Hot Topics

We always strive to have our pulse on the needs of the chemical industry community to ensure that the content of our conferences is truly relevant to our community’s needs. Eventful Conferences recently conducted extensive research with 50+ thought-leaders and chemical industry professionals. From the super-major companies, to the mid-market and specialty companies, our research involved in-depth interviews and roundtable discussions from throughout the value chain and across various business functions to ensure the most complete industry representation possible. The goal was to understand the most pressing challenges and opportunities that chemical industry professionals are facing and will face over the next year.

The 2017 Best Practices for Chemicals conference will be built upon the topics outlined below, gathered as a result of our research. Download the full Research Report to see our comprehensive findings.

Wish you could have been a part of the research? You can! We would love to know your thoughts about the report – what did we get right and what did we get wrong? Let us know by filling out our survey!

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  • Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestitures

    The chemical industry is on pace to set an all-time record on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures in 2016, highlighted by four mega-mergers. With research and development no longer providing blockbuster chemical innovation, the industry now relies on mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures to fuel future growth and change through synergies and inherited technologies and portfolios. To gain a good competitive advantage in a merger/acquisition/divestiture situation, companies must do them well – quickly and without significant disruption. These transactions are a time of high stress, uncertainty, and worthy of attention as noted by the interviewees.

  • Digitizing the Chemicals Enterprise

    In our personal lives, we expect to operate digitally – from music to pictures to videos, we do everything online. But in our workplaces, we don’t operate the same way; we still carry forms and clipboards, we do data input from the forms into computers manually, and we often rely on others to create additional data from these records manually. Spreadsheets still proliferate. As a result, we increase the propensity for errors and maintain staff for data entry that could be used elsewhere. Further, we miss really hitting the nail on the head with the customer expectation that digitalization is a new norm and should be integrated into any forward-thinking business. Chemical companies are understandably concerned about the future of digitization and the impacts on current and future business processes. Expectations are clearly changing across all businesses.

  • Analytics & Reporting

    Having sound data to take meaningful action was the thread most common to the various issues and concerns brought up by our chemical industry representatives. The need for data accuracy to drive decision making with standardization and transparency was stressed by all participants in the roundtables and in the interviews. Further, all recognized this as a key point of competitive advantage – that the ability to best leverage data would open up significant possibilities by showing areas for improvement and opportunities for cost savings. Data analysis must encompass simulation capabilities so we can stop getting known answers to known questions. ‘What if’ scenarios will lead to a deeper understanding of the business.

  • Business Process Optimization

    Business processes for a number of our companies seem to dictate the type of technology used – with workarounds specifically coded to meet a business process need, instead of the business process being adjusted to work with new technology. As a result, when new implementations or migrations occur, customizations often need to be fully re-worked. The amount of effort and resources required for implementations and migrations thus feels especially daunting. And the problem is cyclical – once reworked for the latest iteration, the coding becomes so specialized that the next iteration is even more challenging.

  • Keeping Up with a Changing World

    As with all things technology – cell phones, computers – the types and amount of products available are overwhelming. And once a product is purchased, many can’t help but feel that it has already changed or been updated, before it can be truly leveraged. This poses a challenge not only in terms of technology investment decisions but also in its effects on our ability to manage change and our staff; processes need to be updated, staff need to be notified and re-trained, or possibly even reconfigured or let go of altogether.

  • Supply Chain & Logistics

    A more visible, mobile, “real-time” world has impacted supply chain and logistics professionals by increasing the speed at which we do business, and changing the expectations of those relying on these business functions. Customer expectations have changed, with customers now wanting to track shipments and understand logistics in real-time. Geo-political pressures and changing regulations require real-time decision making as well, most of which impacts costs. Without visibility, decision-making, cost analysis, and customer service can all be hindered. The ability to simulate inventory scenarios, capacitation, network sourcing options, toll manufacturing options, and start-up/shut-down operations is now a competitive differentiator to a global sales and operations planning process.

  • Migration to S/4HANA

    The value of any IT migration is not only in its use case, but also in its business value (ROIs) and its sustainability over the long-term – the ‘why’. While the use case may be clear, many companies worry that the cost of the migration will not lead to an ROI by the time that a new investment or a new migration is needed; many also worry that their current investments have not leveraged to their fullest extent and want to ensure that the answers to their business needs aren’t lying within their current systems.

  • Regulatory Issues

    While many chemical companies recognize that other industries are worth learning from, there are aspects of the chemical industry that require specific conversations, with regulatory concerns being chief among them. With specific regulations like those for exportation or materials handling, the chemical industry can’t afford to be uncompliant but also would like to leverage automation, analytics and the like to make reporting and other compliance requirements more efficient and in line with other business processes. To do this, many chemical companies look to better leverage technology to meet this need.

  • Manufacturing

    At the core of many chemical companies is the manufacturing of products for distribution to other companies or direct to consumers. Efficient manufacturing presents an immediate opportunity for profit improvement, and using technology and digitization to achieve this efficiency was an overwhelming theme throughout our research. Many aspects of manufacturing – production planning, maintenance and reliability, environmental health and safety – all featured in our conversations on technology and its interface with this aspect of chemical businesses.

  • Procurement

    While many have different processes and tools for procurement, all had similar concerns about understanding the long-term implications of today’s procurement decisions – to avoid over-stock of parts and raw materials, to encourage cost efficiencies and collaboration, and to ensure the greatest visibility into data and decision-making tools – and how technology can play a role in that.

  • Cloud Strategy

    In our chemical industry research, many discussed the cloud not just in terms of a deployment mechanism, but also in terms of a transformative business opportunity. Cloud is an opportunity to free-up capital and gain agility.  However, many also question the implications for loss of control when one moves to the cloud. The focus of in-house IT shifts from server management to vendor management; versioning occurs on many different schedules, possible without notice or an opportunity for input. Not only is security effectively outsourced, but data itself is now also in the hands of another, opening a Pandora’s box for those looking for a cloud solution.

  • Becoming Mobile

    Mobility has infiltrated our personal lives to the extent that formerly sedentary, in-the-office activities are expected to be done at any time, on the go. As a result of these services, our customer’s expectations have changed wildly to assume that companies both can and should provide fully digital, mobile interfaces. The advantages to going mobile are clear on the surface: it can ensure data accuracy, improve communications with the field, reduce data time lags, and optimize time in the field. However, while mobility has become the mainstream in the consumer consciousness, it comes with significant considerations for companies trying to harness the opportunity.

  • Master Data Governance

    If analytics and reporting is the common thread in all of our conversations, master data governance is the fiber that makes up that common thread. Analytics are only as good as their inputs, and with master data being a part of many jobs across an organization, the opportunity for mistakes or failures is wide spread. Good data, for many of our representative companies, is often an afterthought, with sales and production taking precedence over good input. Further, ownership of master data governance is not always clear and well-delineated. While individual employees are typically the source of input, the data outputs, cleaning of data, and overall management of the process sits somewhere between IT and the business.

  • Managing Multiple Interfaces & Integrating Disparate Systems

    Many companies have purchased a variety of products to address different business needs, or have otherwise inherited a scenario where aspects of the business run on different instances of SAP and non-SAP programs. Further, many have different interfaces, some of which may be localized to meet regulatory requirements or business needs. As companies look to simplify or consolidate, the time and money cost of integrations add to the already-existent complexities. While all integrations will be different due to the nature of the technology involved, our chemical customer representatives found commonality in many of the challenges that are faced with managing integrations and maintaining different interfaces.

  • Cybersecurity

    As digitization, mobilization, and the cloud all transform the way we do business, every company must ask: is it safe, and how can we be sure? Overwhelmingly, the ability to affirmatively answer this question can change on a regular basis – hackers change their targets and techniques almost faster than technology itself can change, and old breaches or dormant viruses can all wreak havoc far after an initial system infiltration occurred. As the number of cybersecurity attacks increase for political and financial gains, chemical companies are understandably wary of taking on new technologies without proper considerations of all of the risks and requirements.


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