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article imageDigital transformation of the chemical industry

By Tim Sandle     Oct 8, 2017 in Science
The chemical and advanced materials sectors need to push ahead with digital transformation, according to the World Economic Forum. This will help to herald in new innovations.
The World Economic Forum has been analyzing the effect of, and possibilities for, the digital transformation of different industries for the past three years. The review began with the automotive, consumer goods, electricity, healthcare, logistics and media sectors. This has now extended to chemistry and advanced materials.
Many technological solutions are reliant upon chemistry and materials sciences: touch screens, the rechargeable batteries in portable devices, OLEDs in flexible electronics and the lightweight materials used to build drones, are a few examples highlighted by Bernd Kreutzer, Managing Director at Accenture Strategy and Fernando J. Gómez, Head of Chemistry and Advanced Materials Industry, at the World Economic Forum.
Working with Accenture, a report issued during 2017 ("Digital Transformation Initiative: Chemistry and Advanced Materials Industry") highlights three areas for this sector to focus upon.
Digitalize the enterprise
The first part of the review notes that digital technologies are making an impact upon operations, driving efficiency. This includes the Industrial Internet of Things; the use of automation; the application of analytics; and the use of artificial intelligence. While these are active within research and development and the supply chain, the report notes that the focus now needs to be on augmenting workforce capabilities.
With the workforce, the report notes that success will only occur if workers have the necessary digital skills and if businesses initiate changes in working style and the type of work performed.
Go beyond the molecule
The process of digitalization presents the sector with opportunities to launch new digital content, outcome-oriented business models and better customer interaction.
Collaborate in ecosystems
Digital technology presents opportunities for accelerated innovation cycles. This will also lead to different organizations interacting on a bigger scale, leading to more data sharing along value chains. One area of collaboration highlighted is with developing a common approach to cybersecurity.
How chemicals and advanced materials can contribute to the digital dimension
The advent of new technologies presents many opportunities for the chemical and advanced materials sector. For example, the development of electric vehicles spells good news for plastics, composites and battery technologies; this also relates to the acceleration of drone technology. Another area is with smartphones; this presents opportunities for manufacturers of substrates, backplanes, transparent conductors, barrier films and photoresists. The high speed Intrernet means more sales of chlorosilane for ultrapure glass and developments with integrated circuits opens up new ground for a range of chemical technologies: dielectrics, colloidal silica, photo resists, yield enhancers and edge-bead removers.
These opportunities, however, will only be available for the more competitive chemical and advanced materials firms, those that have taken the advice of the World Economic Forum survey and undergone a digital transformative process.
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