Analytics Software for Chemical Plants
Powerful Software Tools Help Chemical Processing Plants Adopt Advanced Analytics
Chicago, Illinois-based start-up company 6C Solutions has developed a data platform that integrates IOT and contextual data at chemical plants. Founded in 2019 by Keerthan Vantakala, who was joined shortly thereafter by Zak Kann, the company wants to help plant owners and operators raise their processing plants further up the analytics value curve. We asked the founders about their motivation to start a company, their technology and their goals.
CHEManager: You founded 6C Solutions about one year ago. How did it all start?
Keerthan Vantakala: The idea for the initial version of 6C came up after I already made the switch from working as a chemical engineer to being a data analytics consultant. I was teaching myself how to code and learning new tools. As I was being exposed to these new technologies, I kept thinking of how they could be used in a plant setting. This idea just stayed in my head and I finally acted on it a bit over a year ago. I started calling up old co-workers and pitched them what I wanted to build, ultimately cold-calling plants to see if I could get a meeting with the plant manager. I had a few positive meetings and that’s all the motivation I really needed to quit my day job and pursue the venture.
What does 6C actually stand for?
K. Vantakala: Initially, it was supposed to be named C6 Analytics, which was going to be a play on Carbon being the 6th element. Turns out a lot of other people had a similar idea. Branding is not my expertise so at that point I just wanted to pick something and move forward, ultimately, I chose to just reverse C6 to 6C.
What is the USP or differentiating feature of 6C Solutions?
Zak Kann: What differentiates 6C Solutions from all the other analytical platforms for plants is the attention we put into contextual data. Not only do we integrate with the majority of other software used at chemical plants, but we also put an emphasis on creating tools that easily capture operators & engineers feedback. This feedback can be anything from the classification of an event that occurred to textual notes. This allows us to build relationships among the various data sources that a plant has, as well as start to curate labeled data sets. These labeled data sets are the key to creating more effective machine learning and artificial intelligence tools for the plants.
How has the response from the processing industry been so far?
Z. Kann: So far, the response from the chemical industry has been positive. Although we are still early in our start-up cycle, the companies we have given demos to and that are using our tool at the moment have given us very interesting feedback. We are taking all that feedback and are about to release our first non-beta version!
How easy is it to start up a company in the US, what kind of support did you receive to venture into your entrepreneurial career?
K. Vantakala: Starting a company in any country is difficult. We are both first-time founders and have run into many challenges as we move 6C forward. We have received a lot of support from various individuals as well as entities. Before Zak joined 6C, I went through the Iowa Startup accelerator, which was key in helping build the foundation. At that point all I really had was a sketch and a PowerPoint presentation, they helped me ensure I was taking the right steps to actually build the start-up. We recently went through the 5-HT program in Mannheim, Germany, and met numerous helpful individuals. The biggest thing in terms of support was learning to make the ask. Most people want to help if you put yourself out there and ask for it, I believe you will be surprised by the response!
What will be the next steps to develop 6C Solutions?
Z. Kann: We are about to release the first non-beta version of our app for the ethanol industry in the US and we are currently working on getting test clients for the waste-water treatment and the chemicals & pharmaceutical industry. Apart from that it’s a lot of listening to our clients and figuring out how we can help them!
Keerthan Vantakala, CEO, is a chemical engineer with experience in big data analytics. He has worked as a chemical engineer, big data consultant for fortune 500 companies, and on an analytics operations team for an Ad-Tech company before founding 6C Solutions. After seeing first-hand the amount of manual analysis done at chemical plants, he saw an opportunity to leverage his experience to build tools that allow engineers and operators to spend less time making sense of data and more time taking action on insights.
Zak Kann (CTO) received his PhD in chemistry from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a focus in molecular simulations and spectroscopic and time-series analyses. Since then, he has worked as a data scientist in the advertising and travel industries. His primary passion is making the integration between the real world and the information world as seamless and intuitive as possible. He joined 6C Solutions because the company‘s vision brought together his background in chemistry and sensors with the data-in-context approach that he believes is the future of data science.
Modern Analytics Technology for Chemical Plants
6C Solutions is creating analytics applications that increase productivity and profitability at chemical
plants. Rather than replace a plant’s current software, the company’s tools aim to integrate with and merge data from these software sources. Below are a few example of the type of tools 6C is creating:
The Experimentation tool has two main benefits:
- Allows an engineer to easily quantify process changes without the need for manual data extraction, cleaning and analysis.
- Uses detected correlations to create and suggest experiments that maximize the likelihood of large process improvements
The Batch Analytics tool connects data from a historian, LIMS, and any other data source to give engineers and operators a holistic view of every batch. Batch quality is indicated via a predictive ‘batch grade’ that tells you what batches are likely to need the most help. The application also allows one to compare the current batch to historical ones and ensure all metrics are in line with where they should be.
The Alarm/Downtime Recommender tool helps ensure operators to have the information they need to quickly troubleshoot the issue when an alarm is triggered or a downtime event occurs. To aid in this 6C created a tool that users machine learning to match real time data to historical trends to compare the current alarm/downtime event to past events and provide a recommendation for what the issue may be. This tool also aids in ‘alarm overload’ by recommending changes to or deletions of alarms that are typically false or non-actionable.
6C currently sells its tools directly to plants as well as via 3rd party integrators. Another avenue 6C is currently exploring is partnering with OEM’s and other vendors to create a white labeled analytics application that they can offer to their customers.
Data Analytics Consulting and App-Building Services
6C Solutions is building applications to increase advanced analytics adoption and collaboration at chemical plants. The start-up company has developed a data platform that integrates IOT and contextual data at chemical plants to help plant owners and operators to push their processing plants further along on the analytics value curve.
- Foundation of 6C Solutions by Keerthan Vantakala (CEO)
- Participation in Iowa Startup Accelerator
- Zak Kann joins 6C Solutions as co-founder and CTO
- 6C releases beta platform
- Further development of tools and applications
- 6C releases its first non-beta version for the US ethanol market
- Participation in the 5-HT X-linker start-up boot camp for digital chemistry & health, Germany
- Expansion into waste water treatment, chemicals, oil & gas and the pharmaceutical industry
6C is in the early stages of getting traction within the industry, thus the start-up’s roadmap is malleable at the moment, especially given the current economic climate. The founders have been starting with the ethanol and wastewater treatment industries in the US but are ensuring all of the tools and applications they develop can be used in any industrial process. The next step is to expand into oil & gas, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and food manufacturing 6C is currently working on getting test clients for the wastewater treatment and the chemicals and pharmaceuticals industry.