In our experiences, one of the most important dimensions to making these initiatives work (a dimension, I’m frustrated to say, is too often overlooked) is identifying the right people and mix of staff to drive strategy, engagement, and empathy; a group that can quickly develop the right energy level and enthusiasm as well as having a “stick-to-it” and “see-it-through” attitude for new smart digital systems and IIoT business creation.

In addition to building an effective team, we believe leadership should also be focusing on one or more of the following themes: 

  • Digital and IIoT technologies are enabling radically new customer experiences and informing equally disruptive business models (think of Apple, Amazon, GE Digital, etc.) – we believe competitive differentiation will shift away from traditional means such as product/brand position, low cost manufacturing position, or channel/customer access capabilities and more towards how intelligent systems are experienced. Namely, how networked systems, in the chemical industry can foster new interactions and experiences between and among manufacturers, suppliers, users, channel partners, etc. across value chains.
  • Leveraging new digital data values inherent in connected systems will require new infrastructure and enabling technologies that will, in turn, inform the formation of new and different customer experiences particularly with marketing channels in the chemical industry.  
  • As the complexity of these systems continues to increase, the number and diversity of stakeholders, users, sellers, and supporters involved and interacting with these systems will also rise in a way that creates a “social system” comprised of diverse relationships. We believe that within this social system [or ecosystem] there will be more dominant and subordinate personas interacting with these systems; 
  • The corresponding development of new value networks and ecosystems of complementary manufacturers as well as third party services and solution providers will force chemical industry players to make choices about who they create relationships with; a phenomenon we call “strange bedfellows.”
  • The technical innovation driven by IIoT technologies coupled with changing relationships between and among complementary players will cause changes in how R&D and product realization are likely to occur which, in turn, could potentially cause shifts in the sources of profit and value creation in the chemicals sector. 
  • Bulk and specialty chemical manufacturers alike have an opportunity to lead and become central organizing players, coordinating and orchestrating the aggregation, sharing and brokering of valuable new data which, in turn, enables a whole new range of customer experiences, optimized services and efficient processes. 

Perhaps the most important perspective and learning we’ve come to is the symbiotic relationship between technology and chemical manufacturers’ business and operating models and the “role” of integration architecture and development platforms play in enabling new innovative solutions. 

For a more in-depth discussion of trends, forces, challenges and success factors for digital innovation in the chemicals industry, download the white paper below. 

Smart Systems, Asset Performance Management and Digital Innovation in the Chemical Industry

IIoT Software for the Chemical Industry | GE Digital

Study by Harbor Research

To stay competitive, chemical manufacturers will need to sustain global economic momentum while developing new digital and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) capabilities and operating models. What growth themes and technology trends will the chemical industry seize to drive differentiation?


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About the author

Glen Allmendinger

Founder and President, Harbor Research

Glen Allmendinger is the founder and President of Harbor Research, a strategy consulting and technology research firm based in Boulder, Colorado and Zurich, Switzerland. Glen has been responsible for managing Harbor and all of its consulting and research activities since its inception, has co-authored several pioneering articles on smart systems and services and has spoken at over 100 industry events focused on machine-to-machine (M2M), Smart Systems, and the Internet of Things.


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