Enabling Digitization by Sharing Material Quality & Sustainability Data Across Company Boundaries

EDITOR: MARC GEHRING

In the chemical industry, certification for raw materials is essential to ensure quality standards. The so-called certificates of analysis (CoAs) can also contain information about sustainability and environmental impact, such as the CO2 footprint. Combining such data with blockchain technology entails tremendous progress since today’s paper-based documents will be replaced with tamper-proof machine-readable records. This is key for a circular economy since the transferred data can be fully traced and the materials’ origin can be reliably identified.

A s the world’s leading chemical company, BASF was looking for a way to facilitate the use of certificates of analysis for all stakeholders in their supply chains. Traditionally, these certificates are paper documents containing information about the quality of the raw materials. Besides finding an appropriate digital transfer format, BASF wanted to introduce a new template for additional sustainability data, to enhance quality and visibility. This technology could then support BASF’s environmental and sustainability ambitions going forward and allow their suppliers to follow suit. Making environmental specifications more transparent is a critical step towards reaching a circular economy.

Being aware of the nascent blockchain technology, BASF was open to solutions for trustless data sharing of batch-specific sustainability data in the circular economy. To run the project, they were looking for an experienced and knowledgeable partner, which they found in the Austrian blockchain startup S1Seven which specializes in digital quality certificates for industrial materials. Through their collaboration, BASF wanted to improve existing standard procedures of materials data handling in supply chains, with the intention not to replace but to digitally amplify existing processes. This technology also had the potential to become an important contribution to the Catena-X Automotive Network.

The Project

The overall goal of the project was to digitize certificates of analysis. That meant moving from the common electronic document format PDF to electronic data exchange standard JSON. This step would enable all parties involved to process CoAs automatically and discover new applications by leveraging the value of easy-to-consume material data.

Looking beyond the current take-make-dispose extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system.

Sustainability data, such as CO2 footprint or share of recycled materials, are additional quality attributes of materials on a per- batch basis. BASF figured that an open format for CoA including sustainability attributes is the ideal medium to transport such information along the value chain.

In addition, blockchain was used to create auditable and accountable traceability for JSON-based CoA documents and also sustainability data. BASF and S1Seven formulated the requirements needed to digitize the current CoA scope and future extension with sustainability data. S1Seven translated the requirements into a JSON schema and implemented the blockchain interactions network application.

Future Outlook

Looking ahead at the next steps of this collaboration, the JSON data structure will soon be evaluated with other vendors of various materials. BASF and S1Seven also intend to provide the format schemata and tools to the supply chain industry as open-source software, with the objective to support everyone along the supply chain. Extending the platform to customer’s customers (B2B2B), using batch-specific information to provide intelligent processing machines with exact data on material properties, and automatically checking a supplier’s qualification status are also potential use
cases. Ultimately, the platform could path the way from isolated data silos to non-hierarchical, industry-wide data chains with an even wider range of use cases.

Acknowledgments

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Henning Schwabe (BASF, Innovation Solutions), Dr. Andreas Wollny (BASF, Project Lead Catena-X Automotive Network) and Stefan Grüll (S1Seven).

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Plug and Play Tech Center, Mercedes-Benz AG, ARENA2036, University of Stuttgart, ZF, DXC Technology, Porsche, BASF, Webasto, Motherson, DPDHL, Bosch, Schaeffler, STMicroelectronics, Murata, AGC, Hyundai, Linde, BP, Wieland, Faurecia, Eberspächer, ADAC, Sekisui, Plastic Omnium, Zenzic, Maxion, Novelis, ITT, Grupo Antolin, Huf Group, CEAT

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Contact for this project

Theodora Alexe, Ventures Associate, STARTUP AUTOBAHN powered by Plug and Play, theodora@pnptc.com

Dr. Aggeliki Quell, Technology Scout Automotive Industry, BASF, aggeliki.quell@basf.com

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