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On the way of digital transformation

Founded in 1863, Solvay is a global company focused on advanced materials and specialty chemicals, committed to developing top-notch chemistry that addresses next-generation mobility and improves resource efficiency.

Solvay’s innovative products and constantly evolving market solutions respond to fast-pacing demand in automotive and aerospace, smart and medical devices, batteries and energy efficiency to power the change; in mineral and oil extraction, among many other applications in consumer goods enabling agile and tailored solutions for each of our customer’s need.

Solvay is dedicated to a circular economy and collaborate with game-changers to spark the impact of cleaner and sustainable solutions globally. Its lightweight materials enhance cleaner transportation, its formulations optimize the use of resources and its performance chemicals improve air and water quality.

Diverse, entrepreneurial, and bright talent is Solvay’s beacon with 27,000 employees who innovate and manufacture products in more than 62 countries. It’s been part of the Group DNA since its very foundation, more than 150 years ago by Ernest Solvay, driving to serve as an open innovation hub housing the best minds for global advancement at all level of the value creation.

Research and innovation are at the heart of Solvay with more than 2,200 employees working in 21 major R&I centers worldwide.

In the frame of its digital journey, one of the key decisions taken by the Solvay Group was to implement an Electronic Lab Notebook covering all its R&I activities.

The solution selection

From the start, Solvay’s vision was to not just remove the reliance on paper-based processes wherever possible, but also to ensure that the chosen solution would support data capture, analysis and reporting across their organization.

When reviewing their requirements, Solvay understood that creating a long-term global knowledge repository was as key as managing the day-to-day operational activities. 2,200 people can generate a huge amount of knowledge and data – so locking this knowledge away in local repositories was not in line with their global R&I transformation plans.

Over and above the technical needs, Solvay needed to select a vendor that had experience with enterprise-level deployments. Having the right enterprise ELN software platform is one aspect, knowing what it means to deploy a platform on a global scale is quite another!

Demonstration scenarios were selected by Solvay to ensure that each vendor’s capability was explored fully. Capturing key project information, polymer composition components, calculating composition parameters and being able to define process conditions was important. In addition, data needed to be linked with previous steps and the platform needed to demonstrate the ability to report the data from multiple development steps efficiently to ensure effective collaboration across R&I teams and sites

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The deployment

To address the first part of Solvay’s vision (i.e. migrating from paper lab notebooks and moving unstructured data to a digital R&I platform) the Solvay Business Services (SBS)/IT and the Global Excellence departments worked with IDBS Professional Services. The aim was to deliver a solution customized to the needs of each R&I entities, including corporate and global business unit (GBU) teams, using a common digital R&I platform for integration and collaboration, and ensuring long-term consistency across the whole of Solvay.

Vincent Wilmet, Solvay Special Projects Mgr and general coordinator for the ELN deployment, said:

The project team must address on one hand the specific needs of each research organization in the Group, including corporate and BU laboratories, while maintaining a homogeneous platform common to all on the other hand. This challenge is also a good opportunity to discuss optimizations with each research team before deployment and is a chance to bring the Business and R&I functions closer together.

Four implementation waves were defined, starting in H2 2016 with the aim of rolling out the IDBS E-WorkBook platform to 1,500+ users across 30 global sites and 80 labs in 3.5 years.

Teams involved include corporate and all GBU R&I across multiple geographies including Belgium, France, Italy, Germany, China, South Korea, India, Singapore, Japan, Brazil and USA.

The results

Julien Antier, Solvay IS program manager, said:

“We decided on the IDBS E-WorkBook platform because our due diligence had shown it to be very powerful, flexible and user friendly.

Our goals have been confirmed. There was an immediate operational benefit in the labs with the IDBS E-WorkBook platform. Each project wave was delivered on time and on budget, thanks to the common project methodology and the high expertise of IDBS and partner’s Professional Services teams, resulting in smooth worldwide implementation.

High value creation has been achieved by the departments using the E-WorkBook Advance workflows. The faster workflow management, optimized data quality and structure has enabled faster innovation, cross fertilization of ideas and results and thus better service for our customers.

Due to the worldwide success of the project, Solvay’s plan is to support more sophisticated use cases by adding E-WorkBook Advance workflows, alongside Chemistry and Inventory management capabilities to those that need it.