Covestro pushes forward with the digitalisation of processes

In focus: added value for customers / More efficient processes through computer simulation / New formula finder for viscoelastic foams

Digitalization is one of the most important drivers of growth in the chemical and plastics industry. Covestro [] hopes to take advantage of resulting opportunities with a comprehensive strategic program. The central focus of the program is the goal of providing customers with added value and setting new standards in customer collaboration. To accomplish this, the company is incorporating digital technologies and processes into production, the supply chain, research & development, at all customer contact points and in new business model development.

A current emphasis of the new business models is the digitalization and optimization of process flows. By simulating process steps, development times at customers and along value chains can be reduced considerably, and process flows can be designed more efficiently. At the K 2019,[] for example, Covestro is presenting a new formula finder for viscoelastic foams, which are used primarily in pillows and mattresses – also in the medical and care field.

Calculating properties and formulas on the computer

“With an easy-to-use web-based calculation tool, customers can enter the desired physical properties of the foam and wait for the matching formulas to be calculated based on our raw materials,” explains Dr Lutz Brassat, an expert for polyurethane flexible foam at Covestro. “It can also do the reverse and determine the properties of a finished foam for a predefined formula. In any case, it saves time and materials and also costs.” The company is also increasing the processing power in a research project and is investing in advanced hardware.

To develop the digital tool, an interdisciplinary team at Covestro first manufactured various viscoelastic foams with the aid of predefined formulas and identified their properties. Based on these data sets, the team then generated an algorithm, which uses the properties of these foams to calculate other foam densities, hardness levels and viscoelastic behaviours.

More comfort in bed

A special feature of a viscoelastic foam is its shape memory: as soon as the weight is removed, the foam slowly regains its original shape (caption courtesy by Covestro)

Viscoelastic foam provides a high level of comfort and is therefore enjoying increasing popularity among consumers. For older or bed-ridden patients, it effectively prevents dreaded bed sores. Under the influence of its own weight and heat, a body lying on the foam sinks slowly into it, but is also supported by it. A special feature of a viscoelastic foam is its shape memory: as soon as a person changes position or gets up, the foam slowly regains its original shape.

Comprehensive program for digitalization

Covestro bundles its global digitalization activities in the comprehensive program “Digital@Covestro,” which is based on three pillars. The first relies on digital operating processes in production. Its aim is to make the construction, operation and maintenance of global production facilities more efficient and transparent. This also includes evaluating real time data with the help of end devices, in order to optimize plant maintenance.

Another pillar of the digitalization strategy is a digital trading platform for chemicals, which was developed according to the needs of customers and is currently being tested. Here, customers can buy standard products efficiently online at current market prices. Since April 2018, Covestro has also been selling products via a flagship store on This online platform of the internet giant Alibaba is currently China’s largest marketplace for business customers.

The third pillar involves new business models, primarily digital technical services. They are important for developing efficient production processes at customers and, above all, for digitalizing entire value chains. Covestro offers a comprehensive range of services here, which extends from chemical synthesis, to developing formulas, to processing and the subsequent handling of plastic products.

With 2018 sales of EUR 14.6 billion, Covestro is among the world’s largest polymer companies. Business activities are focused on the manufacture of high-tech polymer materials and the development of innovative solutions for products used in many areas of daily life. The main segments served are the automotive, construction, wood processing and furniture, and electrical and electronics industries. Other sectors include sports and leisure, cosmetics, health and the chemical industry itself. Covestro has 30 production sites worldwide and employs approximately 16800 people (calculated as full-time equivalents) at the end of 2018.