Specialty Chemicals The Players and Slayers in the Speciality Chemicals Industry

Author / Editor: Laura Rokohl / Dominik Stephan

You know your reaction inside–out. You understand your processes in detail. And yet, what makes or break a chemical company is often the understanding of complex market scenarios and the ability to react to sudden changes. This article takes a coser look on how technology can help to overcome these issues...

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(Picture: Aspentech)

The economic picture for the specialty chemical industry remains uncertain. Numerous complex challenges continually threaten to ‘slay’ the business of chemicals operators on a day-to-day basis. To be a leading ‘player’ today, overcoming these challenges is crucial to stay competitive and ensure the entire supply chain is optimised.

Expanding portfolios have caused the number of products to grow, thereby requiring the responsiveness of manufacturing plants to improve. Supply chain leaders need to evaluate issues affecting their business where operational ‘slayers’ can kill profitability, so they must make adjustments to keep the operation sustainable and be able to respond quickly to customer demands. It is important to identify some of the main challenges that harm the business in order to put in place appropriate measures to safeguard commercial targets.

Lack of Decision Support Tools - Manual Planning and Scheduling

Many organisations still utilise manual methods to complete planning and scheduling functions. Significant levels of automation exist in transaction support systems and in the control or execution area. An overwhelming number of chemical producers use Microsoft Excel or Access to manage aspects of their supply chain. This results in an environment where planners are saddled with manual data gathering, which can increase the risk of errors.

Without a sales and operations planning (S&OP) process in place, companies have limited ability to profitably align supply with demand. They lack the ability to evaluate scenarios and respond quickly to unplanned events, spending more time managing data and fighting fires instead of performing meaningful analysis. The use of spreadsheets for tracking data, performing data manipulation or assisting with analysis through the use of reports and graphs has been extensive. This has led to the creation of “islands of automation” where decision support tools have been used to address specific issues.

However, these tools are often “stand-alone” with data either entered manually or through a spreadsheet front end. A significant weakness is that these tools are often only understood by the primary user. The resulting “silos of automation” often fail to meet planning and scheduling function needs. The inability to see the whole future operational picture results in an inconsistent strategy and decisions are sometimes only based on current hot issues.

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