Artificial Intelligence and the Chemical Industry’s Rebound from COVID-19

It should come as no surprise that the Chemical Manufacturing Industry, like all industries, has experienced quite a shake up this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Global supply chain disruption, erratic spikes and lulls in demand, operational constraints and the nature of on-site jobs are just a few of many obstacles that the Chemicals industry faced as a result of the pandemic.

Let’s consider some chemical industry statistics that frame the impacts of these constraints on the global economy…


According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics from data in September 2020, Chemical Manufacturing companies employ roughly 838,000 people in the United States alone, of that 838k roughly 524,000 are production and nonsupervisory employees.

The below figures are according to statista.com: 

In 2019, the Chemical Industry represented a total worldwide revenue of roughly 3.94 trillion U.S. dollars, with China controlling a 35.8% share of the revenue.

The leading Global Manufacturer of Chemicals, based on a revenue of approximately 65.3 billion U.S. dollars, was German chemical company, BASF. They were also the leaders in the category of global employment with approximately 118,280 employees.

In the United Kingdom the chemical and pharmaceuticals industry represent the second largest industry and a significantly important part of the national economy.


Based on this small sample of statistics alone, it is very clear to see that the Chemical Manufacturing Industry represents a significant part of our global economy. The good news is that as we learn more about the virus and find creative strategies to combat it, including artificial intelligence applied in various ways, we are already starting to see the Global Chemical Production rebounding from some pretty significant losses.


Percent change in chemical production due to COVID-19 worldwide 
between January 2020 and August 2020, by region 
GIObal 
Africa & 
Middle 
East 
Chile 
Latin 
America 
Mexico 
North 
America 
India 
China 
Asia. 
Pacific 
Former 
Soviet 
union 
Belgium 
Italy 
France 
Europe 
January 
2020 to 
Februa ry 
-2.1% 
0.1% 
2.3% 
-0.4% 
-0.1% 
-6.4% 
-3.7% 
-0.9% 
0.5% 
February 
2020 to 
March 
-3.3% 
0.2% 
-2.5% 
-1.1% 
-7.2% 
-8.3% 
-5.4% 
2% 
-0.8% 
-2.1% 
0.2% 
March 
2020 to 
April 
0.1% 
-8% 
-3.4% 
-2.9% 
-2.6% 
-15.9% 
1% 
-0.4% 
-0.1% 
-5% 
-4.2% 
-2.3% 
April 
2020 to 
May 
-0.5% 
-0.9% 
-10.2% 
-4.9% 
-6.5% 
-2.3% 
-13.7% 
4.8% 
1% 
-3.3% 
-3.9% 
-3.1% 
May 
2020 to 
June 
2020 
1.6% 
-1.2% 
-6.7% 
-3.2% 
-1.9% 
1.1% 
6.5% 
3.3% 
3.7% 
0.9% 
0.2% 
June 
2020 to L 
July 
1.7% 
0.3% 
-1.9% 
0.5% 
-1.1% 
1% 
17.6% 
2.1% 
1.7% 
1.9% 
2.8% 
5% 
3.2% 
3% 
July 2020 
August • 
2020 
2.7% 
2.9% 
4% 
0.9% 
10.3% 
3.3% 
2.9% 
1.3% 
2.6% 
4.9% 
1.7% 
3.6%
Source: Statista

Global production is rebounding slowly, but surely, with a 2.7% uptick in production from July of 2020 to August of 2020 with the most significant increase coming from India after a pretty difficult downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The rebound in this industry is pivotal to the health of our global economy, as illustrated by the statistics above which represent how important chemical manufacturing is.

What steps have the Chemical Manufacturers taken in order to begin rebounding quickly and contributing to our global economy?


Many Chemical Manufacturers have turned to Artificial Intelligence and Digitization in order to combat challenges presented by COVID-19 whether they are applying these technologies to part of their process or to their entire estate.

Let’s take the international race to find a vaccine as an example. Many corporations have worked together to use Artificial Intelligence to rapidly increase the ability to find a treatment. Dan Drapeau, Head of Technology at Blue Fountain Media, has posited that Artificial Intelligence, when applied in the capacity of finding a vaccine, has become “a necessity right now, because we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and it’s vital for us to figure out a solution or vaccine therapy as soon as possible.

Mefuparib 
PARPI 
SARS-cov-2 
Toremifene 
Viral RNA 
NSP14 
RNA-dependent 
RNA polymerase 
Dexamethasone 
NR3C1 
Remdesivir 
AAKI 
Melatonin 
MTNRIA 
Baricitinib
Source: The Lancet
AI algorithms can be used for drug repurposing, which is a rapid and cost-effective way to discover new therapy options for emerging diseases.

Artificial Intelligence is a massive disruptor in the vaccination process in regards to reduction of time consumed by molecular analysis and how the molecules should be used in chemical binding to target the disease. In short, humans can’t possibly conduct analysis on the billions of different molecules as it would take far too much time that our global population just doesn’t have. AI has been able to automate this process for the pharmaceutical industry to increase capacity, help predict which drugs would most likely be successful and also decrease the amount of financial resources spent on clinical trials that might ultimately fail.

But Artificial Intelligence’s reach in the chemical industry only begins here and, as a result of the pandemic, it truly has become a necessity for corporations to survive and even thrive in the current environment.

Chemical manufacturers, as well as other industries, all over the world are partnering with Elutions in order harness the power of Maestro’s Artificial intelligence to combat the disruption that COVID-19 has created. Maestro, when applied to the chemical manufacturing process at an estate-wide level, has the ability to transform operations.

To learn more about Digitization and Maestro Artificial Intelligence, stay tuned for Friday’s (Oct. 23) article on Digitization and Quantifying the Impacts of Artificial Intelligence. Also, please read previous articles regarding our work using Artificial Intelligence to combat COVID-19.


Up Next for NCW: Digitization and Chemical Manufacturing


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Artificial Intelligence: A Green Chemistry Technology

Sustainability has been a buzzword for at least the last decade across all industries and even within people’s homes but it seems now, more than ever, it is actually becoming a leader in disruptive change for corporations all over the globe. We see this push in Chemistry with the increased focus on “Green Chemistry” which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines as “the design of chemical products and processes that reduce or eliminate the generation of hazardous substances.”

Green Chemistry represents a broad reach in the Chemical Industry to become more sustainable in many different facets of the word. The EPA states that corporations that create technology which, “reduces or eliminates the hazardous chemicals used to clean up environmental contaminants” are creating green chemistry technology. Per this definition, Artificial Intelligence, when applied to Chemical Manufacturing Process to reduce environmental contaminants or when used to develop materials in a less hazardous way, and many more applications, can and would be considered green chemistry technology.

Dr. Paul Anastas, known as the “Father of Green Chemistry” and the Director of Yale’s Center for Green Chemistry & Green Engineering, has shed even further light on sustainable chemistry sharing his ideas that not only is Green Chemistry about aligning environmental and health goals but also the consideration that “Green” must extend to economic goals through new inventive and innovative change.

Dr. Yuan Yao, a rising star in the industry and a Yale Professor, has worked alongside Dr. Anastas to conduct investigative research that illustrates, “…how emerging technologies and industrial development will affect the environment,” and she also uses, “interdisciplinary approaches in industrial ecology, sustainable engineering, and machine learning to develop systems analysis tools to support engineering and policy decisions towards sustainability.”

It is Dr. Yao’s belief that, “artificial intelligence shows great potential in reducing the energy consumption and environmental footprints for the chemical industry.” And the team at Solve The Unsolvable and Elutions have to agree with her, as our lengthy experience in chemicals and beyond prove this statement to be true

Artificial Intelligence, and Elutions’ Maestro Platform specifically, can certainly be considered innovative and a large contributor to sustainable chemical manufacturing. Our team works tirelessly to solve previously unsolvable business quandaries in the Chemical Industry and beyond to create more sustainable business processes and practices. Through the bespoke application of Maestro AI across the entirety of the chemical manufacturing process, from procurement all the way through to the sale of the product, enterprise efficiency is taken to a new level.

Not only does Maestro cover many of the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry such as waste prevention & energy efficiency but it goes far beyond to incorporate Dr. Anastas’ ideals of taking into account economic goals, through significant operating margin increases and constant innovation within our Neural Network. Maestro maximizes benefits with continuously increasing speed, scale, and impact.

To learn more about Maestro, please contact us and to read more about our work in chemicals, and beyond, please subscribe below.


Up Next for NCW: Digitization and Chemical Manufacturing


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National Chemistry Week Celebration!

Each year in the United States, since the late 1980s, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has designated a week, National Chemistry Week (NCW), to celebrate and promote to the public the positive changes in the Chemical Industry. This year’s NCW theme is “Sticking with Chemistry” with a focus on Glues and Adhesives, something that touches all of our lives, almost daily and especially the lives of children. While the ACS predominantly focuses on educating elementary and secondary school children, we would like to share our thought leadership with businesses around the globe.

As a company with several partnerships within the Chemical Industry, including a membership in the Chemicals Industry Association in the United Kingdom, Elutions is excited to share the positive changes we, and Artificial Intelligence in general, have made through Chemical Themed articles celebrating this year’s National Chemistry Week from October 18th through October 24th.

Please check out our upcoming articles on Monday 10/19, Wednesday 10/21, and Friday 10/23 about the positive changes being made, specifically in the Chemical Manufacturing Industry, through Artificial Intelligence and our AI platform, Maestro.

To learn more about Maestro, please contact us.


Up Next for NCW: Digitization and Chemical Manufacturing


Stay up-to-date on this series and all of our industry disrupting insights!

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AI & COVID-19: Safely Back to School

As we enter September, in one of the strangest years to date, COVID-19 has infiltrated nearly every facet of our everyday lives. When people leave their homes, it is normal to grab keys, cellphone, wallet and now a mask. For most, the changes have simply become the new routine. But one of the biggest disruptors caused by COVID-19 is in the return to campus for many college students. This results in colossal questions being asked, and one extremely important question:

How can we ensure the protection of our student-body, faculty and staff braving the return to college campuses across the globe?

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) released that “…current evidence suggests that COVID-19 spreads between people through direct, indirect (through contaminated objects or surfaces), or close contact with infected people via mouth and nose secretions. These are released from the mouth or nose when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks or sings, for example.” We recognize that the spread of COVID-19 is an Airborne illness and yet, if colleges are to re-open this fall as many already have, how can we protect the integrity of the open, constructive in-person dialogue that many classrooms thrive upon? The answer exists, partially, in making the environment on campus the healthiest for all, limiting the spread of COVID-19.

According to the WHO, many reported outbreaks of COVID-19 share their occurrence in “closed settings, such as restaurants, nightclubs, places of worship or places of work where people may be shouting, talking, or singing.” Additionally, the lack of social-distancing in practice and lack of mask wearing increased the rate of the spread and we’ve seen in many States bars and restaurants closing again to contain outbreaks. One of the most important things to pay attention to regarding these outbreaks and the future spread is this statement from the WHO,

In these outbreaks, aerosol transmission, particularly in these indoor locations where there are crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces where infected persons spend long periods of time with others, cannot be ruled out.”

The World Health Organization

Beyond wearing a mask, social distancing and lowering the capacity of contained spaces, the physical environment of the classroom and broader spaces can have a profound effect on the virus’ ability to spread. We acknowledge that this is one of the keys leading to the decreased spread of COVID-19 on the College Campuses, increasing the safety for all. In fact, we are currently working with esteemed universities to prepare their shared spaces for the return of activity on campus.

For years, our team has followed the gold star of industry standard guidelines from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and other international equivalents in our work on campuses and beyond. ASHRAE published a report in April of 2020 to rebut some false statements regarding HVAC and also put out a full statement with guidelines regarding the optimal HVAC conditions to decrease the spread of COVID-19.

In their reports, ASHRAE specifically stated the following, “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.” This is not only pivotal to the re-opening of college campuses but in all industries where offices are re-opening for example, busy sales floors at large corporations or call centers where many people are talking all day long in close quarters.

In relation to universities and colleges specifically, our team works with facilities teams to automate implementation of the guidelines set by ASHRAE’s Epidemic Task Force. The new guidelines for COVID-19 are vast and the automated implementation by Maestro allows for facilities teams to focus on non-COVID-19 related projects. While Maestro’s core remains to reduce operational and energy spend, our team is passionate about making the working environment as safe as possible for students, faculty and staff to return to this fall.

With Maestro, it is possible to return to safer classrooms and offices, all while achieving significant energy and maintenance cost reduction opportunities through automated, no-cost measures across the campus, eliminating the need for direct human interaction with the University’s assets.

Contact us to learn how Maestro can make your campus a safer place to return to.


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Solved: Dismantling the Silo

We are living in a world that is obsessed with connectivity yet so many large corporations are still working in silos. How can a corporation become connected and move towards Industry 4.0 if their data and systems are trapped in silos? This is a problem many corporations, big and small, face today. In order to understand and address the problem, first we must understand the silo. There is a solution, there is a path forward and Artificial Intelligence can lead the way.

Silos are created when information, goals, tools, priorities and processes are not shared with other departments and this pitfall becomes enforced by corporate culture. An effort to achieve the lowest overall cost and best functionality for different departments, or in the case of some manufacturers the same department in different plants, has created disparate data. Many systems are programmed to not function well together or only function in a stack but there is technology out there dedicated to dismantling the silo.

Executives often get into the trap of thinking the only way to advance into Industry 4.0 is to update disparate systems and increase capital expenditures. What many execs and people in all corporate functions do not yet understand is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be the systems connector. The entire premise of AI is built on the notion of interconnected information that may have previously been thought to be unconnected entirely. It is entirely unnecessary for a corporation to increase CAPEX when working with the right AI provider.

In order to get the most accurate picture of underlying issues within the corporation, AI must be able to connect to a vast amount of data from many different silos. This doesn’t mean that you have to dismantle the silos, you just need the right AI connector…. Let Artificial Intelligence be your Silo Dismantling Agent.

Data Bias on the Daily: What’s in your Amazon Cart?

With multiple billions of packages shipped per year, and even more billions of items purchased, it’s no wonder that Amazon is a household name. In the time it takes you to read this article, an estimated 100,000 items will be purchased on Amazon. But how many of those purchases will be impacted by data bias? It’s likely every single one.

Have you ever stopped to think about the algorithms behind those convenient home page suggestions, people also purchased, and related to items you viewed? Maybe in passing or idly but likely not in detail. In this post we will be exploring just how much one quick search on Amazon can be littered with bias.

Bias can end up in your shopping cart in many different stages along the way. It’s safe to assume that Amazon wants to maximize it’s bottom line, even though they claim they want to provide the consumer with a great deal. When the engineers set to writing shopping algorithms at Amazon corporate, they have to add parameters that are computable and achieve a certain goal. With this in mind, they are likely adding the bias that they would like to increase Amazon’s bottom line (aka, profitability of your purchase). Let’s apply this to an example search.

Perhaps you’ve been searching for storage solutions for your messy closet. The moment your results appear for “closet storage” you are encountering data bias. Exhibit A, the screenshot below:

You’re looking at the first instance of bias because a majority of the page is showing you “sponsored” results. “Funding Bias” is written into many algorithms all over the internet and is the reason why sponsored items always show up first. These brands: JYYG, TYPE A, OUMYJIA and JEROAL are paying to bias your search. This is one of, if not the most common search bias encountered but we see so much “sponsored” content that, at this point, we may not even think of the bias’s effects.

Regulations have been placed on funding bias, note the “Sponsored” tag and other evidence for example on social media platforms when influencers post with “#ad.” These indicators are set up to clue in the consumer that their purchasing decisions are being biased by funded posts, something relatively new the last several years. Corporations spent years biasing search history towards paid posts without having to let the consumer know, this is a huge stride against hidden data bias. There’s nothing wrong with “pay to play!” As a consumer, this can be a helpful way to find one of your new favorite brands, products or technology solutions but people now believe it’s important for the consumer to know when funding is biasing their purchase.

Another example of bias in this search are the items marked with the “best seller” tag. Under “Help & Customer Service” Amazon.com says: “The Amazon Best Sellers calculation is based on Amazon.com sales and is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.com.” There is a litany of data bias that could be going on here. Was the “Simple Houseware” organizer at one point a “sponsored” post which led to it becoming a “best seller?” A quick google search shows that Simple Houseware only sells on Amazon, this could be another contributing factor to the status as a “best seller.” We simply do not know the parameters the calculation is setting for “sales” as that is quite a broad term.

To play devil’s advocate, the “sponsored”  results could be amazing products that you will purchase, love and even re-order in the future. The data bias written into the “Best Sellers” calculation could absolutely be favoring great products you will know and love. However, it’s critical that we don’t turn a blind eye to the bias and we continue to scroll past the “sponsored” and “best sellers” to get a full picture for purchasing.

The objective of this article isn’t to get you to stop buying from Amazon but rather to consider the data bias right in front of you. If there is this much data bias in one simple Amazon search, how many more things in your life are impacted by data bias? How much is your business and its bottom line impacted by data bias? Algorithms, AI and their inherent bias are a part of daily life. How will you use them to create change for good?


Up Next for NCW: Digitization and Chemical Manufacturing


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Data Bias on the Daily

Our upcoming September Blog series is Data Bias on the Daily: How Data Bias in Artificial Intelligence is Impacting You. This series will focus on data bias in various forms encountered daily and the goal is to educate consumers on how bias can enter algorithms, knowingly and unknowingly. It is important to define bias:

Bias: The systematic favoritism that is present in the data collection process, resulting in lopsided, misleading results.

How to Identify Statistical Bias

Bias in Artificial Intelligence and algorithms is sometimes intentional, can be caused by a number of things including, but not limited to, sample selection or data collection, and can be avoidable, if that is the desired outcome. (Many corporations want to write their algorithms with bias, in order to increase their bottom line.)

Maybe you’re a woman searching for a STEM job, but the data is biased against your application? Perhaps, your Amazon search is biased towards products and brands that will only increase Amazon’s bottom line? Data bias is even entering our judicial system, is it possible that algorithmic “advancement” is simply confirming long standing racial bias?


Stay tuned to learn more about how Data Bias impacts our daily lives by checking in with us on Mondays in September (9/16, 9/23 and 9/30).



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Artificial Intelligence… A Buzz Word?

It’s a super-computer. It’s technology.  It’s a Computer Brain.  It’s a….Buzz Word?


Artificial Intelligence or “AI” is all the rage in consumer goods and services, and analysts say it will change the face of business forever, but what exactly is “Artificial Intelligence”. The market has failed to define what this ambiguous buzz word means, but yet investors are readily throwing billions of dollars at companies that claim to be “AI- Focused”.  According to the Financial Times,

“Companies branded as AI businesses have historically raised larger funding rounds and secured higher valuations than other software businesses. The median funding round for an AI start-up last year was about 15 per cent higher than for a software start-up.”

Financial Times

And yet investors struggle to understand what Artificial Intelligence means.  Is it the technology?  Is it the application?  Is it the result?

Artificial Intelligence has become a catch-all phrase for various types of computer and data science technologies and applications aimed at automating work and aiding in decision making.   Articles on the proliferation of AI in the enterprise market speak to the vast potential use cases, the efficiencies, the streamlined customer experience, but fail to define the technology. Instead, authors caveat their prophecies with statements which undermine the entire industry, “Granted, not all AI systems are alike. Some of them are relatively ‘dumb,’ because they use pre-determined inputs and outputs”.  Enterprise organizations have been leveraging “If/Then” logic programming for decades to optimize their operations, from PLCs on the manufacturing floor, to excel sheets in the board room or sales office.  Is a simple system that has pre-determined inputs and outputs anything more than a logic sequence? 

In truth, Artificial Intelligence is a combination of complex technologies which together have the power to change the way we do business, but how many companies have successfully developed the advanced integrated technology to deliver this seismic shift in enterprise value?  True Artificial Intelligence requires much more than a logic sequence – from system agnostic data connectivity, neural networking, autonomous data-cleansing, to machine learning, automated root cause analysis and continuously learning autonomous decision making and self-scripting technologies – the technology that will transform enterprise operations and ultimately, organizational value, has arrived, but true Artificial Intelligence is far less prevalent than a market summary would lead you to believe…