Head of Research and Development Polyurethanes
Ulrich Liman, Head of Research and Development Polyurethanes, explains how state-of-the-art data management tools are bringing added value across the supply chain.
Why is digitalization important for Covestro and for polyurethane (PUR) in particular?
Our industry is experiencing an immense transformation. Product life cycles are shorter, productivity targets and the demand for new products are higher and speed is a key driver of competitiveness. As the inventor of PUR and a key player in the industry, we want to lead this transformation, using digitalization to achieve the best results both for our business and our customers. That’s why we’re investing in new digital technologies and larger data sets to tackle the increasing complexity of PUR chemistry and processing and to better meet both customer and end consumer needs.
How do digitalization and innovation go together at Covestro?
Digital algorithms and the collection of vast amounts of data give us access to an unprecedented amount of information. Yet digitalization means nothing without innovation. We want to merge our vast experience in PUR production and processing with digital algorithms to make these processes even more efficient and innovative. For us, innovation is about applying digital tools to test out creative ideas, improving processes along the supply chain and bringing new innovations to market faster.
How can data management tools improve PUR production?
Data management tools offer a whole new world of opportunities in polymer processing, especially in the PUR industry. Thanks to more sophisticated data storage possibilities, we can dig deeper into data from across the entire production chain, analyzing and learning from our experiences to reach faster and more accurate solutions. Vastly improved computing powers mean we can actually calculate reactions faster than we can test them. For example, our PURSIM (Polyurethane simulation) software enables us to use a virtual chemical reactor to precisely simulate changes in temperature and molecular composition that occur during the reaction of PUR feedstocks, saving the time and resources otherwise needed in the lab.
With our digital technical services, we’re striving to harness the power of data to enable value creation beyond classical product supply. In North America, our I4ptO™ platform offers the SlabExpert™ program which can adjust formulations and predict properties in production, as well as designing formulations based on required foam properties. Our SlabProcessing™ tool allows us to jointly work with our customers to optimize their production processes and troubleshoot problems through analyzing data collected via sensors.
In Europe and Asia-Pacific, BayCap™ too can help us carry out remote production process monitoring and predict final product properties to reduce costly rework. Climate correction is also an exciting phenomenon that we have been testing with a major flex foam customer. Here, we can collect data both from our own facilities and those of our customer, analyzing process parameters like air pressure, humidity and mixing ratio. With this data, we can optimize our customer’s production process, thereby ensuring consistent quality, reduced scrap rates and higher productivity.
In a nutshell, how can customers benefit from these digital innovations?
The added value that these data-driven tools bring is manifold. Customers can increase their production output and improve product quality and risk management – all while lowering costs and reducing waste.
How can digitalization of PUR production contribute to developing a sustainable PUR market?
By optimizing production processes in our own facilities and for customers, using predictive maintenance and powerful computer simulations, we can have a significant impact on waste reduction. Equally exciting is our increasing ability to use computational chemistry to anticipate product life cycles and to select those components with the most impressive sustainable performance.
It’s this combination of digitalization and innovation that can help us provide clever product and technology responses to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges from urbanization to climate change to population growth.
“For Covestro, digitalization and innovation are two sides of the same coin. With our digitalization strategy, we are determined to push boundaries, increasing the effectiveness of our research & development and production, opening up new ways to reach our customers and developing new business models for future-oriented collaboration.”
Hermann Bach, Head of Innovation Management at Covestro
To find out more about how we’re digitalizing our R&D capabilities, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org for customers in Europe, Middle East and Africa
email@example.com for customers in North America
firstname.lastname@example.org for customers in Asia-Pacific