Natura Revolutionizes Test Project for its Products with Google Cloud

About NATURA

Natura is a 50-year-old Brazilian company that serves the cosmetics market with products created from natural substances (especially from the Amazon region) and is part of the Natura & Co Group, owner of the Natura, Aesop and The Body Shop brands. The Group's turnover in 2017 was around R$7.7 billion.

Industries: Healthcare
Location: Brazil

NATURA is a sustainable cosmetics company that is investing in the cloud and secured actual benefits in terms of flexibility, performance and resource economization, which was reflected in its most recent project for testing new substances, something essential for the success of its business.

Google Cloud Results

  • A battery of tests on components and essences, something essential for Natura's business, that used to take days are now performed in hours using Google Cloud Platform
  • Since Natura started using the platform, it reduced its products' time-to-market by one third, from 1 year to 8 months
  • The test project in the cloud's virtual environment meant spending only 10% of the projected investments
  • With a lower cost per test, the company managed to create a much larger volume than expected

NATURA is a Brazilian company devoted to the production of sustainable, natural cosmetics established in 1969 that has 6,400 collaborators and wide reach across the country thanks to Beauty Consultants who sell its products. The success of the Natura & Co Group, a $R7.7 billion giant that acquired brands such as Aesop (Australia) and The Body Shop (England), is rooted in its mission: providing well-being, harmonic relations of individuals with themselves, with others and with nature. In this regard, the decision to use Google Cloud Platform was as another sustainability step in its journey.

The company's cloud projects started in 2015 with a view to operating in multiple clouds. "We saw Cloud as a strategic initiative in terms of both flexibility and cost reduction. Our goal is to remove our own datacenters by 2020," explains Felipe Moz, IT Specialist at Natura.

Its most recent project, which started in April this year, involves testing active ingredients (substances used in its products) in a virtual environment. Before, these tests were performed "in vitro" or with living beings but the company's sustainable and expansion philosophy proved stronger. This was strengthened by the acquisition of The Body Shop for 1 billion Euros in June 2017, a British giant with presence in 65 countries, with 22,000 collaborators and over 3,000 stores.

Test demand, essential for Natura's business, grew exponentially. "The possibility to scale and the need for business to be moved to the cloud were the best answer," recalls Moz. Another determining factor: the cost of purchasing a whole new machine fleet to back business evolution was unthinkable – in addition to how small the test department team was: an IT specialist and a biotechnology researcher.

The Proof of Concept

"We created a proof of concept, something extremely technical, to make a decision on the platform we would use and the company that would become our partner for the project. Factors like scalability, security and cost are paramount for us and for our idea of creating a biotechnology model, something Google makes possible."

Felipe Moz, IT Specialist at Natura.

The benchmark set the project's metrics: innovation, scalability and security, as well as following and improving standards and increasing results. "Google Cloud served our needs and provided us with higher performance at lower costs. Scale is a huge differential," he reckons.

In practice, the Cloud environment performs tests based on algorithms customized by Natura itself. In the model, a virtual molecule is created from an actual substance/active ingredient in an environment that simulates all possible interactions, such as temperature changes or water contact and absorption.

Technically, the algorithm is executed on GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine), an open-source, container orchestration system that automates deployment and application management in data repositories. A massive change. "'Lab' testing required much more time. Besides, our current methodology looks into components, concentrations and reactions without using skin from a person or animal, simulating its impact," he explains.

Tests promote the Bio-Lake environment (a variation of the Data Lake, a data repository in natural format with structured and non-structured information): a biocomputing "lake" on Google Cloud Platform where all the metrics and data from Natura's researches and business are located. Since the Bio-Lake bucket uses Google Cloud Storage, all data from the component and essence samples is loaded to the repository directly from lab machines. It's a mix between the IoT (Internet of Things) and data management.

Fast Benefits and Profits

A simple experiment shows the test project's benefits in terms of time and scale, like a model made out of a simple water box. What used to take 48 hours to process now takes only 13 hours – a significant reduction considering that between 200 and 300 processes like this one are carried out simultaneously, which is only possible thanks to the cloud's computer scaling.

The result: Countless tests that used to take days are now performed in a few hours.

"We achieved great agility, with high scalability and safety and a lower cost on Google Cloud Platform. We managed to reduce our products time-to-market by one third, from 1 year to 8 months. The business department loves us."

Felipe Moz, IT Specialist at Natura

Another factor the company highlights is costs. With only 10% of the investments earmarked for the test project in the virtual environment being effectively used, Natura managed to channel resources to other investments. "The result was way below our estimate. We spent much less and achieved higher performance than expected. With a lower cost per test, we ended up creating a much larger volume than we had anticipated," he explains.

The IT Specialist continues with his assessment: "Latency was never a problem. Processing was. We freed ourselves from the hassle of on-premise facilities and opened up new horizons," he says.

The next step is to expand the data "lake" concept to other business areas within Natura and even to other countries. "We are going to set the benchmark for other companies within the group. The trend is for the project to go global in a few months. These companies are going to use the process and methodology, and the cloud solution will come as if by osmosis based on what we do in Brazil," anticipates Moz.

About NATURA

Natura is a 50-year-old Brazilian company that serves the cosmetics market with products created from natural substances (especially from the Amazon region) and is part of the Natura & Co Group, owner of the Natura, Aesop and The Body Shop brands. The Group's turnover in 2017 was around R$7.7 billion.

Industries: Healthcare
Location: Brazil
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