AspenTech [NASDAQ:AZPN]: Process Optimization for Operational Excellence

Antonio Pietri, President & CEO The maxim that change is not a lone event but an ongoing process is conspicuously embodied by process manufacturing enterprises operating in hypercompetitive global markets today. However, as the windows to invest in change narrow down for the process manufacturers in chemical industry, there is a marked increase in the adoption of automation technologies that drive down capital costs, foster collaborative business processes, and simplify production operations. Driven by the zeal to further the quest of chemical manufacturers for optimized process manufacturing and improved profitability, Bedford, MA-based AspenTech forayed into the process automation arena. The firm’s enterprising journey can be traced back to the early 1970s when a group of chemical engineers led by MIT Professor of Chemical Engineering, Larry Evans, experimented with computer-aided engineering technology to bailout chemical plants facing severe energy crisis and ‘oil shock’. Evan’s ASPEN (Advanced System for Process Engineering) project to develop a process simulation system for chemical engineers, gained momentum in early 1977 after obtaining funding support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The payoff emerged in the form of a next-generation process simulator—ASPEN—that could mimic complex processes involving hazardous chemical components, coals and synthetic fuels, as well as electrolyte and multi-phase systems. The birth of AspenTech [NASDAQ:AZPN] became a precursor to commercialization of their process simulation software, distributed under the brand name of Aspen Plus.

Today, AspenTech provides a dedicated engineering product line that caters to the process manufacturers’ needs for greater margins in their production plants and supply chains, and helps them manage customer demand, optimize plant operations and streamline the delivery of finished products. With a focus on process engineering and optimization, the firm’s integrated lifecycle suite— aspenONE Engineering for Chemicals— empowers companies in the chemical domain to achieve operational excellence in their engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain operations. Chemical manufacturing involves energy-intensive production processes and AspenTech’s process modeling approach combined with their AspenONE solutions, addresses the process manufacturers’ need for energy-efficient, sustainable, and cost-efficient operations. In addition to steering the companies toward achieving engineering efficiency and quality, aspenONE Engineering for Chemicals helps them maximize margins and accelerate time-to-market. The aspenONE solutions portfolio also facilitates continuous improvement of asset performance through monitoring, de-bottlenecking, and revamping global collaboration through an integrated environment.

AspenTech's latest innovations in the Asset Performance Management suite are centered on helping customers increase asset utilization while maintaining the highest levels of optimization

Simulation Modeling for Process Optimization

Augmenting operations figures prominently on the to-do list of process plants that strive to remain competitive in the marketplace. What drives this endeavor is a process simulation model-based decision support system which also doubles up as operations best practice to help the process manufacturers achieve their goals. AspenTech’s process simulation models—Aspen Plus and Aspen HYSYS—play a significant role in allowing process manufacturers to execute operational troubleshooting, analyses, and process optimization in their production plants. For manufacturing firms struggling to leverage simulation models beyond the design process due to insufficient knowledge about process simulators, AspenTech comes to their rescue with a solution that effortlessly links process models with Excel worksheets..

The firm’s chemical process simulator—Aspen Plus—has been designed to provide chemical manufacturers with an integrated workflow to help them engineer better chemical process designs, improve plant operations, mitigate process quality and capacity challenges. The chemical process optimization software comes equipped with a varied assortment of tools to offer multiple functionalities that include solids modeling capabilities, leading pressure relief device sizing tools, activated analysis, and the ability to compare simulation and plant data in real time. In one instance, a leading Japanese chemical firm leveraged Aspen Custom Modeler (ACM) to model a fixed bed reactor. The detailed reactor model allowed the firm to assess main/side reactions, heat transfer, catalyst deactivation, and fouling. By linking their reactor model to Excel with Aspen Simulation Workbook (ASW), the client was able to build an off-line decision-support system.

Technologies for Optimized Asset Performance

In a fast-paced process manufacturing environment today there is no room for time lags between the conception and effective development of new products. The process development teams in chemical enterprises need to focus on prompt delivery of products while adhering to the specifications and industry guidelines. Aspen’s batch process development solution—Batch Plus—is the answer to the processing impediments and high capital and operating costs incurred by process manufacturing firms.
At the core of Batch Plus lies a recipe-based modeling technology that enables development of processes and generation of documents from early route selection to full scale manufacturing. Instead of relying on spreadsheets and text documents to relay and replicate recipe information across the operations continuum, Batch Plus is a convenient alternative for chemical engineers looking to build a single description or model of the process. Apart from offering an effective recipe model, Batch Plus allows the chemical firms to visualize the process-related issues and opt for the best development alternatives to engineer profitable processes within a short timeframe.

Upholding the Tradition of Innovation

The leadership at AspenTech believes in investing ample efforts and resources to stay at the forefront of innovation in the manufacturing process optimization arena. More recently, the firm has made a shift toward asset optimization and has developed a strategy that encompasses intelligent workflows, reliable designs, connected lifecycles, consolidated production, maintenance and predictive analytics. To help customers mitigate the losses caused by unwarranted downtime, AspenTech has introduced a new state-of-the-art product suite—aspenONE Asset Performance Management (APM)—to their existing aspenOne product portfolio. Designed to address challenges associated with process disruptions, low asset availability, and unplanned downtime, the aspenONE APM suite enables process manufacturing enterprises to optimize their assets through the entire plant lifecycle. "AspenTech’s latest innovations in the Asset Performance Management suite are centered on helping customers increase asset utilization while maintaining the highest levels of optimization," states Pietri.

In addition to providing highly accurate insights into complex process dynamics, the capabilities of aspenONE APM suite range from carrying out root cause analysis of events to assess their impact on plant equipment and breakdown avoidance. The tool also offers prescriptive, actionable guidance to help mitigate the impact on production and also packs in the Aspen Asset Analytics product. The Aspen Asset Analytics product is a combination of AspenTech’s modeling and simulation and data analytics capabilities that help enterprises to discern problematic events even before they occur. "Early customer response has increased our belief that there will be strong interest in reliability on analytics software to help customers reduce their operational risk, increase production, and improve profitability," says Pietri.

AspenTech’s global community of experts bring in extensive interpersonal, business, technical and problem solving skills to help their customers derive and sustain significant business value from aspenONE software solutions. The mission critical nature of the firm’s solutions combined with their value-adding process industry knowledge has positioned them well in a visibly slow growth environment. AspenTech’s future plans entail a persistent long term focus on driving greater usage of the aspenONE suite to help customers optimize the operations of their plants and assets.


Bedford, MA

Antonio Pietri, President & CEO

AspenTech delivers asset optimization software that enables chemical manufacturing enterprises to optimize their operations and maintenance lifecycle