Last month, the Best Practices for Chemicals Conference took place in Houston, Texas under the motto “Empowering the Intelligent Enterprise”. Running this event now the 5th time it was again a great success. With numerous customers, prospects, partners and SAP experts a unique crowd of business, functional and technology professionals came together to embrace innovative solutions, fresh ideas and best-in-class strategies for transforming chemical business into intelligent enterprises.
Increase visibility to internal processes
Internal process is currently a key focus in chemicals. Increased visibility to everything from compliance to internal authorizations are improving efficiencies throughout. As noted in multiple presentations, this in cases can be accomplished through machine learning or something as straightforward as simplifying the language within SAP through a mix of edge intelligence, on-premise and cloud computing. One challenge to implementation of the digital initiatives discussed is minimizing disruption to the business.
Improve customer experience (CX)
One rather new focus of the chemical industry is improving the customer experience (CX). The legacy chemicals business model put little to no focus on CRM. We’re now seeing companies employ market research through solutions such as Qualtrics to measure the likes of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and customer growth. This is also allowing manufacturers to provide much more customized solutions that could conceivably be created through a mobile application. Overall, being able to combine experience data with operational data puts chemical companies now in a position to create a highly differentiated offering for businesses and deliver superior customer, employee, product, and brand experiences.
Strategic needs and business value should drive innovation
Many presentations focused on digital transformation through the SAP S/4HANA and use cases for solution specific to chemical manufacturing applications. Within that context in mind, many presenters focused on the importance of better information sharing for business users and sharing with customers. Most within the industry believe companies have far too long been stuck in an antiquated and once key stakeholders see what’s in it for them, innovation will drive digitization end-to-end. The keynotes from Albemarle and Covestro made it apparent that the chemical industry made strides compared to last year in embracing S/4HANA as the foundation for an intelligent enterprise and that SAP’s tools as well as its ecosystem are critical success factors for this. Strategic needs and business value are more and more seen as the key drivers for implementation, rather than TCO or software end of life concerns in the years before. Many companies are also already taking a deeper look into SAP’s Cloud solutions and have already plans to implement ARIBA, SuccessFactors, Concur, IBP or C/4HANA on top of S/4. However, many presentations and discussions made it obvious that a thorough planning of the intelligent enterprise journey as well as change in enterprise culture are pivotal to success.
Operate under a business model that emphasizes efficiency and transparency
In all, the new business model for chemicals is efficiency and transparency. Many best practices are rather new but have quickly been accepted as industry standard. As chemical companies move further downstream from their core business and require more touch points that reach all the way to OEMs and retail manufacturers, the architecture of the business must continue to innovate and evolve.
Overall, the event clearly made it obvious that more and more chemical customers build upon S/4HANA as their foundation for digital transformation and the Intelligent Enterprise. Many start already going beyond this and embrace SAP’s cloud solutions in continuation of their journey. However, enabling seamless integration between the S/4 foundation and the Cloud solutions will be a critical success factor for SAP.
Andrew Meyers is Research Director of Oil & Gas for IDC Energy Insights. Visit idc.com/energy to learn more about research from IDC Energy Insights.