In 2016 the chemical industry faces a serious brain drain. An aging workforce across the sector is creating a significant issue for companies.
At Dow Chemical, for example, about a third of its employees are 50 or older. These employees are expected to retire in the near future. Chemical companies are using more contractors and service providers to supplement the diminishing workforce.
This changing workforce means companies face increased compliance risk.
Chemical companies that turn to digital solutions are well positioned to mitigate these risks. This digital transformation is taking place in product development, processes, and business modeling.
Digital technology has vast implications for the chemical industry.
Today core business elements are being connected to each other like never before. Platforms link products, equipment, and employees.
Suppliers and customers connect to chemical firms. These connected systems offer new opportunities for collaboration. Processes improve at a faster rate. Productivity grows across the firm.
A new frontier
Computing advances offer solutions not possible just a few years ago.
Predictive maintenance schedules and quality control are now a reality.
Supply chain efficiency and market-driven pricing are easier to put in place. New profit centers are emerging.
Cloud computing offers vast storage capacity at affordable rates. These structures allow for broad information sharing and easier analysis & reporting.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is another considerable factor. The IoT connects products, equipment, and other devices together with sensors, software, and wireless technology. These devices detect, store, and report data on a massive scale. Your things are smart and connected.
Chemical work, redefined
These improvements allow meaningful changes to the way firms work. In addition, the digital solutions play a main role in solving the aging workforce issue by reducing the workload. They also help ensure that firms remain in compliance with regulations.
For forward-looking companies, there are several ways that technology changes the nature of work.
Smart, connected machines improve accuracy and safety on the shop floor. Operations are more precise with the use of machines connected to database systems. Predictive systems control or support operational instructions. Self-learning systems interact with machinery and business processes.
Digital back office
Many support functions are evolving or now digitized. Procurement and invoicing are no longer siloed activities. This new digital space integrates inventory management, accounting (e.g. invoice reconciliation) with human resources.
Analytics tools take digitized data from processes in real time. Insights and reporting are immediately available. Employees are presented with more information and can make decisions faster.
Related to compliance
How does this digital growth relate to compliance? Let’s take one example where contractors and compliance meet.
Chemical labeling systems often cause major headaches. Labeling systems vary in many ways. Differences in process and format can change by department and region.
These variables are a challenge to consistency and control standards across the firm. Today enterprise-wide systems offer a solution.
Such systems ensure consistency, compliance, and security. As guidelines change, there’s an urgent need to change and manage label data fast. With smart technology, firms can share data and changes with remote contractors and suppliers.
These systems allow all locations to manage changes and reduce downtime. Business processes scaled across the globe ensure consistency across the enterprise.
Version control systems and documentation are important regulatory issues. Firms need systems to chart approvals, work flow, and revisions history. These modern systems connect data from all sources.
Firms today share data with contractors worldwide. This integration of corporate and partner data requires accurate label printing. Central printing oversight offers global supply chain consistency. Manual and redundant label data entry disappears.
Labeling systems now can share business rules with contractors and suppliers. With leaner work forces, these systems reduce delays caused by global variances.
Differences in regulations are a challenge to compliance. Different image requirements, formats and language complicate the issue. As a solution, single-source systems incorporate these variables centrally. Different format and printer standards are tracked at the firm level. Labor is free to work in other areas.
Shared data is another advantage. Automation allows data to be linked from different systems. Now safety and quality control info are tied to performance. Inventory and supply chain data links to order demand and sales.
Contract employees can sign off on regulatory mandates in remote locations and affirm procedures. Smart devices prevent tampering and alert contractors of safety issues in real time.
Fleet of foot
Digital advances in fleet and stock management also improve compliance with fewer employees. Systems and sensors can better match demand with supply. External market intelligence can be factored into the forecasting process.
Transportation systems are more agile. Response to customer needs increases and new markets emerge globally.
Fewer personnel costs
One other consideration is the use of basic mobile and social media tech. Leveraging these tools lets contractors and staff communicate directly. An engaged workforce can collaborate in new ways. Integrated platforms offer the right information at the right time. The right people see it. The right decisions are made.
Cloud-based content management systems streamline training. Enterprise compliance tools reduce risk and boost performance. Cloud-based talent management systems track rising stars. Hiring and training costs drop for new hires and contractors.
What it means
In short, the connected chemical firm lets employees everywhere connect. This strengthens compliance through shared data sets and consistent processes.
As workforces get leaner and more distributed, technology helps firms stay on track. The new chemical formula is there to use.