Austmine 2021 Tech Talk
BASF’s partnerships facilitate our ability to keep moving forward to innovate for the future
SPEAKER: Ken Plozza / Head of Global Digitization – Mining
Ken begins his Tech Talk by showing the audience old BASF audio/video tapes.
Do you recognize these? For those in the room that don’t recognize them, then ask the other people what they’re about. To me, these are really good examples of BASF innovation. I’m going to talk a little bit about their history, but before I do, I just want to remind everyone who BASF is, to get some references here.
BASF is the largest chemical company in the world with 110,000 employees globally. We spend a significant amount of money on innovation across our entire portfolio with 2 billion last year and 4 billion the year before that. Significant numbers of our projects and products are about sustainability and we are continuing to make this a large part of our portfolio. This is huge from a manufacturing point of view as well. We have some good knowledge in the space of manufacturing even though we are a chemical company. That’s interesting, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Another thing is our commitment to climate change. BASF, being a chemical company, we want to be net zero by 2050, as everyone on the Paris Climate Agreement agreed to. We just accelerated what we’re doing now, and we’re going to be trying to get to 25% reduction ( 2018 numbers) by 2030. That is about 50% better than what the actual Paris Agreement requested.
Let’s get back to the actual tapes. Why are they a good example of BASF innovation? The history of these is pretty interesting. The tapes were developed back in 1932. I know that was a long time ago, but it was about choosing the best partner at the time. We developed it and were the first to record on tape. The first recording was the London Philharmonic Orchestra, if I remember rightly, in Ludwigshaven. We then had a history of just continuing to develop the technology over time. What was super interesting is that right at the heart of when the music industry kicked off, our technology was the one that was chosen because it was the market leader. When Panasonic and Philips first started to push into the music industry, they needed to record the music on the best media. Therefore, the master disc was recorded on BASF product.
When cassette tapes came out, as you probably all remember, that’s the one that you had for your all your music, all those songs. Then videos came, not the BETTA! VHS was then used, and BASF technology was preferred once again. In the mid-80s, BASF recognized that this media was probably not going to be the future because it was easy to damage. At that time, there was talk about this new light-based media, meaning CD’s. BASF once again partnered with some different R&D people and started working on the blue and the purple dyes that are photo sensitive. This know-how allowed us to create CD technology. BASF did that for a number of years. Then again, BASF recognized that the market was moving, and we had to stay ahead of the curve.
At that point, BASF started to investigate different ways of using chemistry to store memories. This led to USB types of technology. The point here is to show you several good examples of how BASF stays ahead of the curve. BASF is a large chemical company that focuses on innovation to keep moving forward for the future.
Let’s fast forward to 2018. BASF’s mining group, that’s us, started to recognize that mining is getting harder and harder. We knew that we had to embrace industry 4.0 and use it. We went out to the market and we found IntelliSense.io. We knew that IntelliSense.io was the partner we needed for this new branch of our business. Our goal is to combine our process and chemical knowledge with IntelliSense.io’s advanced data analytics and AI. We wanted to pull all this together to produce one well designed product. IntelliSense.io, prior to us joining them as a partner, had been focusing their attention in the manufacturing space.
IntelliSense.io recognized that the product they were making was well suited to really high risk or high variable data sets, like we see in mining. It’s nothing but variables. So, they adjusted their direction and the partnership came together. What came out of that partnership is the BASF Intelligent Mine, powered by IntelliSense.io.
So, what is it? There’s two parts of the actual product. There’s the underlying platform, which is called the brains.app. This is the actual architecture that sits underneath everything. This is where we collect the data that is used for AI basic mathematics. The second part of the platform is our optimization as a service applications. These are individual applications that sit on top of the entire platform. These are “ready to go” or “out of the box” solutions that provide value from a recommendation point of view. These solutions predict, they simulate and then they optimize to give you a recommendation on how to run your process at its best.
Let’s talk about why we think we’re different from other suppliers. What we found in the industry, particularly in the plant area, is that the traditional way of AI is to come in and do a heap of data mining. This process tries to find patterns in your data, correlations, then builds a model and then you go from there. What we’ve done is taken our chemists, mining experts, software experts, and data scientists and we pre-built our models. Since we have extensive knowledge of mining, we know how to adapt the AI component with specific mining processes. The result of that is the creation of models that are pre-built and ready to use. We know the inputs, we know what the output should be, and we know the process of working with miners. It is not about creating a particular model for your mine, it’s taking the pre-built model and calibrating it to your site.
This process allows for rapid implementation. There’s no need to come to your site and working things out. We’re coming, we’re getting the data, we’re feeding it into our model and we’re starting the calibration process in order to give you value as soon as possible. This general journey, from start to finish, is about four months. At the end of that journey, you should be able extract the full value of the actual apps. The other value, from a model point of view, is that we continue to update the model every three months. This is the benefit of having a pre-built model that we can modify. This gives you the latest information from your process. Service is also a significant part of the offering that we deliver.
In addition to that, we upgrade these models every six months. Since we’ve got a pre-built model, it’s not a model that’s owned by your site, per se. We’re importing mining data and site learnings so our models and our software continue to grow. Every six months we bring in the learnings that we’ve obtained from other places and use these learnings at your site. This is pretty powerful. We work with mines all around the world and work with several different applications. We have applications that cover main topics like digital stockpile, grinding, thickening, flotation, and pipeline pumping.
To finish up, what we found is super interesting. Australia has traditionally been at the forefront of change, look at this conference, look what’s happening in the mining space, particularly in digital. However, what we found is that in the plant space, in the benefication area, the uptake of these types of technologies have been way slower in Australia. When we look at what’s happening in South America and in Europe, the uptake is happening extremely quick. For the first time, in a long time, Australia is second on a lot of these things. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that they don’t recognize or understand that there are products that are “ready to go”. They’re thinking that traveling the same journey that mines have gone through previously is the only way. We’ve learned that it’s now about accelerating to keep up with technology that will support mine sustainability. For this reason, I recommend that you come and have a bit of a look at what BASF’s Intelligent Mine, powered by IntelliSense.io, has to offer.