More than anything else, two questions drive the current discussion within the German chemical industry: How to maintain global competitiveness of the German chemical industry? And how to make use of Industry 4.0, accordingly? This publication wants to respond to these questions by outlining the way to digitization of the industry from a business-strategic angle.
„In the context of digital transformation, supply chain management is playing the key role as enabler. This is why the publication Digital Supply Chains is highly appreciated. Götz Wehberg provides practical use cases for the supply chain of the future as a proof of concept.“
Prof. Dr. Gerrit Heinemann,
To give a quick overview on Chemicals 4.0 and its potentials, we have summarized eleven hypotheses in the following:
1. A range of factors determines competitiveness
Many trends (global market shift, consolidation, etc.) and uncertainties (Euro zone stability, oil & gas price, etc.) determine the development of the German chemical industry. Industry 4.0 is one of them. In order to maintain competiveness in the future, these key factors have to be considered in a joint project with all relevant stakeholders.
2. Chemicals 4.0 has a double impact
Chemicals 4.0 has a strong impact on the industry. It changes operations, businesses and rules of competition. Beyond digitization, however, it also provides solutions for responding to other key trends as a facilitator. Examples are smart solutions for energy efficiency and individual offerings for changing customer behaviour. Chemicals 4.0 accelerates the development of the industry and brings it to the next level.
3. Chemicals 4.0 is more than technology
New technologies such as cyber physical systems, low cost sensors and additive manu-facturing are important enablers. However, Chemicals 4.0 needs to be viewed through business-strategic glasses in terms of efficiency and growth. It means tapping new potentials and building new business cases rather than happy engineering.
4. Digitization is not fully leveraged yet
The German chemical industry is keen on digitizing its business. However, many com-panies are focusing on reproducing existing processes as-is in an electronic fashion (omni-channels, sourcing platforms, HR portals, etc.). Opportunities for developing new operating as well as business models are not being addressed, comprehensively.
5. New Verbund has to be developed
The Verbund strategy has always been a central element of competitiveness. And it will be in the future. However, such competitive edge is not set in stone. Portfolio development strategies have questioned integrated business models. The German Verbund has to develop towards a New Verbund and consider Industry 4.0 technologies, accordingly.
6. Data based operations help to master complexity
Data based operating models do leverage on predictive analytics, resilient network structures as well as self-organisation. Such operations are best prepared to anticipate new market developments. They are most appropriate to efficiently respond to market complexity of the chemical industry with means of flexibility and scalability of resources.
7. Boundaries of chemical companies are shifting
In a Chemicals 4.0 environment, outsourcing becomes much easier, as new technologies support a more seamless integration of contractors and a higher transparency of their performance. As result, make-or-buy decisions are shifting towards both a higher number of facilities being serviced by contractors as well as a larger scope of activities taken over.
8. Chempark operators need to provide Industry 4.0 infrastructure
Site operators are requested to provide proper infrastructure solutions for smart opera-tions as well as on-site connectivity. They have to support transparency as well as self-organized coordination through the Internet of Things. They have to facilitate synergies as well as flexibility on an arms lengths basis and through business objects.
9. Digital business supports individualization
Digital business models provide growth opportunities with means of a long tail of customized products and services as well as a differentiated pricing. Open innovation has to support the development of digital business models. This is especially true for market-driven specialities, but not necessarily excluding asset-driven commodities.
10. Just any kind of online presence is not good enough
Many chemical companies want to leverage on the Internet just somehow. To systema-tically develop a digital business, however, comprehensive strategy and specific digital services are needed. For instance, chemical companies have to position as aggregator or fight against it with means of individualized offerings and pricing.
11. There is no Chemicals 4.0 silver bullet
Compared to other sectors such as Financial Services, the impact of Chemicals 4.0 within the industry will materialize in small steps and in the mid term. It develops in an evolutionary fashion rather than a “big bang”. The German chemical industry has to define and organize its evolution path, accordingly.
(Wehberg, Chemicals 4.0, 2015)
Chemicals 4.0 - Bringing the industry to the next level