Solvay

Rhodia revolutionizes simulation software with Design Sprint from Dextra

Digital transformation can’t be encompassed by the simple conversion of the off-line world to the on-line. For example, the modernization of a piece of software necessitates that one must first go through a modernization of thought, the adoption of a new mindset. Without this, a new iteration of software cannot take hold. And this is precisely the path which Rhodia, a Solvay Group (Grupo Solvay) corporation, chose to take when they partnered with Dextra.

Rhodia, an industry-leader in specialty chemicals and advanced materials, currently owns a patented software technology, Solsys®. This software is already widely used by Solvay Group researchers in the formulation of solvent systems. The product’s algorithm allows for the simulation of complex compositions such as paints, in order to recommend the ideal system for a given customer considering variables such as solubility and rate of evaporation.

The Solsys® software program reduces the need for what are known as “bench tests”, meaning fewer laboratory-run trials required to complete development. As a result, it reduces time, costs, and the need for manual calculations — making for a much more economical, agile, and conclusive testing process.

“Because the original version of the software was developed off-line many years ago, the overall modernization of the system became our number one priority; including a contemporary computer language, and a far more user-friendly interface,” said Daniel Franco, Vice President of Global Solvent Operations at Solvay Group.

“It was necessary to have a professional with the client at all times, as the level of expertise required to use the existing simulator was so high,” Franco added. The extensive number of registered products (around 1,500) , plus the pages and pages of data given as results , made the use of this software highly complex.

Design Sprint

Given the pressing need to redesign Solsys®, making it easier to use and with an interface that’s more appropriate for the digital world, Rhodia called on Dextra. In Dextra, Rhodia found a solution for their development needs with the use of Design Sprint, a process in which the client themselves are responsible for the process of transforming the product.

Created by Google, Design Sprint is a framework based on concepts from the fields of UX (user experience) and Design Thinking, the objective of which is to resolve the specific problems of a project by putting the users at the center of the process. During a predetermined (and intense) period of time, they evaluate how the given product or solution can deliver them greater value.

Dextra already possessed a rich history of expertise with this process. Design Sprint was already a part of the way in which the company approached the market, using this methodology prior to a more extensive form of development. This encourages the client to participate deeply in the process and offers them the opportunity to try a completely new and innovative approach to project development.

Rhodia clients were invited to participate directly in this experience as well, and 12 customers took part in the intensive process of reformulating the software’s interface. The result was a veritable constellation of possible improvements, including: the prototype should have fewer screens; more intuitive search boxes; a list of the most commonly used formulations, and more.

All of this was achieved in just one week — whereas in the past, the process of software redesign could take months, and was almost entirely based upon the idea that the developers knew what was best for their clients. Prior to invest in full-scale development, improvements can be evaluated and feedback can be given using a prototype.

“Now we’re taking the next major step in this effort,” said Daniel Franco of Solvay Group. “We‘ll choose how these improvements will actually become part of the new Solsys®, creating a state-of-the-art solution,” Franco continued.

Unexpected Gains

For Franco, in addition to the new Solsys® prototype itself, the Design Sprint process brought about indirect gains for the company. “I spoke with the customers and could sense that the utilization of this methodology has strengthened our relationship. They felt valued by engaging in this type of interaction; delivered through this innovative methodology and applied by Dextra. Those who participated in the exchange developed a mindset of agile development; which could possibly provide inspiration for projects wholly unrelated to software development,” the executive said.

Dextra e Solvay

Results

- Reconstruction of the Solsys® interface in record time;
- Potential savings from formulations and customer training;
- Changes made entirely with the user experience in mind;
- Improvements to the original redesign project, which became more complete;
- Priorities of implementation were mapped in version 2.0 of the system;
- Growing closer and strengthening bonds with clients.

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