Listen to Victoria and Daryl’s Conversation at ACC Here:

Explore the pivotal role data and AI are playing in transforming safety and sustainability at DuPont with Daryl Roberts, Chief Engineering and Operations Officer. At ACC’s Responsible Care® and Sustainability Conference, Daryl shares his journey in the chemical industry, fueled by a family heritage of engineering, and his career progression through various roles in notable companies like Eastman Kodak, Arkema, and DuPont.

Daryl highlights DuPont’s unwavering commitment to Responsible Care® and sustainability, detailing innovative approaches ranging from electric vehicle components to water filtration systems. The discussion delves into how DuPont leverages data and AI for predictive maintenance and operational safety, ultimately aiming to foster a sustainable and safe work environment. Aspiring leaders can glean invaluable advice on taking risks and the importance of continuous learning in advancing their careers.

This episode was recorded at the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care® and Sustainability Conference. 

Be sure to explore the following topics this week:

  • Responsible Care® at DuPont
  • Safety as part of DuPont’s DNA
  • 3 Pillars of sustainability at DuPont
  • Innovating sustainable solutions that align with customer value
  • Harnessing data and AI to drive sustainability and operations
  • Leadership lessons and career advice from Daryl Roberts


Killer Quote:We value not only our employees and contractor safety, but we value their safety and the safety in the environment in which we share with them. And it is something we have to earn, and it’s something we have to work at every day.” – Daryl Roberts

Watch Victoria and Daryl Discuss the Future of Chemicals on Youtube Here:

Careers, Care, and The Future of Chemicals with Daryl Roberts of DuPont

Hi, this is Victoria Meyer. Welcome back to The Chemical Show. Today, I am speaking with Daryl Roberts, who is the Chief Engineering and Operations Officer for DuPont. We are at ACC’s Responsible Care® and Sustainability Conference. So our conversation is going to center on that a little bit, as well as maybe a few other questions. Daryl, thanks for joining me.

Well, thanks. It’s great to be here with you today.

Yeah, excited to meet you and to spend time with you. Let’s talk about your career. What got you into the chemical industry and to where you are now?

That comes from my upbringing. My father was a production operator at Eastman Kodak back in the day when people actually took pictures on a camera and got them developed, to tell people have been around for a certain number of years. But yeah, I grew up with the father who worked in the industry working shift work, he was really focused on me being educated, and really used his position to push me to go to school, that led me into chemical engineering. I spent a little bit of time in the service as a chemical officer. So my expertise from the military and from an upbringing standpoint really led me to the industry that it just felt like I always should have been a part of the industry. I’ve been a part of it working for a number of companies from Eastman Kodak to Arkema to DuPont.

But I’m kind of a lifelong process chemistry, process operations, materials person. It’s been a great career and provided me a way to support my family and my kids. It’s just been a great experience and I’ve met great people as I’ve grown.

That’s really cool. And side note, have any of your kids followed you into the chemical industry?

I’ve got two that are both in college. The oldest is in marketing. I don’t know what she’s going to do. The youngest is in the civil engineering program at Purdue. So I didn’t get her to chemical engineering, but I got her to civil and I’ll have to take that as a victory.

Absolutely. That’s a win.


A man is working on a large machine inside a factory, focusing on the task at hand. the future of chemicals

Great. So we’re here and we’re talking a lot this week about Responsible Care®. So tell me what Responsible Care® means to you and to DuPont.

Part of the reason that I came to work at DuPont is because it was very aligned with my personal beliefs and values, around how we operate, how we think about employee safety, how we think about the environments in which we operate and the trust that communities have with us. Trust that we have to earn and keep by operating in a way that allows them to feel like, they don’t mind us being in the community and actually see us as a partner from the education standpoint, from the support of everything we do from a volunteer standpoint to us providing jobs, all of those things, which are just really important. So DuPont believes in that. When I think about Responsible Care®, it really focuses around that, us being able to work in a community that values us that knows that we value them, that we value not only our employees and contractor safety, but we value their safety and the safety of the environment which we share with them and it is something we have to earn and it’s something we have to work at every day.

Yeah, that’s cool. In fact, as you say that, it makes me reflect my first experience with DuPont as a company, and interacting with some DuPont staff. They were invested in safety, and had this real awareness of the necessity of workplace safety and of safe product handling. So that’s part of the DNA.

Yeah. I think that’s true. If you go back through the history of the company, DuPont started off with a pretty, big explosion five or ten years after operation began, when we were just making gunpowder. From that came a focus on safety going forward from the DuPont family. And it stayed with the brand through all of these years. Some of the original OSHA processes and policies came from DuPont systems that were developed through the 1900s.

So it’s just in the DNA of the company, and it’s something that is unwavering.

When we think about sustainability, cause that’s the other flip side of this, Responsible Care® is kind of the interaction, but sustainability is another interaction that we have. How is DuPont navigating those priorities?

So first DuPont thinks about sustainability in three pillars. The first one is innovate and 80% of our product offerings drive towards something that will help with sustainability and solve global problems. The second is protect, which really aligns perfectly with Responsible Care®. The third is empower, which is what we do around empowering communities, empowering our employees, driving from a diversity standpoint in the things that we do and the things that we value. So that’s kind of how we’re structured. Our employees expect us to treat people right. And like I said, to be part of the communities in which we operate because that’s where our employees live, especially those that have started in the last 5 to 10 years, they don’t want to work for a company that doesn’t really value sustainability, especially because some have a negative connotation to the chemical industry.

But that’s without knowing us and knowing what we do and who we are. So it’s really important that when we go to speak to students that are potential hires, that we can speak about our values and we can speak about sustainability, the things that we’re doing to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint, the things that we’re doing to provide safe water for people around the world, the things that we’re doing to drive EVs with some of our products. So the things that we do are very well engaged with sustainability and we’ve got to be able to talk about it. So for our employees and our communities, it’s really central to what we do and our portfolio really is focused on sustainable solutions, almost across the board. So it’s really helpful to be able to not only talk about what we do from an individual standpoint, but to talk about how what we’re innovating, and the things that we’re thinking about are really aligned with the things that they value.

Do you have some examples that you could share?

Sure. If you look at an EV today in the things that you’re doing to lightweight vehicles to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of our automobiles. We make materials that are auto adhesives, which go into electric batteries. We make materials, kapton is an example, that go into the motors. So we’ve got a number of products which go into EVs. We’re very much on that in the spectrum there. We do a lot of things around the semiconductor chips that you need to be able to power all of these devices today.

We focus very much on that.

Yeah. Things that people don’t necessarily think about when they think about chemicals and are really affecting everyday life and making it better.

Absolutely. And you know, the other example I would give you, we have a portfolio that is around our shelter. So insulation for houses, the Tyvek wrap that everybody knows when you drive by and you see it going up on houses. But we really can consider that part of it as well. If you think about the need for safe living around the world,

Hand holding drawing virtual lightbulb with brain on bokeh background for creative and smart thinking idea concept the future of chemicals

Cool. So you talked a little bit earlier today about operations and how DuPont is harnessing data and AI to drive sustainability and operations. Can you talk about that a little bit more?

Yeah. I think you’re going to get left behind if that’s not what you’re focused on today, right? So we really feel like the use and harness of data is really key for us to continue to operate safe and to get safer as we go forward. How do we take data that before would have been too hard to collect and use it in a way which lets us not just solve issues after they happen, but to be predictive? So we’re doing a really good job at our intelligent predictive maintenance system to take data on, you know, pumps that may not be operating right. They’re overheating, they’re cavitating, and to have signals that we now send up into the cloud and let third parties look at not only our data, but data from other companies, and put that data together and be able to call us now and say, we’re looking at thousands of these across the world and we can tell you this thing’s about to fail.

We know that when we’re operating in non standard conditions, that’s when processes go bad, that’s when environmental deviances happen, that’s when people get hurt. So anything that we can do to understand when equipment’s not running right, and stop it and correct it before it fails is a big piece of operating safety within our community. So it’s something we think a lot about. Then the next step is how do we use AI and add AI even further into that by taking everything from a procedure and now transmitting it into 17 different languages using AI very quickly and effectively, to now taking that procedure and letting operators have the ability to be able to ask questions and for AI to look at our procedures, to look at our past incidences, to look at outside data, like incidents that have happened at other companies and really give an operator some view of what might be wrong and use that to try to correct. That’s just so powerful and something we couldn’t have done five or ten years ago, but those types of things are on the forefront of the way we think about the future.

Yeah, absolutely and it’s amazing. I think about, early in my career working in manufacturing, we did a lot of logs, and the operator logs were on paper. So it was only as good as could you flip back any pages to see what else was happening. So the use of data is just really accelerating those opportunities.

Now the operators have that data. They can go back and take a look. They can look at the best run we ever had and what the temperatures and pressure should be and compare it. If something doesn’t look right, the system is telling them immediately. It’s also sending an alert to an engineer at home and saying, “Hey, I think you should call and check in because I see something in the process data that doesn’t look normal and your operators might need your support.” So being able to connect data to people is really important and those are the things I think will really be helpful going foward.

That’s really great. When you think about that, how does this affect your future workforce in terms of skills and what you’re looking for, for the future employees of DuPont?

There’s two parts of that one, I don’t want people to be scared about the use of data because we’re going to need employees, and we’re going to need a lot of them. We’re gonna need them to be trained well, and we’re gonna put time into making sure we train people right. AI will help us train and help us get better. It will be a good assist to our operators of the future but but we’re gonna need them. So, I’ll start there.

If you think about the skills that you need, it really kind of goes to the conversation we just had. You’ve got to be able to work with data. You can’t be scared of data. So we’re going to help teach you those things, but coming in with comfortability using computers, looking at data, and being comfortable that we’re going to train you to understand the trends and what they mean, but you should feel empowered to take action. So if you see something that we don’t feel is safe, we want people that can stand up and say, I’m not doing this, there’s something here that’s not right, and we’re going to take a step back until we figure out what it is. So we’re looking for people that are strong in their conviction that know what our core values are, that are going to lead by those, but can use data and are comfortable really leading because we expect all of our employees to be leaders. It doesn’t matter who works for you to be a leader. Leaders are people who make decisions, right?

So we expect everyone to have those types of traits. Those are the people we’re really looking for.

the future of chemicals and the chemical industry futuristic drawings in factory

That’s great. So Daryl, you’ve obviously had a great career in the industry. You’ve reached some very senior levels and then areas of opportunities of influence and leadership. What are the leadership lessons that you’ve learned along the way and what advice would you give to somebody who wants to replicate your career?

Yeah, well, that’s an interesting question. There’s been so many learnings because there’s been so many failures, and that’s how you learn. So I would tell people to take chances. It’s important that when people give you opportunities to stretch yourself and work in an area that you haven’t worked in, that you take the time to do so, because I think that’s where the learning happens. When you’re working in a field or an area that’s not comfortable for you. So I’m a chemical engineer that also took opportunities to work in E.H.S. and got some experience from that and took the time to work in supply chain and learn what it means.

Where the product goes when you’re shipping it. That’s helped me as I’ve grown because it’s allowed me to have a very diverse view of what operations mean. So for me, that’s important. Those have been some of the lessons for me. So that goes along with what I would tell people, find a way to continue your education. It doesn’t have to be formal, there’s all types of ways. It can be taking a class online, it can be signing up for a training program that the company offers. It can be getting on and finding something on YouTube about something that you just wanted to learn more about.

And it can be anything from how you lead people to how a centrifugal car works. I’ve always been interested in those things and learning and having that kind of lifelong learning mindset, I think it is really important. I think when you have that mindset, people notice and they tend to give you opportunities to do more because they know that you’re really thinking about what’s next and how you develop yourself and how you develop others around you.

Awesome. Well Daryl, thank you for joining us today. This has been a really great conversation.

Thank you. Appreciate the time.


About Daryl Roberts:

Daryl Roberts is Chief Operations & Engineering Officer at DuPont. He is a visionary and global leader in the manufacturing industry, with experience in driving improved productivity, business performance, compliance, health and safety, and profitability. He joined the company in 2018 and leads the integrated operations and engineering organizations. Daryl focuses on organizational growth and profitability by assessing, strategizing, funding, and directing high-impact initiatives for corporate and manufacturing operations globally.

Daryl has extensive experience in building cohesive organizations, mentoring and leading teams to sustainable, exceptional performance.

Prior to DuPont, Daryl spent 20 years at Arkema, Inc., where he was vice president of Operations, Technology and Regulatory Compliance and director of Health and Safety. In addition, he was manufacturing director for the Functional Additives business, managing facilities in the Americas and process technology resources, globally. A former process engineer, he also was a plant manager.

Daryl spent his early professional years at Eastman Kodak in both engineering and Health and Safety roles. He is a member of the Board of Directors of American Electric Power (AEP), Board of Directors of the American Chemistry Council, Board of Directors for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Board of Directors, National Action Committee for Minorities in Engineering (NACME).

Daryl earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Howard University on a R.O.T.C. scholarship and was commissioned as a Reserve Officer in the Army after graduation. He also received an M.S. degree from the University of Rochester and an M.B.A. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.