental improvements but a driver for significant advancements in operational efficiency, sustainability, quality control…

The next section will outline Faktion's method for applying AI in this sector and the factors contributing to its success.

Faktion's Unique Approach

Faktion's approach to integrating AI in the process industry combines bridging complex technological gaps with providing customized solutions tailored to specific sector challenges.

Bridging the Gap with AI

Faktion’s journey in the process industry has been marked by its ability to bridge the gap between complex AI technology and practical industrial applications. Faktion excels in translating advanced AI solutions into user-friendly, impactful solutions. As mentioned earlier, our strategy goes beyond providing standalone applications to clients; it includes the development of scalable, intuitive solutions and products that allow clients to autonomously manage and update their AI driven systems.

But how does Faktion achieve this, and what sets them apart from competitors? The answer lies in Faktion's unique blend of expertise. Alongside experienced AI/Machine Learning Engineers, Faktion employs a wealth of knowledgeable software engineers, all experienced in building complex products and applications. Both engineering team have a track record in building industrial AI applications, and thus speak the same language as our clients' process engineers. It’s this unique combination of both AI/ML and SW capabilites that enables us to package complex AI solutions into user-friendly software applications end help our clients scale AI driven value creation. Everyone can become an AI Operator.

Tailored AI Solutions for Industry Challenges

The essence of Faktion's expertise lies in creating tailored AI solutions that are directly aligned with the specific needs and challenges of different industrial sectors. Whether it's enhancing operational efficiency in chemical manufacturing, optimizing energy management in utilities, or improving quality control in food processing, Faktion's solutions are carefully designed to provide clear business value.

Conclusion: Embracing AI with Faktion

As we have explored throughout this blog post, the integration of AI into the process industry is not just a trend but a fundamental shift in operational paradigms. Faktion stands at the forefront of this shift, demonstrating through its innovative projects and collaborations how AI can significantly enhance efficiency, sustainability, and quality across various sectors.

Let’s collaborate!

The journey of integrating AI into the process industry is ongoing, and Faktion is actively seeking partnerships and collaborations to further explore and expand the boundaries of what AI can achieve. For businesses ready to undertake this transformative journey, Faktion provides expertise and a common goal towards a more efficient and sustainable future.

Looking forward, the potential is clear. AI enables us to improve processes, enhance efficiency, and transform industries. Faktion invites you to be part of this exciting journey, embracing AI to unlock new opportunities.

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