What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of innovation? Artificial intelligence; perhaps virtual reality? Or maybe the latest digital devices? What about data? I’m guessing not.

On the surface data isn’t the most exciting subject. But at BOC we find it very exciting indeed.

Marco Del Seta BOC’s Head of Digital explains how over the last few years we’ve been working on ways to understand and exploit the value in data for our own business and for our customers.

How can data drive innovation?

At the simplest level, once you can identify a pattern in data, you can begin to plan around it.

For an industrial gas supplier like BOC, that might mean understanding seasonal peaks in demand and ensuring supply levels are in place.

But innovations in data management, such as intelligent tools that help to identify more nuanced patterns, or the ability to overlay different data sources, are helping us to make huge strides in predicting market behaviours.

Take healthcare as an example. BOC is the largest supplier of medical gases and gas equipment to hospitals and home users throughout the UK. It’s possible, by analysing seasonal purchase patterns, to prepare for a general increase in demand for oxygen during the winter months.

Now here is the really clever part. Imagine being able to drill down this data at a very local level and overlaying it with long-range weather forecasts, socio-economic information – even prescription dispensing data. With this additional level of unique insight, we’re able to identify very localised trends and accurately predict how much oxygen is likely to be needed by individual hospitals – before they even know it themselves. It means we can ensure stock is always in place when it’s most urgent.

This is what unlocking the power of data allows us to do. And it’s just one area of innovation that BOC is exploring right now.

Innovation is in our DNA

BOC has been reimagining for nearly 140 years – it’s what the business was founded on, and what continues to motivate and drive us today.

Reimagining gases means pushing the boundaries in new industries like clean energy and food production, as well as more familiar ground like welding.

Having personally come to BOC from a fast-moving San Francisco tech background, I continue to be impressed by the depth of knowledge amongst my colleagues – and it’s this knowledge that ideally positions us to take a lead in delivering improvements where they’re needed most.

But it’s not about innovation for innovation’s sake. We’re guided by two principles; pragmatism, and never losing sight of our customers.

We have the passion and curiosity to explore what’s possible, but if our customers have no need for an inventive idea, we know our energy can be wasted.

Small steps are often enough. Trackable digital cylinders can have as much of an impact on logistical and process efficiency as digitising welding data, and it’s our deep understanding of how our customers work that has led us to develop both of these products.

Of course, that’s not to say that blue skies thinking is off the agenda – one look at our augmented reality technology that is allowing remote engineering teams to collaborate on plant maintenance demonstrates this. But the core principle of focusing on our customers and their challenges remains.

The value of knowledge sharing

Pragmatism also stretches to acknowledging our limitations. With the pace of digital innovation we clearly don’t know everything, and much of the joy of developing new ideas comes from problem-solving with like-minded organisations.

Progress doesn’t come from working in silos. It comes from talking to people with clever ideas and the means to get things done, and whether that’s participating in government-led initiatives, building partnerships with other businesses, or giving our own employees a platform to get involved, it’s ultimately about helping our customers to thrive now – and into the future.

Digital innovation is helping us to reimagine how we work. View our latest video below for the intelligent applications and solutions we’re developing that could give your business the edge.

Marco Del Seta
Head of Digital, BOC