Artificial Intelligence and Big Data can, whenever applied with common sense, create value in a large number of industries. This includes the chemical industry. Together with Nouryon in Deventer, we have experimented with new technologies since last year. The goal: to improve an already outstanding service level for customers with AI and Big Data. Recently, we delivered Nouryon PCDS, which is a web application with which chemical lab data is stored in a structured and orderly way. With the application, a training set is created for the future deployment of machine learning.

Some context: customer questions at Nouryon Polymer Chemistry

Thanks to the years of effort both Business Innovation Campus de Gasfabriek and Nouryon have put into their relationship, a collaboration between Nouryon Digital and Aime was started last year. The goal: to find out whether we can allow Nouryon personnel at Polymer Chemistry, one of the business units at the chemical company, to enjoy more creative work. How? By reducing their repetitive tasks. Another question: can this be done with AI and Big Data? We set out to perform a feasibility study last year, in which we showed the opportunities for Nouryon. Based on the ‘go’ that was given subsequently, we went to work diligently on those opportunities.

Over the past years, Nouryon has created a special position for itself within the industry. First, the company is known for its outstanding safety principles, and second it delivers excellent customer service in case customers have questions about the products they received. This service level is the result of the extensive knowledge available within the group of technical development managers and support engineers. But there is more: Nouryon’s lab in Deventer works hard towards this goal too by performing various experiments, finding approaches to solve the problems for Nouryon’s customers, providing understanding about why production processes move in certain ways.

Handling experiments smarter – creating more challenging work

This service level is exactly the sweet spot for the value that AI and Big Data can create. Because, rather naturally, experiments have so far not been stored with an eye towards AI and Big Data, a very diverse collection of data sets has emerged. The first quick win realized by Aime is Nouryon PCDS: lab data is read autonomously and made accessible in a web application. In this web application, Nouryon’s lab personnel can augment the raw data and computed metadata with chemical context, such as components used and their ratios. This collaboration between Nouryon’s staff ensures the creation of an extensive database filled with experiments ultimately valuable to customers and research.

We explicitly perform our work with a human-oriented perspective. Aime strives to amplify human intelligence with smart tools. Because chemical experiments remain valuable over time, enhanced accessibility to those results will allow lab employees to increasingly test new combinations of chemical components.

Two next steps: PCDS testing and customer interface development

PCDS already contains those search functionalities. Nouryon’s support personnel can already search through the data that is stored and answer customer questions in a better way, thanks to the work at the lab. Over the next period, we will test PCDS with the lab to find how it needs to be adapted to make their work less cumbersome. For Aime, this is an exciting time, with ultimately substantially improved software as the end result.

At the same time, we’re also moving forward in terms of the business. We’re creating a mock-up customer interface which will eventually allow customers be served automatically. In a collaborative spirit, we recently found together with Nouryon representatives and an innovative distributor what such an interface should look like. This is how we work step by step towards a valuable deployment of AI and Big Data at Nouryon.

To be continued!