chess pieces in alignment

It’s a VUCA World – Make Sure Your Supply Chain Is Prepared

November 06, 2019

We live in a VUCA world, with market conditions best described as concurrently volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In global chemicals markets, prices bounce often, trade patterns shift and product slates continue to grow. These rapid changes make it challenging to plan and manage your business and to build the necessary capabilities for future opportunities.  

Digital technologies offer a pathway through this chaos, providing the capability to optimize operations, the structure to gain insight from your operating and business data and the solutions to integrate those processes to maximize your profitability. 

But many companies struggle to bring this all together, as I am often reminded in conversations with chemical executives. One recently told me, “We know we need digitalization so we can convert data to value and actual insight across our heterogeneous landscape of operations.” 

Another executive offered: “We have to solve our problems at a plant level and at the business unit level. In the end we make chemicals, we are not a digital company.”  

This is where nearly four decades of experience and a depth and breadth of digital product capability combine to deliver the most effective solutions for the chemical industry.

Let’s talk supply chain: Many companies most need effective insight and integration at the boundary of supply chain and operations. Studies by Gartner and Accenture confirm that chemical companies struggle to make this integration work. These teams are crucial to the effective functioning of the business, where customer needs are directly translated to what the assets can produce. Yet it is at this interface that gaps occur, handoffs fail and companies lose margin.

We must agree that supply chain and operations executions are focused on the same things: delivering the right products, in the right quantities, at the promised times, with the level of quality expected. However, they operate on different planning timescales and their scope varies from discrete assets to global regions. So when changes happen – as they inevitably will – these teams are out of step and cannot effectively accommodate a delay in raw material, an urgent customer order or myriad other issues.

The key is linking the tools and systems of these functions and integrating the capability of scheduling models with manufacturing execution systems to ensure alignment. High-fidelity models determine a coordinated set of actions to achieve the plan while considering system economics and constraints that are often ignored by supply chain tools. These models can be readily calibrated to ensure they correctly reflect actual operations and equipment performance. 

At the same time, a web-based collaboration hub facilitates staff communication so issues can be shared instantly and resolution achieved collaboratively. Additionally, this engagement is captured in a historical record that can provide insight into future operations. 

George Baartmans, Hexion’s Senior Manager of Global Supply Chain and Analytics, describes this solution’s value well: “Our money is made, to a large degree, when the scheduler executes to the plan and to what is most financially optimal for our company.” The company is now rolling out the tool to 47 sites worldwide. 

Learn more about this unique capability from supply chain expert Roch Gauthier in this paper: Alignment Between Supply Chain and Operations Execution.

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