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Ube Industries, Ltd.

Ube Industries' Ube Chemical Factory manufactures nylon raw material (caprolactam), nylon resins, and fine chemicals. In Japan, explosions and fires have occurred at chemical plants in recent years due to inadequate transfer of technology, labor shortages, and aging of plant facilities; thus, social demand for safer plant operation is growing. At the Ube Chemical Factory, a system for monitoring fluctuations in critical processes was installed for the purpose of strengthening safety measures for chemical plants. With the installation of this system, the Ube Chemical Factory has gained the capability to detect early signs of abnormalities that could lead to accidents and established a system to enable the plant monitoring staff to conduct accident prevention activities in cooperation.

Retirement of veteran operators has resulted in inadequate transfer of skills.

Ube Industries was founded as a coal mining company in 1897. Since then, the company has launched into new businesses one after another based on the principle of "from finite mining to infinite industry," thereby responding to changes in the times. Today, Ube Industries conducts business centered on chemicals for a wide range of applications in the fields of pharmaceuticals, construction materials, machinery, metal forming, energy, and environment.

The Ube Chemical Factory in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, is Ube Industries' main factory. It manufactures nylon raw material (caprolactam), nylon resins, and fine chemicals. Various chemical plants operate on the vast 660,000 m² premises to produce a total of approximately 120 types of products.

Having set "safe plant operation" as one of the most important issues in early years, the Ube Chemical Factory promotes various activities to strengthen the safety measures on the production floor. It not only provides routine safety education and training, but also focuses on maintaining the facilities from the perspective of safety. In 2012, the Ube Chemical Factory was designated as an Accredited Safety Inspection Business Place*1 as defined by the Japanese gas safety law (High Pressure Gas Safety Act), and its voluntary safety inspection activities are highly evaluated.

"Since explosions and fires have occurred frequently in chemical plants in Japan in recent years, social demand for safer plant operation is rapidly growing. One of the main reasons for the occurrences of accidents even in plants where extensive safety management is conducted is that veteran employees of the baby boom generation retired and the skills of experienced operators were not adequately transferred to young employees. The Ube Chemical Factory is no exception. We have been faced with the same problem," says Mr. Kenji Hoshino.

This case study was published in the 2015 Vol.2 issue of the azbil Group's corporate magazine, azbil.