Helping industries meet the challenges of tomorrow

Published on April 12, 2022

10 mins

Present in a wide variety of markets, Air Liquide is in a privileged position to observe and detect new trends, needs and uses across industrial ecosystems. Drawing on the powerful potential of essential small molecules and data management, the Group innovates with and for its customers to offer them new gas applications that contribute to their operational efficiency and address the challenges of both new emerging markets and the energy transition.

2 M industrial customers worldwide

€2.9 Bn of Industrial Merchant sales are related to solutions that protect life and environment

Foster

Data is a powerful tool for improving the customer and employee experience.

Laure Pouyanné

Business Data Manager, Industrial Merchant activity, Air Liquide

How does digital data enable Air Liquide to better meet the expectations of its customers?

Just like our customers, we have to produce sustainably, offer a quality experience and meet the latest industry expectations. Data is a powerful enabler for us in overcoming these challenges. The Integrated Bulk Operations1 program, which is currently being rolled out, is a good example. By digitally connecting logistical assets (production plants, tanks installed on customers’ sites or trucks), we are able to collect and analyze data to optimize the liquid gas supply chain in real time. The key here is that our logistics teams can anticipate customer requests and identify the right time for delivery by organizing more efficient and reliable delivery rounds. This gives us an agile logistics chain for better customer service while lowering our CO₂ emissions!

What role do employees play in this digital transformation?

Our employees are experts in our business processes and are in close contact with our customers. So involving them from the start is crucial when working together to build solutions that can improve our operational efficiency. This in turn provides a better customer experience. For example, the Digital and R&D teams worked with operators in France to design a solution that would increase their productivity in preparing customer orders for gas cylinders while optimizing handling operations.

What is the greatest challenge in optimizing data management?

Supporting decision-making, anticipating needs, managing performance and more. There is a wealth of data available and our teams were quick to see the value in capitalizing on it. So much so that you hear them talking about “their” data. Now the challenge is to upskill and train teams, an indispensable investment that maximizes the potential of data. In the future, using data will be part and parcel of employees’ everyday work.

There is a transformation underway that demands a completely different way of understanding and engaging our customers and their key stakeholders.

Steve Hope

Vice President Markets & Strategy, Industrial Merchant activity, Air Liquide

A new ecosystem intelligence approach is being tested in the Industrial Merchant activity. What does this involve?

Essentially, it is about challenging our orthodoxies around how we look at current and new markets. The idea is to go outside our normal bounds and look at all stakeholders, their drivers of change and their interactions. We then build a strategic analysis that better addresses an individual market, prioritizing actions and reducing the time to market for relevant solutions. To do this, we need to be part of a broad, diverse ecosystem where we are connected with key stakeholders. Supported by the i-Lab2, we’re testing the approach on some market segments such as water treatment in the pharmaceutical industry.

How strategic is this approach for your business?

To stay ahead in a fast-changing world, we must detect trends and understand how they will shape our business regarding new customers, stakeholders (customers, customers’ clients, suppliers, public authorities, etc.) and business models. By being proactively involved in an ecosystem, we can deepen our knowledge and ask ourselves the right questions: What will this customer look like in five years? How will energy transition trends affect customers, and what impact will they have on their business and on the value chain? Who are the new players in the market? This approach puts us at the forefront of change so we can understand how disruption impacts our customers’ needs, and we can anticipate their future expectations and come up with new solutions.

What is the value for Air Liquide and your customers?

An ecosystem-based process gives a much better read of the customer’s environmental, regulatory and supply chain context across markets, helping us to prioritize actions and align resources. We start with their pain points and ecosystem changes and then build on them using a customer-centric approach. This can also lead to unlikely pairings or partnerships that accelerate our thinking and shape customer outcomes. By identifying critical water treatment challenges within the pharmaceutical industry that could be addressed by our technological expertise, we forge new connections to solve issues and create value for every player in the ecosystem.

Achieve

Invent

To meet the challenges facing society, a profound transformation of industry is underway. Air Liquide is contributing by working with its customers to build more innovative and sustainable industries. The Group develops new solutions for the future that support those involved in bringing about new industrial revolutions, whether that is electric vehicles, 3D printing or the agriculture of tomorrow.

Electrical revolution

The electric vehicle revolution is gaining speed and Air Liquide is a key player, as gases are crucial in manufacturing the next generation of batteries with an extended range and a reduced carbon footprint. The Group provides its expertise to the world’s leading companies in this ecosystem. Gas solutions are needed along the entire value chain, from extracting raw materials and producing electrodes to assembling cells and recycling.
 

Additive manufacturing

In 2021, the first 3D-printed metal bridge was inaugurated in Amsterdam. This was a technological feat to which Air Liquide made a major contribution. The Group shared the welding and additive manufacturing expertise of its R&D teams and provided shielding gases to MX3D, the tech start-up that masterminded the project. More generally, industrial gases play a key role throughout the chain of additive manufacturing processes, ensuring their safe execution, operational stability and the final quality of the metal parts.

Alternative proteins

By 2050, the Earth will have 10 billion inhabitants, and food production will need to increase by 70%. This global challenge will mean using new sources of accessible, sustainable proteins such as plant proteins, insects or proteins derived from fermentation. Air Liquide is committed to this transition through the supply of gas and equipment solutions to those working in this field. The Group has forged R&D and industrial partnerships notably in Belgium, Canada, France and Germany, to support the development of this high-growth sector.
1. A program for digitizing the liquid gas supply chain. 
2. Air Liquide’s foresight department which investigates emerging trends and topics, and develops foresight tools and methodologies.