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Software Options and Trade-offs in the Chemicals Industry

  Marko Gacesa   |   September 4, 2019

A Primer on Technology Commonly Found in Chemicals
Companies and New Options

We’re here to demystify modern technologies and explain what digitally-driven innovation can look like in specialty chemicals. But in order for companies to start planning your own digital strategies, we need to fully itemize and explain the technology commonly found at chemicals companies today.

But these current solutions aren’t going to help you compete in the new era of competitive innovation. To accelerate innovation, improve customer service, and win more deals you need something new.

What You Need to Prepare for an Era of Competitive Innovation

In non-technical terms, you need software that enables you to manage and optimize your innovation work - which is very iterative and unique. You need software that:

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There isn’t great software that facilitates the non-linear workflow of lab projects and chemists. Here is an overview of common legacy software running in labs and their primary drawbacks:

What You Don’t Need

You don’t need another single-purpose software tool. Each stand-alone software tool creates another silo of data. On top of the industry’s long-standing tradition of paper lab notebooks, most companies operating at scale utilize at least 7 disconnected pieces of software in their labs. Some of the most common are email, Word, Excel, statistical software, chemical drawing software, laboratory information management systems, lab notebook software, formulation software, regulatory & compliance software, project management software and, of course, custom applications built on Lotus Notes, Sharepoint and the like. This, in Silicon Valley tech speak, is a messy and antiquated ‘tech stack’ like puzzle pieces from different puzzles that don’t fit together.

This proliferation of tools means that work gets chopped up every time you need to use a different piece of software. This creates inefficiencies, so you certainly don’t want to add in another tool and hope for the best.

An additional effect of this multi-system software approach is the creation of various silos of data. When your data is spread around, it gets easily lost and it becomes difficult to protect what is saved. Your employees cannot find useful information nor easily “connect the dots” to learn from it. This means your company is losing valuable intellectual property, and your employees are wasting time looking for data (estimated to be 20% - 30% of their working hours per week 1), work is unnecessarily redone, and there is no opportunity to learn from data at scale.

You don’t want software that has fixed workflow. No two chemicals companies operate the same way. Each company has different core platform chemistry, products, processes, organizational structure, geographic dispersion, culture. In fact, even divisions within the same company can operate dramatically differently. Fixed software forces you to change how you work to accommodate the software, requires extensive training to use and often creates employee frustration because the software doesn’t align with internal business processes.

You do not want software that is expensive and cumbersome to change. If so, there will be significant budget and execution hurdles 2 every time change is required. Because your business is constantly evolving, any software that cannot keep pace with the rate of change in your business will become a drag on your operations.

You don’t want software that you can’t measure the benefit from. That is the old paradigm of software. You buy it, capitalize it, depreciate it, and rarely change because it is so expensive and time consuming. That’s not how technically savvy buyers operate any longer. Why would anyone buy something they can’t measure the benefit from when there are alternatives that let you do this very thing?

Modern Software Created Specifically for Chemicals Companies

We built Alchemy to help chemicals companies accelerate product development and service delivery. For the first time, chemicals companies can address speed, cost, and visibility across all lab-related operations while also building the digital data repository on which to analyze their data at scale.

Alchemy can address the scientific nature of your innovation processes that are:

Alchemy’s proprietary workflow engine addresses both the uniqueness of the industry and your company’s proprietary processes. Alchemy generates custom applications for you to digitally execute your innovation, product development and service delivery processes, however you define them. We build into your unique workflows the functionality you would normally access in separate tools and software, so that people using Alchemy have access to both the data and the tools to do their job efficiently in one application.

Short-term and Long-term Savings with
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) vs. On-premise Software

We provide our software “as a service” with a SaaS model. This means that instead of buying software and having to install it and maintain it on your own, you simply pay an annual subscription to use the software. Not only do you save on purchase and maintenance costs, but Alchemy can replace entirely, or in part, at least 7 categories of software, obviating the need for the requisite IT costs to support them. This makes it easier and faster for people to do their work, and pools your data into a single repository. Alchemy commonly replaces:

As a result, our long-term customers are able to run very lean in terms of IT as a % of revenue and IT as a % of opex because Alchemy both consolidates their tech stack and supports the user base on the platform. We configure, support, and enhance their core lab software daily, weekly, monthly based on their user feedback and usage. We train and support their users up front and with every enhancement. We generate regular reporting for management and executive level leadership. This is how we at Alchemy define the operating differences between providing software and providing software as a service (SaaS).

Invest in technology that will help you compete

As you think about competing in the new era of chemicals innovation getting new products developed and into the hands of paying customers faster will be your biggest opportunity. We recommend starting with an investment in your core innovation and commercialization processes with modern software designed specifically for chemicals companies.

Contact us if you'd like to learn more.

References:

  1. IDC, Interact, McKinsey & Co.
  2. CIO.com

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