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Digitization Across Chemical Industry

Digitization Across Chemical Industry

Chemicals | Nov, 2022

With the rise of the fast development of new competitors in Asia and the Middle East and decades of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, the chemical industry is now encountering game-changing challenges due to the disruptive potential of digitalization. Leaders in the chemical industry are leveraging digital tools and technologies to achieve sustainable business growth and accelerate the digitization of their operations. Like every vertical industry, the COVID-19 pandemic increased the momentum of the digitization among chemical plants to respond to changing customers’ demands. Increasing raw material and energy prices, margin pressure, supply chain complexity and regulatory requirements and Industry 4.0 initiatives are enforcing industry players to reshape their operating models and adapt digitalization.

Leveraging digital technologies, companies can capture critical data and draw insights to improve output at lower costs, schedule preventive maintenance, minimize downtime, and facilitate accurate inventory planning. Digital transformations in the chemical industry are also expected to provide significant opportunities for innovation in products and services. While large chemical plants are focused on increasing the speed of throughput, specialty chemicals are concerned with enhancing quality with digitalization.

Here are some of the ways chemical companies are utilizing digital tools and technologies.

Asset and Maintenance Data

Chemical companies are highly asset intensive. With time, the average lifespan of assets in the chemical industry has increased, which has led to apparent demand for maintenance work. As per estimates, 50% of fixed costs for typical chemical plants go into repair and maintenance work. Earlier maintenance work relied on trained specialists to visually inspect machinery to know how equipment was running. Now, internet of things (IoT) technologies employed in the chemical industry automatically collects sensor data, which can better predict the failure of an asset and inform specialists on how to correct the problem. Collection of asset and maintenance data has become paramount for maintenance improvement. However, data accuracy requires a reliable data collection platform and correct data input. Digital technologies allow technicians to capture real-time actual information. Hence, utilizing digital tools and technologies can help chemical companies achieve.

  • Comply with Environment, health, and safety (EHS), and other regulations
  • Enable preventive and corrective processes
  • Perform fast response to poor equipment performance and breakdowns
  • Monitor equipment performance
  • Facilitate Offline mobility
  • Build SaaS cloud strategy (“evergreen solution”)
  • Optimize performance and cost
  • Contribute towards sustainable and circular Economy
  • Develop resilient supply chains


Promote Growth and Innovation

Disruptions in various industries such as automotive, construction, agriculture, etc. are creating opportunities for the chemical industry to innovate. Traditional methodology for innovation in the chemical industry has created value but the digital revolution could lead towards new business models. Besides, the growing demand for associated chemicals, such as ultra-pure chemicals used in electronics production, battery chemicals, and filaments used in 3-D printing are leading chemical producers in new territories. Advances in quantum computing technologies, atomic force microscope, machine learning are expected to lead the development of ‘in-silico’ experiments that can stimulate large chemical systems. Leveraging insights, chemical companies can digitally conceptualize material with the required chemical, electronic, and physical characteristics. Besides, a number of established companies and start-ups are diving into areas of additive value creation. For instance, artificial intelligence technologies are being applied to design new materials or chemical structures and develop new synthesis pathways. Multivariate analysis allows scientists precise identification of the impact of individual ingredients in the mix. R&D activities that used to take around two-to-three years has reduced to four-to-six months with automation, helping chemical manufacturers to meet the new demands faster.