Covestro has initiated a comprehensive strategic programme to anchor digital technologies and processes in research & development, production, logistics and at all points of contact with customers.
In a 25 May statement, the Leverkusen, Germany-based materials supplier said the “Digital@Covestro” programme was launched last year addressing three themes of operations, customer service and business models.
In the “digital operations” area, the cost efficiency of the company's own technical processes is being improved, primarily in production.
“Digital customer experience” opens up new digital channels for contact with customers while “digital business models” aims at new business models, for example online trading platforms for standard products.
Ahead of UTECH-Europe, being held in Maastricht, Netherlands 29-31 May, Covestro said it was undertaking a number of digital developments for the PU process chain.
Dr. Ulrich Liman, head of innovation in the polyurethanes segment, will give a presentation on this topic under the title “PU 4.0 – digital developments for improved polyurethane products” at the UTECh conference.
As part of the digitisation move, Covestro said, the entire PU value chain will be digitised in order to simulate all process steps – from the formulation and mixing of the PU systems to their processing and handling of the components with the aid of robots.
“This will significantly shorten development times and the implementation of integrated production processes,” it added.
Additionally, using digital calculation methods, Covestro also currently operates a “virtual chemical reactor”.
The company has developed software that calculates the changes in temperature and molecular composition, i.e. the progress of the chemical reaction.
In the digital process, in addition to important primary products such as urethanes and ureas, secondary reactions, the influence of catalysts or back reactions and the development of molecular networks are considered.
According to the German supplier, the tool has already proven itself in various projects, for example in the optimisation of Covestro's MDI prepolymer portfolio.
In the “digital customer experience” area, the company is supporting customers with new digital service elements.
The polyurethanes segment is currently offering its initial partners a digital service platform with a forecasting tool that determines the best PU formulations and processing conditions online for a specific production environment.
The tool has already been successfully tested at FoamPartner Fritz Nauer AG.
In the project, the software determined the influence of the weather on the production of flexible foam and proposed countermeasures to compensate for quality fluctuations.
Another online platform called i4pt0 is cloud-based and covers all segments of Covestro.
The focus there is more on the development of polymer products such as foams, elastomers, coatings, adhesives, sealants and polycarbonate compounds.
The software calculates raw material and formulation proposals for the customer according to the desired product properties. Tools for PU block foam production are already available on this platform.
Another part of Covestro's digitalisation strategy is a digital chemical trading platform.
In future, customers will be able to buy standard products efficiently online at current market prices. The platform was designed together with customers and is currently being tested.
Since 23 April, Covestro has also been offering its high-tech polymer products through a flagship store at 1688.com. This online platform operated by the internet giant Alibaba is currently China's largest marketplace for business customers.