Sébastien Verhelst and colleague at Smart Factory in a Box, source: SAS

Technology company SAS has launched ‘Factory in a Box’ to introduce companies to the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence and, above all, its optimal use. Within BlueChem, startups and scale-ups are immersed in this new technology, still unknown to a wide range of people and businesses.

SAS has been involved in analytics for 46 years and focusing on Artificial Intelligence (AI) for years. SAS is the world’s largest private technology company and wants to leave its mark on startups and scale-ups within the BlueChem incubator. “Today, a company cannot do without AI. On the other hand there is often not enough know-how within companies about how to get started with that tool. That is why we think it is important to incorporate AI from the outset into the foundations of a startup. They are the future. In established companies it is often more difficult to apply AI within the operational processes”, says Wim Mues, Regional Director SAS.

Factory in a Box

“Today everyone has a basic understanding of AI, but few know how to really get started with it. AI is only effective when you apply the options correctly, otherwise it is merely a tool that requires a huge amount of energy,” Analystics Expert Sébastien Verhelst adds. To demonstrate the added value of AI to companies, SAS developed a hands-on workshop ‘Factory in a Box’, in cooperation with the University of Leuven. BlueChem’s startups and scale-ups also participate in this immersion in AI, which takes just half a day. “AI, or the model you are going to apply, is an asset to a company and has an impact on the processes of its entire operation. It opens doors, boosts productivity, but it also induces new business models. That is what we want to demonstrate with this immersive workshop.”

“If you look at the startups within BlueChem, these companies are still very much in an experimental laboratory phase. The data-outcome is often still processed in Excel. We want to demonstrate that thanks to AI, it is possible to work much more efficiently to collect, to process and, more importantly, to gain insight. The big advantage for startups is that they can get out of their experimental phase faster,” Wim says.


Within the financial world and within banking, the use of AI has already been implemented more, compared to the field of manufacturing businesses.

“Industrial processes are derived from fundamental physical, mechanical or chemical engineering laws. That is why SAS has the advantage of having a hybrid team of data scientists and industry experts at its disposal.”, Sébastien explains, who had an engineering training himself.

But what exactly can one expect from a workshop such as ‘Factory in a Box’? Each participant is put in the role of a process-manager who analyzes and checks whether the pilot installation, developed by SAS, is functioning properly. During the process they will have to define -individually- certain criteria or KPIs in order to judge and evaluate the performance of the installation. “Subsequently, they have to develop a business case with the aim of optimizing the installation on the basis of the data analytics. That way we combine the best of two worlds: the world of the engineer and that of the data. Using this concept, we mainly want to democratize Artificial Intelligence and ensure that companies of the future can apply AI in the best of circumstances.”

With these workshops, SAS targets a wide range of users, from engineers to CEOs. “If the top of a company doesn’t keep up with the story, you can’t change much at the base,” that is the fundamental idea behind it. If you want to know more about AI, you can subscribe to the next available workshop. For more information go to www.bluechem.com and www.sas.com.