How to use Sankey diagrams to find new market opportunities in Process Manufacturing
Especially in process manufacturing and life sciences markets, innovations can open new opportunities in more than one industry or segment. Consider Teflon or biodegradable polymers – many product applications are possible, each potentially representing lucrative markets. The question is: How to identify these markets, quantify them and sell to the companies in those value chains?
To answer the challenge, it is relevant to know how much of which material or substance is required at each point of a value chain to produce a single unit of a given product. Sankey diagrams (named after Irish Captain Matthew Henry Phineas Riall Sankey around 1900) are a useful way to visualize material transfers between processes and entire process chains.
Sankey diagrams put a visual emphasis on the major transfers or flows within a system. They are helpful in quickly locating dominant contributions to the overall flow. Often, Sankey diagrams show conserved quantities within defined system boundaries.
Visualize dynamic material flows for products and processes
That is why we decided to use it to display dynamic material flows for products and processes with inputs and outputs of every unit process in a supply network. In combination with additional, real-time data sources, Makersite can visualize where things are located, identify bottlenecks or geographic concentrations. The benefit of the calculation performed in Mattermaps© is the normalization of the quantities along the chains to (typically) 1kg or 1 unit of the final product. To quickly find out the composition of a final product, they are best read from right to left.
Access downstream and upstream information
Now, what’s not been done before at scale is the inverse: where are specific ingredients, chemicals or components used downstream? This means we can also query our data for unknown market opportunities. The Sankey diagram below highlights the current uses of rapeseed oil as an example. It answers the question: In which products or processes is rapeseed oil used or potentially usable?
We applied the same approach to identify the uses of Palm Oil. We found an astonishing 1700 products where Palm Oil is used. Since Palm Oil doesn’t necessarily have the best environmental footprint, a manufacturer applied this query to investigate the use of alternative products and find customers and use cases to sell to.