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

A look back at our Digital[IN] - Digital Forum of Industry 2020. The hour of the chemical industry.
Share: Array

For an hour, the Digital Forum of the Industry devoted itself to digitization in the chemical industry. Terms such as Chemistry 4.0 and Digitization were mentioned. You can find out what this means in this article. We also show how companies such as Evonik and Marabu are going about digitization, what a successful digital strategy in the chemical industry can look like and what is ultimately important. 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 speech “Times of change – The role of innovation and digital leadership”, Henrik Hahn looked at how digital the chemical industry in Germany is. Using the example of Evonik he highlighted the progress made in recent years. Evonik is a relatively young company, founded in 2007, but is already one of the leading companies in the chemical industry in Germany – partly because the group invests in digitalization. Evonik promotes mobile working, agile action and thus aims to increase efficiency, but this alone does not make for a successful digital strategy. Chemistry 4.0 is for Evonik a key term when it comes to digital strategies.

Chemistry 4.0: One digital strategy, four goals

At the heart of digitalization in 2020 is interaction, networking and the intelligent use of data. With its digitalization 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) Developing and building digital skills and competencies of employees.

The goals are set, but how do you become a digital chemical company? According to Henrik Hahn, three paths to becoming a digital company are conceivable or obvious. Either you start from the very top of the company structure, by establishing your own staff unit at group level and a central strategy. Evonik Or you set up your own business unit. This was the case with Evonik in the second step. The third option 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 at the end of the day, activities can be broken down from the central strategy and easily integrated into the various departments. If you follow Evonik, it makes sense for companies to set up their own digital unit and pursue a central strategy early on. Like in an organizational chart, the activities are derived across the entire company, with a central leader at the top.

Starting points for digital action can be found along the entire value chain (eCommerce, customer portals, transport management, IOT applications and many more). It is therefore not surprising that companies initially faint when they hear the message "Let's digitize now". The possibilities are endless. This makes it all the more sustainable to set up your own digitization unit or find good partners.

The digitalization of a chemical company is difficult to calculate in sales

Unfortunately, companies all too often hold themselves back when it comes to digitization, because the economic impact is often the top priority. But this is difficult to calculate. Henrik Hahn advises not to pay attention to the economic impact of digitization first, 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 does not always translate directly into sales. For a successful chemical company, digitization and innovation go hand in hand, and so does the courage to take new paths.

2. IT corporations, startups & traditional companies: successful synergies or Bermuda Triangle for the chemical industry?

Innovative solutions can be found particularly in the startup scene. The following panel discussion focused on the collaboration between startups and corporates: “IT corporations, startups & traditional companies: successful synergies or Bermuda Triangle for the chemical industry?” 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 fall into the trap of believing that IT has to be cheap and that digitization has to generate profits. It is not that simple, as Henrik Hahn noted in his keynote speech. Our panelists are also repeatedly confronted with this assumption. They explain that intrinsic motivation is more important for sustainable digitization. It is undoubtedly difficult to justify digitization in terms of an immediate increase in sales.

From setting goals to the first digital steps

Daniel Gandner explains using Marabou the approach to digitization of the company and underlines that Marabou is still in its infancy. Digitalization is not child's play, but requires time, perseverance and, ultimately, investment from the very top. It is a long way before we can talk about Chemistry 4.0 in companies. So back to the beginning. Marabou pursues two goals: Firstly, the digitalization of production and secondly, the digitalization of sales. The overarching goal is to reach potential customers all over the world and for this, digitalization is needed as a tool. In order to achieve this, the players at Marabou First, problems are identified in order to then look for solutions.

Marabou is is now in contact with FoxBase with the aim of globalizing sales. To do this, digital tools must be introduced into the company today. Customers today have the need to inform themselves and find products independently. 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 do they necessarily have to be startups? No, but startups offer three key advantages over large companies that also offer promising solutions: They are agile, offer solutions that no one else has before, and are genuinely interested in collaboration, says Daniel Gandner.

Working with startups pays off

However, many companies are in contrast to Marabou of the real problems, for example why sales suddenly make less revenue 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. He sees the omni-channel approach as particularly important today.

A good digitalization strategy doesn't care about internal structures. It's about selling, but also about listening. It's just as important to build a personal bond between the company and the startup when working together. That's why CheMondis The personal customer advisor is also very high up. A problem that also arises in CheMondis is that companies want to see success quickly. Digitalization 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 pay off, emphasizes Sebastian Brenner.

There is enormous power in digitalization

So how can organizational change be brought about? Pedro Ahler is certain of one thing: it has to be wanted from top to bottom. Entrepreneurs have to be willing to invest financial resources and manpower. Digitalization has to be a top priority! But too many people are still afraid of digitalization because the fear of total control stands in their way. Digitalization is much more complex to look at and dystopias like those we know from George Orwell's novel 1984 are not immediately reality. Digitalization in the chemical industry primarily serves to simplify work processes and increase efficiency. No one is monitored.

To return to the question posed at the beginning of what digitalization actually means, Pedro Ahlers names the two English terms for digitalization. Firstly, the term "digitalization", which is located at the tool level. When we talk about digitalization, we mean tools that are quick and easy to use. On the other hand, the term "digitization" refers to the digitalization of entire business processes. Most people talk about digitalization. If a company has understood the power of digitalization, in the sense of the term "digitization", it is miles ahead of the competition, Pedro Ahlers concludes his explanation of the term.

So what is the best way to approach Chemistry 4.0?

The first key questions to be asked are what the problem is that needs to be solved and what needs to be achieved. The customer journey in the chemical industry today consists of 80% communication and consumption of information and only 20% sales. That is why an important component of a successful digital strategy is to further expand self-service so that customers can inform themselves and get help independently. 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 digital tools or the website can also sustainably improve production, ensure better pricing and increase efficiency. Anyone who ensures customer self-service is already well on the way to Chemistry 4.0.

You might also be interested in:


We look forward to your inquiry about the Digital Product Selector. Let's digitize B2B sales together in a sustainable way!

phone+49 211 1586 4066
addressOststrasse 10, 40211 Düsseldorf