[ID] => 11609
[post_author] => 34
[post_date] => 2019-10-08 08:47:16
[post_date_gmt] => 2019-10-08 07:47:16
[post_content] => When the doors open on the 53rd Annual Meeting of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) in Berlin on 6 October, it marks not just the start of four days of intense discussions and debates, but the opportunity to finally share with the wide EPCA community the outcomes of intense preparatory work for EPCA CEO Caroline Ciuciu and her team.
Not that Ciuciu is daunted by the task. “It’s a privilege and true pleasure to elaborate a programme that reflects the environment in which our sector operates, its challenges and opportunities and to engage with all these seasoned experts,” she says, referring not just to the list of high-profile speakers lined up for the Annual Meeting’s business sessions, but also the members of the Board of Directors and the three advisory bodies (SCPC, TDIC and YETT) of EPCA itself.
“We are pursuing our transformation journey initiated in 2017,” Ciuciu says. She sees EPCA not only as a major business network in Europe for the sector but also as a ‘knowledge centre’ and considers that this year is part of a transformational journey that the industry and the Association itself are on.
“It is important to continue the journey,” Ciuciu adds, “and to talk about the more unusual developments that are coming.”
PATH TO DIGITISATION
Some of those developments have been investigated through collaboration with academic institutions, such as the work done with Vlerick Business School on digitisation in the petrochemical supply chain since 2017 with the support of the Supply Chain Program Committee (SCPC). This generated a report in 2018 that identified a baseline in the application of digitised systems among both chemical producers and their logistics service providers, which was followed up by a workshop in Brussels in June 2018. This work was instrumental in identifying the level of awareness of digitisation within our sector, the drivers for transformation, inspiring case studies and the change in mindset needed to reap the full benefits.
Building on that work, this month’s Annual Meeting will focus on digitisation as an enabler for a sustainable future. There are, Ciuciu says, a lot of technologies and platforms already available that can be applied to improving operational efficiency, asset utilisation and customer services, but digitisation can also bring other benefits and the Annual Meeting will look in particular at the intersection of digitisation and sustainability, including eco-efficiency and other emerging practices.
EPCA wants to support its member companies in identifying existing solutions that can improve processes and planning, again in collaboration with Vlerick Business School, whose partner Ann Vereecke will lead a ‘Digital Café’ workshop during the Annual Meeting where participants will be able to discuss their experiences and their needs. “I’m really enthusiastic about this programme, which will unfold some new developments illustrating how digitisation is growing in scope and magnitude and which will offer the possibility to discuss and shape a path forward together to approximately 90 delegates,” Ciuciu says. Initiatives such as this are just one way in which EPCA can support its members and, she adds, there will be more to come next year.
TEACH THEM RIGHT
EPCA is also continuing to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, not least through the European Youth Debating Competition, which will hold its Grand Finals during the Annual Meeting for the fourth year in succession. The Association is also part of STEM Alliance, a cross-industry partnership devoted to the promotion of STEM education, and EPCA is participating in direct contact with schools via webinars with teachers and students.
Over the year several ‘online chats’ were organised by the STEM Alliance on the topic of STEM careers in the petrochemical industry, in which several industry representatives enthusiastically participated.
EPCA is serving as a bridge between industry and schools, fostering dialogues between students, teachers and industry representatives. “This is ongoing work,” Ciuciu notes. She is very enthusiastic about this mission and reports that EPCA’s members are being both very supportive and contributive.
EPCA’s Talent & Diversity Inclusion Council (TDIC) has explored this year ‘individual sustainability leadership’ and this will be reflected in a session on the theme of ‘Petrochemicals: An Industry where You Make an Impact!’.
EPCA began work on a research study earlier this year in order to understand the main competencies and talents that define sustainability leaders and to gather more evidence on the employee benefits of individual leadership, especially – for example – how it can attract and retain talent to the industry and develop today’s talent into tomorrow’s leaders. This new research was triggered by the results of the EPCA study on age diversity finalised in 2018 and by the magnitude of sustainability challenges many industrial sectors are confronted with, that demand transformational changes requiring both reengineering of business and new social and leadership skills.
Led by Prof Wayne Visser, holder of the BASF-Port of Antwerp Randstad Chair in Sustainable Transformation at the Antwerp Management School, this research involved interviews with thought leaders in the petrochemical and other technology sectors, together with a literature review. Prof Visser will be speaking again this year at the Annual Meeting and will share the final results during the renamed ‘Talents of Today, Leaders of Tomorrow’ session.
The ultimate aim of all this work, Ciuciu explains, is to bring meaningful and inspiring perspectives from external experts, front-runners within the industry and other sectors. It is not enough to merely attract talent; industry has to develop that talent in order to support it in its transformation to meet the demands of a sustainable future.
TIME OF CHANGE
EPCA’s 53rd Annual Meeting comes at a time of political and institutional renewal in the EU, with elections for the European Parliament, the appointment of a new European Commission, and the as-yet uncertain outcome of the Brexit process. Amidst all that, there have been what Ciuciu terms “game-changing investment” announced in the petrochemical industry in Europe, notably within the Antwerp chemical cluster.
At the same time, several initiatives are flourishing within the industry and its strategic partners along the value chain to develop innovative solutions towards greater circularity. This is saving resources, enhancing the reuse and recycling of valuable products and assets, and reducing the overall environmental footprint of today’s society. EPCA continues to act as a hub where those interests can come together and write the next chapter of the European petrochemical industry.
How can the European petrochemical industry reinvent itself to continue to deliver sustained and sustainable economic growth in an ever-changing economic and geopolitical environment? That question will be addressed in various ways during the 2019 Annual Meeting, with Ciuciu pointing in particular to the opening session, where Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer will expand on his theory of the connection between regulation, innovation and growth creation.
Tom Crotty, director of INEOS Group, and Patrick Labat, senior executive vice-president Northern Europe, member of the Executive Committee Veolia will share their vision on the contribution of the petrochemical value chain from upstream to downstream to long-term growth.
FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability is also the focus of EPCA’s work in the petrochemical supply chain, which is, Ciuciu says, “crucial to security supply”. A series of incidents over the last few years, such as the Rastatt incident in 2017 which disrupted supply chains along the south-west rail corridor and throughout Europe, or the extreme low water levels on the Rhine river in the second part of 2018 highlighted how key reliable, modernised, efficient and well-connected infrastructures are for the petrochemical industry.
“The planned increase of 30 per cent in freight transport in Europe on the horizon 2030, combined with the requirements of the Paris Agreement in terms of greenhouse gas emissions reduction by the same deadline, impose a reality check on the state of the existing infrastructures and the measures that need to be put in place to truly connect the two expressions of a challenging equation,” Ciuciu says. EPCA wants to identify where the bottlenecks are and how operators can come together to improve efficiency.
“We have to focus on what is ahead of us and how each player can contribute to writing the next chapter and continue the success of the industry,” Ciuciu says. One part of that focus will be the closing lunch at the 2019 Annual Meeting, where Pascal Lamy, former director general of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), will address topics of particular relevance at the moment, not least the future of trade relations in the current polarised world.
EPCA’s role is to support its members, identify the upcoming hurdles as well as best practices and innovative initiatives, and share this knowledge within its wide community. And, as Ciuciu says, EPCA’s members are recognising the value in that effort and are playing their part. There is growing participation in EPCA’s three committees - the Supply Chain Program Committee (SCPC), YETT and TDIC – and Ciuciu says she is glad to see new members coming forward to take part.
ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE
“We have gathered great people in these committees exhibiting a wide range of in-depth expertise and experience,” she says. “These industry experts are the ones who help us build our yearly programme, put us in the right direction and create inspiring projects together. That is certainly a reflection of the industry at large.”
To support EPCA’s mission, several professionals with complementary background have joined the team over the last two years. The latest recruit is Gerardo Ambrosecchia, who serves as project manager in charge of SCPC and TDIC activities and projects, who arrived on 1 July 2019. Bringing in diverse background and competencies is also part of the transformation EPCA is going through in order to continue meeting the evolving expectations of the EPCA customers, its more than 700 member companies.
[post_title] => EPCA: The road to transformation
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[post_modified] => 2019-10-07 09:53:55
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EPCA: The road to transformation
EPCA's CEO Caroline Ciuciu talks about the Association's role in helping its members face the challenges and opportunities of an uncertain world