Refiners Focused on Digital Transformation Better Positioned to Enhance Performance

Refiners seeking to improve their manufacturing processes with digital technology appear to be focused on business segments that need measurable improvements, according to a recent HSB Solomon Associates LLC (Solomon) survey.

As part of the 2018 Worldwide Fuels Refinery Performance Analysis (Fuels Study) and Worldwide Paraffinic Lube Refinery Performance Analysis (Lube Study), Solomon sought to understand the refining industry’s current level of participation in the digital transformation revolution. The most successful industries are actively participating in this revolution through investment in innovative technologies and processes to reduce production costs and improve manufacturing efficiency.


Overall participation in the Digital Transformation Survey was excellent, with 77% of all 2018 study participants completing the survey. That data provides initial insights for refinery leadership teams looking to benchmark potential programs that utilize modern manufacturing concepts to improve business results. It is likely that long-term viability is dependent upon quickly adapting and integrating new technologies into routine business processes. As such, the data shows refineries are putting their focus into areas that need measurable improvements.

Using North & South America data as a regional example, refineries that noted Energy Management as a Digital Transformation Initiative have an Energy Intensity Index (EII) that is 7 points higher than refineries that did not, among those that responded. Similarly, refineries that noted Reliability & Maintenance as an initiative in their survey responses had an Operational Availability a full point lower than refineries that did not.

Since we did not collect survey data on intent, one might infer that refineries are focusing their Digital Transformation resources in areas of needed improvement. Others might infer that higher performers have already made significant digital investments in these areas. Looking deeper at several core Solomon Associates Fuels Study results between Survey Participants and non-Participants, you see a striking difference in performance. Although impossible to draw a causal relationship conclusion between the Survey Reponses and refinery performance, refineries that demonstrate some focus on Digital Transformation are better positioned to drive long-term performance improvement. We are excited to see how this all translates into performance improvements in the Solomon Associates 2020 Worldwide Fuels and Lubes Study results.