EDUCAÇÃO E TECNOLOGIA

How can Industry 4.0 help digitalize R&D in the Chemical Industry?

Can you recall when you first heard of the term industry 4.0? I cannot quite put a date on it, but it was during a conference not long after I graduated. At the time, Industry 4.0 was synonymous with the improvement of operational efficiency through digitalization on the shopfloor of industrial component and automotive manufacturers. For the experts in the development of plastics for enclosures in the High-Tech industry attending the conference, Industry 4.0 translated into an increased need for highly specialized plastics that would combine mechanical robustness, conductivity, and flame retardancy. Hereby, enabling wireless communication between the new intelligent devices on the assembly while keeping the users safe. So, digitalization was something that the customers down the value chain were adopting and in turn resulted in new technical requirement for plastics, but laboratory managers were not directly involved with Industry 4.0. Now, digitalization has evolved across industries to more than optimizing factory shop floor through automation or using artificial intelligence in the assembly line. In fact, many companies recognize Industry 4.0 as a strategic priority turning their challenges into opportunities.

For instance, chemical manufacturers have benefited from digitalization across the corporate functions and roles, from manufacturing plant to executive boardroom, from logistic to compliance, with the plant operator or R&D (Research & Development) manager using technology to improve decision-making and create new ways to manage existing processes.

Let’s spend a bit more time on the task of R&D and product manager in the chemical industry, who’s role it is to ensure that the innovation pipeline is appropriately full along the various stages of idea to market process. Similar to other industries, to be adopted by the target customer, an innovative chemical product must fulfil a variety of technical requirements for a specific application. However, in addition to the technical requirements, R&D and product managers in the chemical industry also must ensure their product comply to an array of regulations that are often country specific and such regulations are continually evolving over time.

Considering that chemical companies are moving toward customization of their products to deliver more value to their customers, capturing the voice of the customer and collaboration are now differentiators in the speedy development of new products. Hence, R&D and product managers need to leverage digital tools to co-innovate and collaborate with customers as well as suppliers to stay competitive. In the first phase of the idea to market process, digital co-innovation tools could enable stakeholders responsible for innovation in the chemical industry to handle requirement acquisition, as well as requirement and innovation management.

Now, imagine if my colleagues responsible for the development of technical plastics I mentioned earlier had access to a single platform that allows the secure exchange of information such as technical requirements provided by the OEM as well as technical data from the additive manufacturer. In other word, a platform that would support constructive collaboration with internal and external stakeholder in the idea to market process. Such platform would enable R&D managers, other stakeholder in innovation to eliminate siloed data and create synergies from the joint competencies across the network between additive manufacturers, plastics producers as well as component manufacturers. These synergies would then result in faster innovation and in turn shorter time to market. In addition, when the collaboration platform is combined the use of simulations to digitize the product development, R&D managers could prevent the production of unwanted products. This is why Industry 4.0 applied to innovation, or the digitalization of the idea to market process, is also an opportunity for R&D department in the chemical industry.

What has your experience been over the years with Industry 4.0? Share your experience in the chat below. Also, be sure to have a look at the video below which details more about what SAP can do to support Industry 4.0, innovation and collaboration in the idea to market process.

To learn more about how SAP can support the Chemical Industry, please go to SAP.com