Convenience is king: Customising specialty gases

Enquiring about specialty gas mixtures just got smoother, more time-efficient and more transparent than ever – thanks to Linde's SPECIFY 1.0.

Linde is taking a smart step to drive the specialty gas business into the future.

You can’t have your cake and eat it, as goes the popular proverb – meaning you can’t have two incompatible things at the same time. In the world of business, being product-centric and delivering custom-tailored solutions seemed mutually exclusive in the past. Today, through digitalisation, however, companies have unprecedented opportunities to put customers’ needs at the heart of their decision-making, writes Forbes’ Brian Scudamore. Opportunities that also Linde is fully embracing.

The company is spreading a sparkle with SPECIFY 1.0 – the online specialty gas mixture configurator with which chemists, pharmacologists and researchers will be able to check whether their preferred mixture is commonly deliverable.

Please specify: Catering to clients’ needs 

“With SPECIFY 1.0, customers can configure and request almost any specialty gas mixture you can imagine,” says Dr Stefan Lenz, Senior Business Development Manager Digitalisation at Linde. Offering a guided self-service process, SPECIFY 1.0 is designed to make selecting the correct specialty gas mixture smoother, more time-efficient and more interactive – with benefits both for clients and Linde. “We’re looking at a market with a major potential – and we intend to expand SPECIFY 1.0 beyond European borders to the EMEA region,” adds Gabor Szekeres, Senior Manager Cylinder Business Development at Linde. 

Once the client has selected the desired number of components, the platform automatically suggests the next most common ingredient. Alternatively, users can choose from a list of more than 700 fixed specialty gas mixtures, as well as manually select both simple substances like carbon dioxide and complex chemical agents like 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene. And there’s more: “If you assemble an odd or unknown mixture, SPECIFY 1.0 will recommend a similar mixture which is certain to be deliverable from a technical perspective,” Szekeres says. “Yet it allows you to insist on your previous choice.” 

After the client has finished specification, the platform can instantly notify him as to whether his blend can be produced. In parallel, Linde experts perform a final feasibility test and quickly contact the client with an offer. In the days of fully manual orders, just getting a reply could take up to two weeks. 

According to Regina Grassl, Senior Process Expert Specialty Gases at Linde, clients from the pharmaceutical industry and environmental research who use methods of analysis such as gas and liquid chromatography have a particular need for highly specified test gases. Why? To calibrate their instruments. The more specific the calibration gas is, the less time an analysis will take. “Some of our clients face technological challenges resulting from new industry standards or legal requirements,” says Grassl. One example: CO2 and NOX measuring devices for automotive applications. “By guiding our clients through the certification procedures and providing them with an instant reply, we’re contributing to their success and helping them meet any requirements on time.”

SPECIFY 1.0: A new tool to take customer convenience to the next level.
Taking care: Laboratories use calibration gases for special applications.

Scrum, sprints and scoping: An agile approach to innovation 

It was in Gabor Szekeres’ team where the idea of a digital gas configurator was born. And it was a team of specialists from the Digital Base Camp, Linde’s in-house accelerator, which helped the vision take shape. Like with any project that the digitalisation team takes on, the mission was clear: use data and turn it into value, thus expanding Linde's core business – production and distribution of specialty gases – into the digital sphere. 

Like any innovative solution devised at Linde, SPECIFY 1.0 is the result of intense collaboration. To get the platform off the ground, the digitalisation team joined forces with Andras Popovics, Specialist PGP e-Channel and Business Development at Linde. The result? Working together at Linde’s Digital Base Camp in Munich, they built a so-called minimum viable product (MVP) – a prototype – within just three months. “The question was not if, but when we would launch the platform,” Popovics says.

Following the digitalisation team’s agile approach to innovation, the team saw supporting the business in testing and implementing ideas quickly as the core task. Using novel methods such as scrum, sprints and scoping, they were able to incorporate external and internal feedback on the fly and determine SPECIFY 1.0’s market scale.

From beta to better: Meeting the customer at eye-level

Today, SPECIFY 1.0 is the starting point for a fully-fledged platform. Rather than seeing it as a final result, Linde thinks of it as an iterative workflow. Insights from customers’ interactions with the platform as well as enquiry patterns are helping Linde further improve user experience, comfort – and automate gas supply. For instance, clients can rank their experience with the platform and provide feedback by taking the SPECIFY 1.0 web survey.

Using data, Linde can already pre-produce batches of mixtures on a make-to-stock basis to further cut enquiry times for clients. According to Szekeres, a possible expansion stage is a feature to let customers trace the status of their gas delivery in real time. Which client segments order what product? What’s trending in which region? And who’s embracing the self-service? “Through analyses and feedback, we’ll be able to both enhance the platform for our customers, as well as further integrate it into Linde’s digital ecosystem”, Szekeres says.

The digitalisation team – ready to expand Linde’s business into the digital realm.