Digital developments for the PU industry
All activities are bundled in the “Digital@Covestro” program and comprise three main themes: 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. “Digital Business Models” aims at new business models, for example online trading platforms for standard products.
Digital developments for the PU process chain
The program offers special opportunities for customers in the polyurethane industry because unlike thermoplastics the properties of these materials are characterised in a complex way by chemistry and process engineering. Covestro can also achieve significant improvements in its own process technology through digitization.
Covestro has been using digital technologies for years. Modern control rooms are steering its own production via a digital process control system with the aid of algorithms. Tool designs with filling simulations are common practice for customers in the automotive industry. In future, the entire 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 component with the aid of robots. This will significantly shorten development times and the implementation of integrated production processes.
Virtual PU synthesis
Using digital calculation methods, Covestro also operates a “virtual chemical reactor”. The company has developed software that precisely calculates the changes in temperature and molecular composition, i.e. the progress of the chemical reaction.
Not only important primary products such as urethanes and ureas are considered, but also secondary reactions, the influence of catalysts or back reactions and the development of molecular networks. The tool has already proven itself in various projects, for example in the optimisation of Covestro's MDI prepolymer portfolio.
Online prediction tool for optimized PU processing
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 here 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.
Online platforms for efficient procurement
Another pillar of Covestro's digitalization 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 April 23, Covestro has also been offering its high-tech polymer products through a flagship store at Alibaba.
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