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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.

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Manufacturing

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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Manufacturing

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

#ScaleStrategy is produced by DX Journal and OneEleven. This editorial series delivers insights, advice, and practical recommendations to innovative and disruptive entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.

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Manufacturing

Blockchain can reduce supply chain risks

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In the world of modern businesses, supply chains are becoming increasingly complex and such complexity increases as supply chains cross multiple countries and involve multiple interfaces with third parties. To address this, many are turning to blockchain.

According to Supply Chain Management Review, upstream are the suppliers who create goods and services used in a company’s own operations, such as raw components or materials. The downstream supply chain efficiently distributes a company’s products or services to its customers. Each stage, both upstream and downstream, needs to be proactively managed to minimize quality, financial, confidentiality, operational, reputational and legal risks.

Mounting supply chain challenges for businesses

The challenge faced in the modern, interconnected world is the growing complexity of supply chains. This complexity presents risks, and these include goods falling outside of required storage parameters and the risk of contamination or counterfeiting. It is incumbent upon the manufacturer to perform a risk assessment, which can involve:

  • Understanding which products are transported and to where.
  • Breaking the transportation chain into steps.
  • Assessing each step from sender to recipient. Consider what will happen should delays arise at any stage of the transport route.
  • Assessing for how long the cargo remains at each step.
  • Assessing effectiveness of anti-counterfeiting measures and how these can be assessed? Such as by using anti-tamper proof locks or seals.
  • Considering environmental conditions at each step (this may need to extend to seasonality).
  • Understanding the impact of temperature and humidity.
  • Understanding the suitability of the container.
  • Understanding the impact of shock and vibration on the goods and the packaging. For example, how robust is the packaging? Have drop and rotation tests been performed?

Blockchain offers innovative solution

Many companies are now seeking to address these risks with blockchain technology. In terms of addressing supply chain risks, blockchain enables the transmission of data and information to all users of the supply chain network on a real-time basis. This means that when goods move from point A to point B, all of those in the supply chain are made aware at the same time. Should a change occur, such as a switch to a different distributor every actor is made aware and the system can be configured so that each party would need to agree such a change.

A second benefit is with the secure transmission of correct information between the users of the supply chain network. The cryptographic nature of this builds in security into the information exchange. A third example is with a bridge to the Internet of Things and devices like radio-frequency identification( RFID) transmitters. This is a technology whereby digital data encoded in RFID tags or smart labels are securely and digitally captured by a reader via radio waves. Blockchain can be especially handy in linking physical goods to serial numbers, bar codes, digital tags like RFID.

Based on these benefits, some distributors are searching for ways to leverage blockchain innovations to increase profits and strengthen relationships across the supply chain.

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