This concept is energizing research and development processes.
First, because product life cycles are getting shorter. The life of a product range has shrunk from between seven and 10 years to just a few, "which also spurs a greater need for research and development. For example, teams are already working on the next-generation Excellium fuel line4, expected to reach the market in 2020 or 2021, even though we've just launched the latest upgrade. So our researchers must work on shortening time to market," says Philippe Montantême. M&S's R&D is now applying a predictive process. "We use customer needs as the starting point to blueprint the ideal chemical structure that offers the specified properties. So we're looking for the best formulation to meet a need and, ultimately, plan its production via conventional manufacturing or using bio-compounds. At the same time, we must constantly focus on protecting users and the environment."
Second, by incorporating digital technology into the development process of certain products. CReS has devised novel test methods to precisely measure product benefits. "In the field of fuels and lubricants, the vehicle is the ultimate arbiter," comments Philippe Montantême. "However, running a car for 200,000 kilometers is expensive and time-consuming. Numerical modeling lets us figure out which formula is the most efficient and how the molecules interact with one another."
This doesn't stop engineers from getting their hands dirty — literally. "In 2015, CReS researchers brought in vehicles with high mileages to better understand customers' fuel issues," recalls Philippe Montantême. "The engines were disassembled one by one, and the grime on each engine part was analyzed in the lab to establish its source. That's how they came up with a new fuel formulation. Keep in mind that, worldwide, there are countless varieties of fuel tailored to the regulations of different countries and engines. It's a long-term, multi-faceted cycle that never ends!"
CReS is also cultivating partnerships with top teams to quickly ramp up its skills and capabilities. "We have a vast ecosystem comprised of customers, Total's different business segments, the automotive industry and highly specialized universities," notes Philippe Montantême. "Now we can share our current research and future projects with them. Our longtime partnership with PSA Group, for example, helped us cut the carbon emissions of vehicles just off the production line by up to 5 percent using our factory fill oil5. We need R&D that is dynamic and innovative, meaning that we anticipate regulations, rather than wait for them."