Digital Solvents in the Chemical Industry - Digital Industry Forum 2020 (Part 2)

A look back at our Digital[IN] - Digital Forum der Industrie 2020. The hour of the chemical industry.

For one hour, the Digital Forum of Industry was dedicated to digitization in the chemical industry. Terms such as chemistry 4.0 or digitization were used. What is meant by this can be found in this article. We also show how companies like Evonik or Marabu proceed with digitization, what a successful digital strategy in the chemical industry can look like and what ultimately matters. We have summarized the most exciting information from Digital [IN] for you.

1. Times of Change - The Role of Innovation and Digital Leadership

In the keynote "Times of Change - The Role of Innovation and Digital Leadership" Henrik Hahn looked at how digital the chemical industry in Germany is. On the example of Evonik he showed the progress made over the past few years. Evonik is a relatively young company that was founded in 2007, but is already one of the leaders in the chemical industry in Germany - partly because the group invests in digitization. Evonik promotes mobile working, agile action and thus aims to increase efficiency, but that alone does not distinguish a successful digital strategy. Chemistry 4.0 is for Evonik a central term when it comes to digital strategies.

Chemistry 4.0: One digital strategy, four goals

At the core of digitization, 2020 will be about interaction, networking and intelligent use of data. Followed with their digitization strategy Evonik four central goals: 1) Increasing efficiency in production and along the entire supply chain. 2) Improving the customer and user experience 3) Cognitive solutions through the use of AI. And 4) the development and development of digital skills and competencies of employees.

The goals are there, but how do you become a digital chemical company? According to Henrik Hahn, three paths to the digital company are conceivable or obvious. Either you start from the very top in the corporate structure, with the establishment of your own staff unit at group level and a central strategy. For this path has Evonik decided. Or you set up your own business unit. This followed at Evonik At the second step. The third possibility is to embed digital activities in business and functional units, which is also the long-term goal.

Having your own digital unit in the company is worthwhile

A good digital strategy is characterized by the fact that activities can be broken down from the central strategy at the end, which can be easily integrated in the various departments. One follows Evonik, it makes sense for companies to set up their own digital unit and pursue a central strategy early on. As in an organizational chart, the activities are derived across the entire company, with a central guiding figure at the top.

Starting points for digital trading can be found along the entire value chain (e-commerce, customer portals, transport management, IOT applications and many more). So it's not surprising when companies first faint when they say “let's digitize now”. The possibilities are endless. It is all the more sustainable to found your own unit for digitization or to find good partners.

The digitization of a chemical company is difficult to calculate in terms of sales

Unfortunately, companies only too often slow themselves down when it comes to digitization, because it is not uncommon for the economic effect to come first. However, this is difficult to calculate here. Henrik Hahn advises not to first pay attention to the economic effects of digitization, because it is difficult to show digital value in the form of a classic return. But waiting is not an option either. Digitization is a dynamic process that cannot always be paid directly into sales. For a successful chemical company, digitization and innovation go hand in hand, and with it the courage to break new ground.

2. IT groups, startups & traditional companies: Successful synergies or Bermuda triangle for chemistry?

Innovative solutions can be found particularly in the startup scene. The following panel discussion focused on cooperation between startups and corporates: "IT groups, startups & traditional companies: Successful synergies or Bermuda triangle for chemistry?" With Marco Majer from 5-HT Digital Hub for Chemistry & Health, Sebastian Brenner from CheMondis, Daniel Gandner from Marabou and Pedro Ahlers from SAP. At the beginning the question was asked what is actually meant by digitization, because there are different starting points here. The integration of a chatbot on a website, for example, is not always the same as digitization. The objective of why digital tools are used is crucial. If a chatbot is used to generate leads, then it is a digitization tool.

All too often, companies follow the fallacy that IT has to be cheap and digitization has to generate profit. It's not that simple, as Henrik Hahn noted in his keynote speech. Our panel discussion participants are also repeatedly confronted with this assumption. They explain that intrinsic motivation is of greater importance in order to digitize sustainably. Without a doubt, it is difficult to justify digitization as an immediate increase in sales.

From goal setting to the first digital steps

Daniel Gandner explains using Marabou the approach to digitizing the company and underlines that Marabou is still in its infancy. Digitization is not child's play either, it requires time, perseverance and, ultimately, investment from the very top. It is a long way to go before we can talk about Chemistry 4.0 in the company. So back to the beginning. Marabou pursues two goals: on the one hand, digitization in production and, on the other hand, digitization in sales. The overriding goal is to reach potential customers all over the world and this requires digitization as a tool. In order to achieve this, the actors of Marabou first identifies problems in order to search for solutions based on them.

Marabou is now in exchange with FoxBase with the aim of globalizing sales. To do this, digital tools must be introduced in the company today. Customers today need to find out more for themselves and to find products on their own. FoxBase's Digital Product Selector addresses this need and offers customers the opportunity to find and buy the right product in just a few steps. Identifying problems is an important step in finding suitable and innovative solutions in the startup world. But does it have to be startups? No, but startups offer three main advantages compared to large companies that also offer promising solutions: They are agile, offer solutions that no one has before and are really interested in working together, says Daniel Gandner.

Working with startups pays off

Many companies, however, are opposed to Marabou Not yet aware of the real problems, for example why the sales department suddenly makes less sales than usual. Startups in turn try to reach these companies. Sebastian Brenner is Managing Director in the already very successful startup CheMondis. His approach is to develop digital sales channels that complement the existing ones. Today he sees the omni-channel approach as being of particular importance.

A good digitization strategy does not care about the internal structures at first. It's about selling, but also about listening. It is just as important to build a personal bond between the company and the startup when working together. Therefore stand by CheMondis the personal customer advisor also right at the top. A problem, however, also with CheMondis What makes it noticeable is that companies want to see success quickly. Digitization helps to become more visible on a global level and data is important in order to be able to act more sustainably. The successes only pay off over time, but they do, emphasizes Sebastian Brenner.

There is an enormous amount of power in digitization

So how can organizational changes be brought about? Pedro Ahler is certain of one thing: it has to be wanted from top to bottom. Entrepreneurs must want to invest financial resources and manpower. Digitization must be a matter for the boss! But still too many shy away from digitization because the fear of complete control stands in their way. Digitization is much more complex to look at and dystopias as we know them from George Orwell's novel 1984 are not always reality. Digitization in the chemical industry primarily serves to facilitate work processes and increase efficiency. Nobody is monitored.

To come back to the question asked at the beginning what digitization actually means, Pedro Ahlers names the two English terms for digitization. Firstly, the term “digitization”, which is located on the tool level. When we talk about digitization, we mean tools that can be used quickly and easily. In contrast, the term "digitization" means the digitization of complete business processes. Most people talk about digitization. Anyone who, as a company, has understood the power of digitization in the sense of the term “digitization, is miles ahead of the competition,” Pedro Ahlers concludes his explanation of the term.

So what is the best approach to Chemistry 4.0?

First of all, the central questions arise as to what the problem is that is to be solved and what is to be achieved. Today, the customer journey in the chemical industry consists of 80 % of communication and consumption of information and only 20 % of sales. That is why an important part of a successful digital strategy is to further expand self-service so that customers can obtain information and help themselves. Startups have developed extremely exciting and innovative solutions for this. The exchange between chemical companies and startups is always worthwhile. It is also important for companies to be easy to find on the World Wide Web. The data obtained from the digital tools or the website can also improve production in the long term, ensure better pricing and increase efficiency. Anyone who ensures customer self-service is well on the way to Chemistry 4.0.

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