The global chemical industry has reached a tipping point, and it’s all about information. Big Data and next generation analytics are now being used by leading chemical companies to enhance manufacturing, fine-tune pricing, improve marketing and support innovation. Success depends on recognizing that Big Data is more than an incremental change in technology but a strategic transformation for the industry.
Big Data means more than just ‘a lot of data.’ One definition is based on three V’s: the extreme volume of data being generated and gathered, a wide variety of data types, including texts, pictures and video from social networking, and the high velocity at which the data must be processed.
Big Data is used with advanced analytic software to recognize patterns, trends and associations not apparent in smaller data sets. In effect, analytics can support two more Vs: veracity to ensure data quality and value for businesses seeking greater productivity, lower costs and higher revenues.
IT is nothing new for the chemical industry. In 2005, Dow Chemical was taking advantage of IT and operational data to develop cost models for freight, logistics and raw material spend. These models were first used to negotiate better terms with suppliers, helping to reduce expenses.2 Today, chemical companies use IT and data gathered from operations and other sources to strengthen, enhance and generally improve the way they do business, support growth and compete in the marketplace.
For some analysts, the emergence of Big Data is more of an evolution than a revolution, simply one point on a continuum that represents the ongoing development of technology. For the chemical and several other industries, however, Big Data can support a critical shift from reaction to changing market demands, production issues or other factors requiring action, to prediction — when these factors might occur — and ultimately to prescription — what should be done to address these events in the future.
In fact, it could be said that the traditional three pillars of a modern business — people, process and technology — should now be increased to five with the addition of data and analytics.
With Big Data and the right analytic tools, many chemical companies are developing holistic solutions that integrate silos of information from suppliers, the plant floor, sales and marketing, laboratory information management systems (LIMSs) and third parties. By integrating data and applying advanced analytical techniques to raise their productivity, manufacturers can increase efficiency and enhance product quality. In emerging markets, companies can begin to build competitive advantages by capturing market share and improving margins. In developed markets, companies can use Big Data to reduce costs and deliver greater innovation in products and services.2
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1 Big data and the chemical industry, ICIS, 13 December 2013
2 How Big Data is Influencing Chemical Manufacturing, ChemInfo, 26 May 2015, URL