[ID] => 10082
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2018-09-13 10:38:35
[post_date_gmt] => 2018-09-13 09:38:35
[post_content] => Europe is, historically, the birthplace of the chemical industry. Experimentation and hard work during the Industrial Revolution spurred development of new techniques, initially in Scotland before spreading in the UK and very rapidly also in France, Belgium and Germany. A spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship, allied to ideas for doing old things better and making brand new products pushed the European industry forward until by the 1920s it was dominated by ICI, IG Farben and Rhône-Poulenc, with Dow catching up for North America.
More recently, that venerable tradition has had to face a new reality. Economic and demographic changes over the past hundred years have meant that European producers have been left behind by new production centres in the Middle East – benefitting from low feedstock costs – and Asia, closer to the booming economies and centres of rapidly rising demand, with their new and highly efficient production plants. The slump in oil prices a few years ago further hurt Europe’s competitive position, which slipped again with the emergence of new, low-cost production in the US, based on shale gas feedstocks.
Lately though, the pendulum has swung back in Europe’s favour; rising oil prices have undercut the advantages of low-cost producers and the importance of logistics in getting product to market – and Europe remains a huge market – have encouraged investment in new and more efficient production capacity and responsive, flexible supply chains, especially in the hub ports and industrial clusters in Europe.
And having led the Industrial Revolution, Europe is also at the forefront of the so-called fourth revolution: the application of digitised technologies to identify inefficiencies and enhance competitiveness, not just between companies but between the various regions of the world.
This year has seen a lot of progress in terms of digitisation throughout the chemical supply chain. A workshop hosted by EPCA and the Vlerick Business School in June highlighted the activities of some of those companies that are seen as front runners in the process. It is evident that those who have thought seriously about the opportunities offered by digitisation are also keenly aware of the threats that it presents, not least the risk that, should the chemical industry and its logistics partners not embark on the road to digitisation, start-ups and IT specialists will come in and disrupt the established ecosystem.
Those front runners have also experienced the organisational changes that come with the process of digitisation, changes that fit in with the generational shift that is going on across the business world. The successful corporation of the future will be looser, devolving decision-making down the managerial chain and opening its borders to collaboration and cooperation with its suppliers, customers and, even, competitors.
This process is happening quickly and there is a risk that, should the European industry as a whole not take heed of the way the winds are blowing, it will once again find itself behind the curve. There is a role to be played by its representative organisations, not least in helping establish neutral and non-profit platforms to enable digitisation across all business relationships in the supply chain.
This reality will inform much of the discussion at this year’s EPCA Annual Meeting in Vienna; we should all know more by the end of it. Peter Mackay
[post_title] => Editor's Letter to Europe
[post_status] => publish
[comment_status] => open
[ping_status] => open
[post_name] => editors-letter-europe
[post_modified] => 2018-09-13 10:38:35
[post_modified_gmt] => 2018-09-13 09:38:35
[post_parent] => 0
[guid] => https://www.hcblive.com/?p=10082
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Editor’s Letter to Europe
// By Peter Mackay on 13 Sep 2018
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