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Data plays critical role in corporate sustainability says BASF Canada president

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Marcelo Lu, President, BASF Canada
Marcelo Lu, President, BASF Canada. - Photo by DX Journal
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“Digitalization and sustainability are two of the most powerful market influences in today’s corporate landscape,” writes the MIT Sloan Management Review. Nowhere was that more clear than this week’s GLOBE Forum.

Taking place in in Vancouver, the event is one of the largest international leadership summits on sustainable business, attracting more than 2,000 attendees from business, government and civil society from more than 50 countries.

The intersection of digitalization and sustainability was the focus of a keynote talk lead by BASF Canada President Marcelo Lu, followed by a panel discussion with DX Institute Managing Partner, David Potter. Lu spoke about the power of connecting devices and unlocking data in order to create new opportunities within an organization and with customers.

BASF unlocks data to create customer value

The largest chemical producer in the world, BASF is undergoing its own digital transformation initiative with a focus on realizing efficiencies and opening up new opportunities for innovation for both itself and its customers.

Take for example, BASF’s new supercomputer called “Quriosity”, which offers around 10 times the overall computing power previously available to BASF researchers. The company is currently adding all of its R&D data into it in order to learn more, faster — like calculating the most promising polymer structure from thousands of possibilities — as well as uncover previously unknown relationships.

These digitalization efforts are also focused on creating new value for customers, including providing customers with real-time information and creating an integrated supply chain to share logistic and relevant data with customers.

“In agriculture, for example, there is a massive amount of data being collected on farms,” said Lu. “Weather, soil conditions – it’s unbelievable. We’re helping customers use that data for precision agriculture. We are now acting as a trusted advisor to help a customer use information from their own land.”

Trends Driving Digitalization

Lu noted several major trends that are driving innovation across the organization:

  1. Connected devices mean data is always flowing
  2. There is a shift from being a company that creates or produces things into a data business
  3. There is increased transparency produced by data, with the ability to fix things based on real information
  4. Data usage allows you to quantify and profile, allowing an organization to deliver mass customization
  5. When you collect data, you can share data, to un-silo learning

Digitalization & Sustainability 4.0

Digitalization is also being used as a tool for organizations to achieve sustainability 4.0 — be it energy and building efficiency, reducing carbon emissions or improving waste management.

Lu was quick to give examples from different industries.

“If there is one industry that has not adopted digitalization, it’s the construction industry,” Lu said. “It will be revolutionary once that happens in order to drastically reduce waste.”

In the convergence of digitalization and sustainability, data is the new oil and becomes an invaluable resource to power the circular economy. It helps companies understand how to keep resources in use for as long as possible, minimize disposed residual waste, extract maximum value from products and recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of service life.

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Improving working conditions with blockchain

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Blockchain
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Blockchain is more often spoken about as an external tool for businesses to help secure supply chain. In a new pilot, blockchain is to be used to help improve health and safety within the workplace – at a Levi Strauss factory.

The testing out of blockchain as an internal health and safety auditing tool is being run as a collaboration between Harvard University’s public health graduate school, U.S. think-tank New America and the U.S. denim jeans company Levi Strauss & Co. The three have declared a project to design, build and operate a blockhain-based system for health and safety at work.

The new technology will be designed to augment outside auditors of factory health and safety with a system that will allow factory workers to self-report issues of concern. The factories that will test out the technology are based in Mexico, where three manufacturing sites in total employ 5,000 workers.

Mexico’s regulations for health and safety laws are exclusively federal in content. Under this legislation employers must obey standards, maintain safety programs, maintain compliance systems, ensure proper equipment and hazardous substance control. However, the level of safety is often subject to criticism (as with the International Labor Organization), such as in terms of accident rates and occupational illnesses like respiratory diseases.

The new project is designed to provide an alternate avenue for worker health and safety to be addressed, outside of periodic audit, and the mechanism enables a U.S. based company to ensure that clothes manufactured for the U.S. market are produced under conditions that are safe for workers.

The aim of the scheme is to input an annual worker survey on the blockchain. Once inputted the company’s site-based managers will be unable to alter it, and the findings will be made available to the workforce. The findings will be available for Mexican authorities to review as well as U.S.-based Levi Strauss managers. The blockchain will be provided by ConsenSys, the blockchain company founded by Joseph Lubin, once of Ethereum.

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Tesla wants its factory workers to wear futuristic augmented reality glasses on the assembly line

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  • Tesla patent filings reveal plans for augmented reality glasses to assist with manufacturing.
  • Factory employees has previously used Google Glass in its factory as recently as 2016.

Tesla‘s Model 3 might have “biblical simplicity” according to one Wall Street analyst, but building any car still involves hundreds of nuts, bolts, and welds.

To cut down on the number of fit and finish issues — like the “significant inconsistencies” found by UBS— Tesla employees on the assembly line could soon use augmented reality glasses similar to Google Glass to help with car production, according to new patent filings.

Last week, Tesla filed two augmented reality patents that outline a futuristic vision for the relationship between humans and robots when it comes to manufacturing. The “smart glasses” would double as safety glasses, and would help workers identify places for joints, spot welds, and more, the filings say.

Here’s how it works:

Tesla/USPTO

And here’s the specific technical jargon outlining the invention (emphasis ours):

The AR device captures a live view of an object of interest, for example, a view of one or more automotive parts. The AR device determines the location of the device as well as the location and type of the object of interest. For example, the AR device identifies that the object of interest is a right hand front shock tower of a vehicle. The AR device then overlays data corresponding to features of the object of interest, such as mechanical joints, interfaces with other parts, thickness of e-coating, etc. on top of the view of the object of interest. Examples of the joint features include spot welds, self-pierced rivets, laser welds, structural adhesive, and sealers, among others. As the user moves around the object, the view of the object from the perspective of the AR device and the overlaid data of the detected features adjust accordingly.

As Electrek points out, Tesla has previously been employing Google Glass Enterprise as early as 2016, though it’s not clear how long it was in use.

Tesla has a tricky relationship with robotics in its factory. In April, CEO Elon Musk admitted its Fremont, California factory had relied too heavily on automated processes. Those comments, to CBS This Morning, came after criticism from a Bernstein analyst who said “We believe Tesla has been too ambitious with automation on the Model 3 line.”

Still, the company seems to be hoping for a more harmonious relationship between human and machine this time around.

“Applying computer vision and augmented reality tools to the manufacturing process can significantly increase the speed and efficiency related to manufacturing and in particular to the manufacturing of automobile parts and vehicles,” the patent application reads.

 

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2018.

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Dow Chemical envisions the future of manufacturing

Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry.

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Despite its foundation in the pure science of chemistry, the chemicals manufacturing industry doesn’t exactly conjure high-tech images when people think of what goes into making chemical products.

And yet, the chemicals industry is poised to be the poster child for the very high-tech Industry 4.0 revolution, which takes existing manufacturing processes, and infuses them with digital DNA, thanks to the IIoT.

Dow Chemical, one of the world’s biggest chemical producers, is already taking a leadership role in the digital transformation of its industry. “We have significant amounts of data from our instrumentation and process sensors to use with the new analytics and deep-learning technologies,” Billy Bardin, Dow’s Global Operations Technology Center director, told Chemical Engineering.

Related: Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

Dow, like many other chemical companies, has been using sensor tech for decades, but the IIoT represents an entirely new model for how data from these sensors becomes part of the company’s end-to-end process. Not only does the IIoT offer optimization of the production process, it can improve efficiency, while reducing both energy consumption, and operational cost.

Safety — a key consideration given the stakes — can also be improved. Many chemical producers, including Dow, are still manufacturing at facilities that date back 50 years or more. Modernizing these plants is a constant effort, but with the advent of the IIoT, gains in situational awareness accompany the gains in efficiency and productivity.

[Download] Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

Recently, the company enlisted the help of Schneider Electric to digitize its Carrollton, KY processing plant, giving teams better data visibility for pumps, valves and motors. The roadmap also includes the addition of Schneider’s HART devices to enable operations and maintenance teams to remotely view equipment health or thresholds for valves in order to manage them better, according to Automation World. The improvements in preventative maintenance this data enables are key to better employee safety, as well as protecting the environment.

Better efficiency, cost savings, and greater safety? Strong arguments for better chemistry through digitization.

[Download] Stepping into Digital with IOT – 14 Cases

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