CIEX Day Two: The Digital Revolution

31 October 2019

On 9 and 10 October 2019, innovation experts and practitioners from the consumer, industrial and speciality chemical sectors gathered to CIEX 2019 (Chemical Innovation Exchange) conference in Frankfurt, Germany. Delegates gained a deeper understanding of the many possibilities open to industry through technology, collaboration and innovation. During the second day, chaired by Sharon Todd, CEO of SCI, delegates heard about the impact and benefits of digitalisation.

31 October 2019

Technology unlocking growth

SCI Corporate Partner, Johnson Matthey, is a company with a long and distinguished history. As Alistair Barnfield, Director of IT Architecture, explained, the company dates back to the 1800s, pioneering metallurgical science. As a company that has advanced to find solutions, such as 2007’s Sustainability 2017: A Vision for Building a Sustainable Business, Johnson Matthey is a leading in harnessing digital technologies to benefit both its business and customers.

Sharing what can be gained by industry, Barnfield explaines that artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) support innovation by interrogating complex data. This leads to enhanced physical and chemical models to predict new materials and processes. Barnfield shared how digital simulation, aided by enhanced computational modelling, is supporting faster innovation in gas exhaust particle filters.

Dispelling some of the fears and myths around AI and ML, Barnfield noted that they have been in use since as early as 1939, and are indeed already in everyday use. Just as any computer technology is open to attack, he said, sensible precautions to prevent any such breach were essential. AI and ML should be seen as a tool for progress and not a threat to society, he said, but cautioned that the technology required worldwide standards, governance and controls.

Optimising efficiency

Jane Arnold, Executive Vice President of Global Process Control Technology for Covestro, explained that making digitalisation sustainable in its manufacturing operations was essential to its success and smooth operation, alongside appropriate systems, processes, and offline models.

Emphasising the need for human experts, Arnold said, ‘We want to get all information available to humans to decide on a path forward. The machine gives recommendations, but the humans pick and choose.’

The ability to analyse information from a manufacturing process could support business decisions and increase the value of R&D investments by optimising the evaluation of data. Arnold explained that data is now essential to the optimisation and maintenance of sustainable manufacturing.

Sharon Todd summarised that ‘AI and digitalisation are already being deployed to effective use in the industry but has much greater potential still. Opportunities exist in improving productivity in manufacture and R&D, as well as helping to innovate and define new products and services.’

As AI and ML become ubiquitous throughout industry, SCI is in the process of establishing a specialised AI and Digitalisation Community to sit within its Technical Interest Group network. If you would like to get involved in the formation of this exciting new community, please contact with the subject line ‘AI and Digitalisation’.

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