Keynote Presentation

Research as a job shop 4.0

Rik Pepermans Paperless Lab Academy

Presenter: Rik Pepermans, owner at Rik Pepermans Consulting

Rik Pepermans worked 30 years for Unilever, first a researcher and R&D manager, and later as IT manager for R&D, driven by the vision of a digitalised research function. His combined experience in R&D and IT prepared him to shape the digital transformation of Unilever R&D. His perseverance as a matchmaker between R&D and IT earned him the nickname “R&D IT Evangelist”. In 2019 he founded Rik Pepermans Consulting and he works now with the digital transformation leaders of other R&D organisations.


Researchers do not work on a production line producing long series of the same, but rather in a very flexible setting alike a job shop.

Every project requires another combination of measurements. Every sample can require a variation to established lab operations. The extreme diversity of exploratory research provides measurement data that are complementary to those of product development projects and QA/QC in production.

This makes the research data indispensable for modelling product properties. To yield data that is reusable, in particular for modelling, research measurements must be executed to yield quality data.

The digitalisation of research must respect its nature, finding the compromise between flexibility and standardisation, summarised in “comply or explain”. This allows to get most of the benefits of standardisation and automation where it is possible, and complement this with a more manual and free approach where needed. Timely data collation and analysis of the results ensure the data quality and continuous improvement of the way of working.



Rik Pepermans Consulting was established by Rik Pepermans to guide R&D organisations in their digital transformation. He assists his customers in defining their digital ambition, evaluates their current digital maturity, facilitates creating a roadmap to meet their ambition, and supports its implementation.