The Cognitive Approach to AI in Manufacturing for Formulation

29 April 2021
Los Angeles, CA
Alyssa Cotrina, Beyond Limits


Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions for the downstream and process manufacturing industry are proving themselves as frontrunners when it comes to streamlining processes and optimizing entire operations during this time of digital transformation. Organizations across the globe are grasping just how vital intentional digitalization strategies are to gaining competitive advantages and overall growth prospects; lubricant formulation companies and other blend manufacturers are no exception. Cognitive AI in manufacturing for lubricant and product formulation is already making its mark.
“Manufacturing companies are coming to realize just how important this tool can be to create a more efficient supply chain. Recent advancements in AI and data analytics have allowed manufacturers to eliminate potential bottlenecks and improve quality management in their manufacturing cycle. Industrial lubrication manufacturers can specifically benefit from this technology in many ways: procurement pattern breakdown, production scheduling, calculation of material requirements, increased efficiency of regularly scheduled maintenance, and increasing forecast accuracy are just a couple of areas that this technology can make a positive impact.” (Chemseed)
Intricate Industries that are Time-intensive & Require Significant Resources
Formulation and process manufacturing are multidimensional sectors with complex organizational requirements and sophisticated processes involving numerous stakeholders across facilities. Simply stated, business isn’t easy and it isn’t getting any easier – particularly as specialized domain experts become harder and harder to find. That essential knowledge is invaluable to processes and operations, yet not easily accessible. The industry is further complicated by the introduction of more and more constantly fluctuating protocols.
Conventional formula discovery and development processes for lubricants are complicated, costly, and time-intensive. The industry is primarily manual, demanding a lot of resources and research with habitual requirements, as well as several stages of discovery, optimization, and testing. Substantial specialized domain expertise and extensive trial and error procedures are also fundamental necessities that cannot be done without. All of this results in consistently high-cost, high-risk practices.
Eternally shifting regulations, oil and other base stock prices in a relentless flux-state, along with demanding technology needs have made maintaining profitability problematic for the lubricant industry. Maintaining a crucial competitive edge means the industry must evolve by reexamining traditional long discovery to testing methods in ways that heighten processes, fast-track time-to-market, and elevate operations.
The Threat of Losing Essential Expertise
Another huge concern involves the loss of long-standing expert formulators’ knowledge and experience as they retire from the workforce. In such a specialized field, with a limited reserve of domain experts, retirement and workforce attrition are made even more problematic. With sectors as exacting as formulation and process manufacturing, realizing program objectives commands both an advanced, cohesive method to blend identification and unlimited access to uniformly established sets of expert knowledge bases at any given moment.
Organizations are widely accepting that an imminent need exists for an industrial, state-of-the-art software solution that brings several steps of product development into a singular, cohesive platform while also integrating their extremely valuable institutional knowledge to leverage their most valuable assets – that being historical data records.
“The aim is not to replace formulators, but to automate only those aspects of their activity where it is reasonably practicable to do so. The basic approach taken is to view formulation as a hierarchical planning activity, with deep knowledge represented using a causal model. Formulation decisions are made by rule-bases which mix heuristic knowledge and causal reasoning, together with the facility for formulators to enter their own decisions.” (Elsevier Ltd.)
Lubricant Formulation Process Use Cases
Progress in technology will inevitably result in equipment designed to advance production, leading to accelerated operating speeds that yield higher temperatures and pressures. This increase will place greater demands on the lubricants. These demands, in conjunction with significantly decreased predictive maintenance requirements, increased levels of environmental cognizance, firmer safety protocols and fortified emphasis on energy efficiency, will continue to challenge the industry and propel the need for advanced AI in manufacturing for lubricant formulation to help it keep up.
Compelled by calls for a boost in efficiency and enhanced dependability, manufacturers figure lubricants will be put to use under harsher circumstances. While energy savings and productivity are vital to cost-effectiveness, constraining emissions and executing waste generation/removal are imperative to environmental considerations. There are many different use cases for industries that rely on lubricants, with the formulation process being vital to each respective industry; the following examples are just a few notables.
  • Industrial 

At the moment, some typical initiatives for the Industrial segment involve equipment downscaling simultaneous to upscaling productivity, realizing greater levels of output per unit of energy consumption. Recognizing said initiative consequently leads to higher strains on lubricants, whether from lesser oil quantities, higher temperatures, accelerated speeds, or larger loads. It’s also worth mentioning that oil is being expected to last longer stretches before needing to be changed. Such elements decrease equipment downtime and boost production while decreasing waste oil and accompanying disposal costs.

Several use cases exist in the industrial sector that require the most effective possible lubrication formulation techniques possible including the production of refrigerant, gas, air, natural, and hydrocarbon compressor oils to name a few examples. In this scenario, lubricants require congruity with the compressed gas, precise viscosity for compressor type, and elevated flash-fire point and auto-ignition temperature. Effective oxidation and carbon formation resistance, water separation, anti-wear/corrosion safeguards, and low temperature plus detergency for portable equipment are also necessities.
Another important use case demanding superior lubrication formulation includes the production of oils for the likes of steam, gas, and hydraulic (hydro) gas turbines. As an instrument converting the power of a gas or liquid moving over collections of rotors and stationary blades into rotary power, it is essential this process goes off without a hitch as it is one of the main methods for producing energy to our world – among numerous other essential functions such as powering aircraft engines, locomotives, and ships. In these scenarios, turbines require the formulation of oils that lubricate, seal, eliminate heat and contamination, as well as avert rust and corrosion.
  • Automotive
Currently, as engine and transmission technologies continue to evolve, some typical initiatives for the Automotive segment involve improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. The majority of countries have initiated aggressive policies around fuel economy and emission targets new automobiles must adhere to right out of the factory. In this scenario, engine lubricants require formulations that will decrease friction and block metal-to-metal contact, eliminate heat and wear particles, as well as neutralize combustion products and lessen corrosion. Clean engine component preservation and effectual cylinder sealing for exhaust gas blowby minimization are also required on top of elevated fuel economy and reduced emission expectations.
  • Renewables
Following up on the idea of reduced emissions, sustainability around lubricant formulation for the Renewables segment poses an important discussion. The mounting mindfulness for environmental concerns contributing to the climate crisis is making businesses more conscientious of the efficiency of the products they both utilize and produce in terms of waste and other economic impacts. The utilization of renewable biofuels in vehicles – and various other consumer products such as lubricants made from biodegradable and renewable base stocks – is rising as legislation and mandates around climate considerations become the norm for the majority of countries, industries, and businesses across the globe.
“I understand the importance of a worldwide movement toward a lower-carbon future. Our company plans to continue supporting client needs while tackling the cleaner energy challenge together, playing a part in the complex global challenge of transitioning to a future of less carbon while still meeting the energy needs facing our world today. Artificial intelligence will play a key role in helping companies and industries achieve net zero ambitions. Accomplishing a low carbon future will require more efficient operations that help increase productivity and reduce waste. AI for energy can work toward this with technology designed to optimize efficiency, yielding more economical utilization of resources to accelerate renewable, decarbonization and carbon-negative initiatives across the globe.” (AJ Abdallat for Forbes)
An Explainable Cognitive Formulation Advisor Leads the Pack
When all of these requirements for industries start to stack up, the only real contender to take on the challenges boils down to Beyond Limits’ Cognitive Formulation Advisor (CFA). This technology seamlessly blends all of the imperative needs of industries as critical as Formulation and Process Manufacturing, marrying all the features that comprise the perfect solution. Cutting-edge advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, data science, computer science, and cloud technology are employed to tackle such dynamic challenges. Cognitive AI in manufacturing for lubricant and product formulation makes use of a data-driven technique via web-based software that delivers a fast and effective solution in a fraction of the time conventional practices would typically take.
The solution encodes an organization’s historical blend data, constraints, and expert formulator knowledge. The system embeds that expertise into the workflow then leverages the information to cleverly recommend hundreds of viable lead candidates through an explainable solution with human-like reasoning. This fast, reliable and unified process standardizes formulation procedures, making them easily executable across an organization. The result is streamlined lead discovery and optimized testing processes, amounting to hundreds of optimal, readily identifiable top-performing – and more economic – blend combinations (with respect to material cost) within minutes.
Beyond Limits’ Cognitive Formulation Advisor is uniquely pioneering AI in manufacturing. It has the ability to work even in scenarios where data is missing or misleading; it is also fully explainable and transparent, buttressing trust and building confidence in predictions. The solution facilitates access to every bit of essential information, providing the ability to deep dive into every formulation blend recommendation with evidence-rich audit trails. The advisor is exactly that, acting as a trusted aide (rather than a replacement) to human decision-makers, providing support by augmenting decision-making for the better.
“It’s truly amazing, what this technology is able to do. By combining numeric and symbolic artificial intelligence, we have developed a tool that has unprecedented flexibility in terms of data type and application area within the general lubrication framework. Overall, more reliable predictions – both in terms of properties and test performance – reduce the risk of failure in later stages and significantly cut down on program time and cost.” (AJ Abdallat, Beyond Limits CEO)
Through increased holistic visibility into operations on a more global scale, process optimization and continuously advising on risk mitigation opportunities, CFA dismantles traditionally time-consuming, high-cost and high-risk processes, ultimately leading to reduced blend recommendation time-table from weeks down to minutes with high predictive accuracy of viscometric properties. When the goal is to achieve faster time-to-market with cheaper material, program and process costs, along with mitigating regulatory, compliance and other failure risks, CFA delivers.