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Cloud computing: A game-changer for the chemicals industry

The chemicals business has lagged behind the curve when it comes to using cloud solutions. Those who don’t embrace this technology risk losing customers.

Overview

 

Chemical producers, despite playing catch-up, have taken notice and are moving to the cloud, according to our research.

As in other industries, the most forward-looking companies see technology as core to virtually every aspect of the business.

This essentially means every business is digital, and senior leaders must be able to understand, embrace and drive value from new technologies.

The likely winners are poised to seize business opportunities—while enabling themselves to leap ahead of the competition—by increasing market differentiation, deepening customer relationships and delivering growth and profits.

Companies that adopt emerging technologies in concert with cloud applications are prepping for higher performance and honing a competitive edge.



Background

Chemical companies increasingly see a cloud-enabled digital business as essential because of several broader factors, including:

  • Increasing importance of emerging markets – Cloud technology allows quicker and more cost-effective penetration of new regions.

  • Increasingly complex and diverse global supply chains - Faster and more responsive collaboration and information sharing along the entire chain.

  • Rise of the green agenda – Higher demands for “asset-light” technology to curb energy consumption and emissions.

  • Rising commoditization demanding differentiation through innovation - Enhances internal and external collaboration and through research and development.

  • Rising infrastructure investment, cost and time pressures - Helps IT and the business as a whole “do more with less.”

Key Findings

Cloud computing will profoundly shake up the chemical industry in six fundamental ways:

  1. Real-time remote, predictive and mobile asset monitoring and maintenance, allowing the tracking of thousands of pieces of equipment across plants in real time.

  2. The power to integrate, share and analyze big data along the value chain to transform visibility, agility and speed.

  1. Enhanced employee health and safety, and remote medical monitoring and assistance. On-site and on-body sensors can monitor equipment safety and detect even minute amounts of hazardous materials.

  2. “Community clouds” will allow more efficient, agile and secure IT using common industry platforms.

  3. Cloud computing and mobile solutions will unleash faster and more effective skills transfer, knowledge sharing and R&D.

  4. Lower barriers to entry empowering new, emerging-market entrants will unleash a new generation of dynamic companies.

Recommendations

 

To prepare for the journey to a hybrid, cloud-enabled environment, chemical companies can start by looking holistically at their entire IT environment to find ways to simplify it. Rather than seeking ways to just cut operating costs, there is value in spending now to save money down the road. For example, companies can invest in the right architecture, tools and governance to take full advantage of the benefits the cloud has to offer.

The more a business can simplify its IT architecture and services—and the business processes they underpin—the better positioned it is to realize the potential benefits of cloud computing. This may mean virtualizing infrastructure as a first step, and dropping redundant or little used applications.

Pilot services can test the benefits of new cloud-enabled mobile and analytics platforms in specific segments or geographies with relatively low risk and cost. Then companies can globally scale up the pilots that they found to be successful.

The more a business can simplify IT architecture, the better positioned it is to realize the benefits of cloud computing.

Authors

Richard Holsman, managing director, Accenture. With more than 20 years of experience helping clients transform their IT landscapes, Holsman has supported clients in IT strategy and planning, mergers and acquisition integration, digital oilfield design, enterprise resource planning organization design, business process re-engineering and IT innovation. He is also responsible for Accenture’s technology consulting work with resources industries clients in Europe, Great Britain, Latin America, South Africa, Russia and Mexico.

Philip Lenders, manager, Accenture. Philip Lenders is a manager in Accenture’s resources technology group, focused on the chemicals industry. As a solution architect, he has supported clients in Belgium, France, Germany and Norway, implementing various cloud solutions across different business functions, ranging from human resources to customer relationship management.

Manish Panjwani, senior executive, Accenture. Manish Panjwani is the industry technology lead for the Accenture Chemicals and Natural Resources group. He is responsible for defining the technology strategy for the chemicals and natural resources industry for Accenture globally, driving investments in technology innovation and capability. During his 19 years at Accenture, he has led innovative and pioneering technology work at some of our largest global clients and has been involved in developing and deploying large scale global enterprise resource planning, commerce architectures and business systems.


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