Article | July 20, 2022
IT FEELS LIKE several lifetimes ago. If you recall, way back in November-December 2019 Asian variable cost integrated naphtha-based polyethylene (PE) margins turned negative because of the increase in US capacity.
Then in January the following year, deep Asian and Middle East operating rate cuts returned some order to the market. Then, bang, as we all know, the pandemic arrived and turned everything on its head.
The pandemic has, in my view, accentuated trends that were already well underway. I believe this means that the supply-driven downturn that started in late 2019 will not return.Long before coronavirus upended everyone’s lives, PE demand was becoming increasingly divorced from GDP growth because of the shifting nature of end-use demand.
Booming internet sales was, I believe, a major factor behind the split between the growth of the overall economies in the developed world plus China and PE demand.The average product bought online is dropped 17 times because of the large number of people involved in the logistics chain, according to Forbes.
This had led to a surge in demand for protective packaging made not from PE and other polymers such as polypropylene, expandable polystyrene and PET films (I will look at their demand growth prospects in later posts).Despite sustainability pressures, the scale of demand for stuff bought online translated to a lot more consumption of virgin polymers.
Article | July 13, 2021
From novel process technologies to sustainable plastics— the chemical industry is scaling up its digital initiatives. This has opened new doors for organizations to explore opportunities to increase efficiency and streamline the process.
Admittedly, the chemical industry has been a little slower in implementing digital transformation. But COVID-19 has vastly increased the momentum of digitization among chemical plants.
According to a KPMG survey, 96% of industry CEOs saw digital transformation accelerate in their organizations, with 48 percent saying it advanced by a few years. In addition, according to a recent Manufacturing Leadership Council (MLC) survey, 82% of respondents agreed that the pandemic had "created a new sense of urgency" in driving investment in new technologies and digitalization.
Digital transformation solutions offer tremendous potential in the chemical sector. It can play a significant role in driving more value. So let's dig deeper and look at key technologies in bringing digital transformation to the chemical industry.
Chemical manufacturers cannot exist within their own four walls any longer. They recognize the importance of working with their customers and other businesses and organizations to conserve resources and protect the environment. Chemical companies may source raw materials from recyclers as part of a circular economy, which necessitates fool proof solutions to confirm their quality and availability. Circular economy consortiums may advocate for reducing environmental threats such as ocean plastics or exposure to hazardous chemicals, opening up new avenues for innovation.
Customers are constantly looking for new ways to reduce waste and protect their ecosystems. For example, farmers may benefit from solutions that can instantly analyze soil quality, weather, and crops to determine the best products and schedule for applying fertilizers, crop protectants, or new seeds. Using this data, they use only what they need, generate less waste, and maximize output.
Chemical firms are also embracing technology to achieve operational excellence. They've discovered the benefits of using machine learning andIoT technologies to automate standard back-end processes. Technologies such as these reduce the need for human intervention — and thus the possibility of human error. Blockchain technology can also significantly reduce counterfeit chemicals' use, which is especially important for chemical manufacturers who supply products to the pharmaceutical or agricultural industries. In addition, blockchain technology can enable track-and-trace processes that require less work and waste while protecting the enterprise's reputation.
Staying Sharp in the Dynamic Market
Staying agile in an uncertain M&A environment is a top priority for some businesses. For example, chemical firms must be able to quickly divest assets, adjust portfolios, and adapt operations in response to market changes. Technology can provide executives with the visibility into operations, shipments, and market conditions required to make critical decisions and remain agile.
The chemical industry is leveraging cloud-based storage systems to store and share confidential data anytime and anywhere. Additionally, data analytics solutions can analyze all the data effectively to provide valuable insights to the industry. This will help you make meaningful decisions in real-time.
Article | July 14, 2022
The chemical business is intricate, with numerous sub-sectors dealing with various challenges. Thus, there are some differences in the sector's main areas of digitalization. For instance, while specialty chemicals with smaller batches but larger profit margins are concerned with improving quality, large factories are concentrated on accelerating throughput speed.
To be able to react to quick and repeated changes in demand, supply, and working circumstances, however, every plant must optimize output, reduce waste, improve safety and sustainability, and become more nimble. Therefore, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and cloud computing are expected to be the three most popular applications for digital transformation during the coming two years.
The first and most valuable use cases of digitalization in chemical plants center on production optimization through improved equipment performance, process automation, remote and predictive monitoring, and simplified maintenance.
Chemical factories, which often provide basic chemicals for use as end products in other sectors, have a special responsibility to maintain consistently high product quality. However, doing so can be challenging given the significant variations in raw material supply and quality. In addition, as process engineers can change the mix on the fly in reaction to fluctuations in quality, feedstock, or ambient temperatures, better data and analytics enable finer and more frequent adjustments.
The main advantage of digitally transformed plants so far has been cost reduction. The price volatility of raw materials is a problem for the chemical production sector because customers naturally want constant low prices. Minimizing waste is critical since facilities must contend with rising energy costs.
Analytics tools that monitor fluctuating raw material prices aid factories in negotiating the best deals with suppliers and preparing in advance for price spikes. The risk of oversupply is reduced since plants can prepare the proper quantities of various products thanks to more precise demand predictions.
Sustainability, Compliance, and Safety
The chemical industry is heavily regulated as a result of the quantity of hazardous chemicals and the number of end-use industries that rely on it. Businesses are adopting digital transformation to boost safety awareness, reduce emissions and dangerous flare incidents, and guarantee a transparent and accurate audit trail.
Plants that quickly adopt digital solutions for remote monitoring, supply chain visibility, waste reduction, production optimization, raising their safety profile, and opening up new opportunities will profit from higher profits and increased revenue, whereas those that hesitate for too long risk failing in the long run.
Article | July 20, 2022
The chemical industry is evolving. The marketing, purchasing, and selling of chemicals are being affected by forces in the market, with digitization unquestionably having the most significant impact. Many of the existing digitizing models have likely already been given some thought and then rejected.
Chemical businesses are currently conducting pilot projects or starting to gradually scale up their digital initiatives after moving past the proof-of-concept stage. Although this past year brought many difficulties, it also provided an opportunity to revise and re-evaluate foundations moving forward. The Great Reset, as the World Economic Forum has dubbed this time period, is illuminating how the chemical industry might leverage digital technologies to advance.
Whether prompted by governmental requirements or consumer desires, chemical businesses' net-zero ambitions will necessitate new expenditures throughout the whole chemical value chain. As a result, back-office costs must be as efficient as possible to free up money to pay for those investments while keeping a profit.
The most essential requirements for the success of a new product are a solid understanding of customer needs and wants, the competitive climate, and the makeup of the market. The primary factors that influence the needs of the consumer are price, timing, and quality. Therefore, companies create ongoing procedures and plans with these three factors in mind to better serve client needs and grow their market share by regularly creating new products.
The influence of digital technology is constantly growing. One of the foundational elements of 21st-century sources of growth is data-driven innovation. There are numerous items and procedures in the history of innovation that were the result of an accident or careful forethought. Vast volumes of data, or "big data," are being produced and used as a result of the convergence of numerous phenomena, including the growing migration of socio-economic activities on the Internet and the decline in the cost of data collecting, storage, and processing.
Large data sets are becoming an essential resource for the economy, supporting the development of new markets, procedures, and goods while also generating substantial competitive advantages. For example, a billion customers can now access broadband at a reasonable price because of the digital world's supporting infrastructure. In addition, cloud computing and the enormous amount of information processing equipment it needs are developing swiftly, and low-cost connected gadgets are being introduced into every industry.
The financial gains that can be realized through digitization are genuine. The new digital technologies and businesses have seen an influx of cash, and the public markets are rewarding early adopters with record values. The effects of digitization are spreading swiftly throughout every business. Digitization is the changing of life and work as a result of new technologies, not only their acceptance. Much like earlier technologies, modern emerging technologies like the cloud and big data quickly become part of businesses' operations. Unknown to many, this is having a much more significant impact on the industry that makes these tools as well as on customers.
Digitalization that derives from and includes strategic business objectives can greatly benefit chemical firms. Cost savings of roughly 30 to 40 percent can already be made on average today. Additionally, in certain situations, digitalization aided in improving service quality and affected the bottom line by, for instance, enabling new business models. On average, platform-driven digitization projects pay off after 18 months.