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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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Agriculture

Here’s the thing about how digital transformation will impact your business

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Digital skills
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Here’s the thing about digital transformation: Everyone knows it’s happening.

But it’s hard to know which new technology or innovation is going to be the one that upends your industry, opens up massive opportunity, threatens your company, or forever alters your role.

Today we’re introducing a new, custom-tailored service to help you figure that out. The service combines journalism, research and market analysis to help you and your team understand the state of digital transformation (DX) and explore the key developments that will impact your employees and industry.

We call this our “Here’s the thing about…” service. Teaming up with the DX Journal, we leverage journalists, analysts, researchers and strategists to help your company get a full picture of:

  • What is likely to impact your industry
  • Your team’s readiness to deal with it
  • An in-depth look at major developments you need to pay attention to

Here’s how it works:

This service is designed to give perspective on how digital transformation will impact your company. We present our findings in an easy-to-understand format breaking down trends for multiple departments and for every skill set with documented takeaways and action items.

We uncover and share those findings in a simple, two-step process:

Step 1: Research & interview process

  • Custom research on digital transformation trends impacting your industry, customers, and competitors.
  • One-on-one interviews with your company’s executives, department heads or managers, employees and/or customers.

Step 2: Research presentation

  • A presentation to your company in an internal keynote-style presentation to any size group — be it a small strategy team or an all-hands employee seminar.
  • Our team of researchers, journalists and analysts will share the research findings, key trends in your industry and provide an overview of how well you’re set up to address challenges or embrace opportunities based on the employee interviews.

Who this service is for:

Let’s start by clarifying that digital transformation is not just an IT problem. Our clients are often leaders who are not technologists. In fact, many companies we speak with are surprised to learn how many areas of the business are impacted by DX, including marketing, HR, IT, sales, operations, legal, and others.

There’s no escaping that every area of a business is going to have to manage change that digital transformation brings. Digital transformation should not be left for the IT department alone to figure out.

With that in mind, we’ve designed this report and presentation service most commonly for executives and managers in:

  • Operations, finance & strategy
  • Human resource departments
  • Marketing and sales departments
  • IT departments

Sure, you might not have to deal with artificial intelligence in your accounting department tomorrow. Or chatbots in your HR department. Or big data solutions for your manufacturing warehouse. But how can you be sure if you don’t understand these emerging technologies? What if your competitors are? And what if they’re getting a 6-month head start?

To get started, please contact the DX Institute.

This post was originally posted on DX Institute.

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

3D printers creating car factories of the future

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3D printing. Photo courtesy HP
Photo courtesy HP
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The future for many industries is the 3D printer and the future factory will be composed of several industrial-sized printers. The car and automotive sector is one area likely to be affected. We survey the technologies.

One industrial area being revolutionized by 3D printing is the automotive sector. The application of the technology to the automotive sector remains relatively new. It was only back in 2014 that Local Motors printed the first 3D-printed car from an ABS carbon-fiber blend (about 80/20 respectively).

The car was called Strati. This was followed in 2016 when Honda released a new version of its Micro-Commuter car. Other car manufactures have followed, not necessarily printing entire cars but key components. The main drivers are consistency, reliability and a consistent reduction in lead-time.

A new report, titled “Global 3D Printing Automotive Market Analysis & Trends – Industry Forecast to 2025” predicts a 10 percent growth in the use of 3D printers to create most of the parts that go towards making cars and lorries by 2025. There are different types of 3D printing technologies being taken up by the automotive sector. These include electron beam melting, fused disposition modeling, laminated object manufacturing, three dimensional inject printing, stereolithography, and selective laser sintering. These are complex sounding words, what do they mean?

Electron Beam Melting is a high technology form additive manufacturing which uses an electron beam instead of a laser or thermal printhead. The process is commonly used for the production of incredibly dense metal parts.

Fused disposition modeling is an additive manufacturing(AM) technology commonly used for modeling, prototyping, and production applications. With the process a plastic filament or metal wire is unwound from a coil and supplies material to produce a part.

Laminated object manufacturing involves layers of adhesive-coated paper, plastic, or metal laminates being successively glued together and cut to shape with a knife or laser cutter.

3D inject printing involves recreating a 3D digital image by propelling droplets of ink successively to a substrate.

Stereolithography is a process for creating three-dimensional objects, in which a computer-controlled moving laser beam is used to build up the required structure, layer by layer, from a liquid polymer that hardens on contact with laser light.

Selective laser sintering uses a laser as the power source to sinter powdered material, aiming the laser automatically at points in space defined by a 3D model, binding the material together to create a solid structure.

What is interesting about many of these applications of additive manufacturing to the automotive industry is that they are being used to create lower cost (and more affordable) personalized cars.

Other manufacturers are using the digital technology to prototype, test, and produce all manner of tools, jigs, fixtures, and street-ready parts. While the technology still remains in its infancy for car manufacturers, the application of 3D printers is key to the digital transformation of the automobile sector.

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Energy

Finnish micro-factory highlights path to business success

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EID Tech Oy delivered its first ANT Plant LED tube microfactory to a customer in Kajaani. Photo courtesy EID Tech Oy
EID Tech Oy delivered its first ANT Plant LED tube microfactory to a customer in Kajaani. Photo courtesy EID Tech Oy
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Finland has a new approach to manufacturing and its tiny — but mighty. And it’s coming to the U.S.

The ANT Plant is a Finnish industrial innovation that involves constructing a micro-factory. This approach can challenge the existing practice of mass production in countries with low production costs.

The Finnish micro-factory approach challenges the established model of a large manufacturing plant and workforce. Such traditional plants are effective at producing standardized goods at a rapid rate. However, they are less effective at niche production and their high set-up costs require the large scale production of goods at a relatively low cost in relation to the sale price.

In contrast, the micro-factory concept is based on robotics and a flexible approach to manufacturing. The key selling point is that the factory can be set-up and put to work very quickly. Once established the manufacturing of products is straightforward.

The designers of the concept — EID Tech (Kuopio, Finland) — operate partnership agreements to allow for the upkeep and to cover the lifespan services of the micro-factories. This helps to reduce the operational expertise of the company who purchases a micro-factory, according to Jari Helminen, CEO of EID Tech.

The speed of the micro-factory construction process can be seen in the video below:

One ANT Plant concept is currently used to manufacture mass-produced LED lamp tubes. Through the process, up to one million LED lamp tubes can be produced per year. This includes the steps of assembly, testing and packing on only one production line.

This sets the basis for the micro-factory being particularly suitable for a range of electronic consumer goods, especially with the lighting sector (with what is termed ‘customer-specific industrial automation’). As well as LED lamp tubes the concept can be rapidly applied to LED bulbs and LED panels and down lights.

Initial interest has come from the global electronics industry. According to the developers, the value of ANT Plant is over 20 million euros with the potential for annual sales worth tens of millions of euros.

One of the investors in the concept is the Finnish businessman Pia Kantola. In a statement Kantola said: “I strongly believe in Finnish engineering skills and in EID Tech, which is a company with both innovativeness and perseverance, together with a thorough knowledge of the automation business.”

The Finnish manufacturers are targeting the U.S. because of the current industrial policy which allows for tax reliefs to domestic production.

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