Chemical companies' investments in digital technologies will "rise sharply" in the next three years, with cloud computing and big data analytics expected to generate the highest return on investment, according to research from consulting firm Accenture.
Almost all (94 percent) of the chemical industry executives surveyed plan to increase their digital spend, with more than half (54 percent) projecting a "significant rise". More than three-quarters (77 percent) believe the best returns will come from cloud computing (44 percent) and big data and analytics (33 percent).
Accenture surveyed more than 150 C-level executives and top management across the chemicals industry globally, and found that a digital agenda is increasingly driving strategic decision making and commanding C-level support.
The great majority of the executives (94 percent) agree that digital technologies will "revolutionise" the way they conduct business to a degree similar to the advent of the internet in the 1990s. Additionally, 87 percent said that those companies that do not embrace digital will lose their competitive edge and may face extinction.
"We've entered the age of a different kind of internet - the Industrial Internet of Things, where sensor-driven technology and intelligent machine applications enable communications between a company's assets, products and systems that were never possible before," said David Abood, global managing director of Accenture's chemicals and natural resources industry group.
"But to drive business value, companies need the data and advanced analytics capabilities that allow them to make better, faster and more-informed decisions, while using cloud computing to improve the efficiency of this data and systems management."
Abood said the chemicals industry is already facing "significant logistics and supply chain challenges" as a result of the shale oil and gas boom, not to mention the continued pressure on companies and governments to reduce carbon emissions. "Applying a combination of digital technologies can help companies respond to these market shifts by changing the way they operate, becoming a digital enterprise while also improving the safety of their operations, driving efficiency and reducing costs," he said.
Most chemicals company executives believe that over the next five years, the biggest benefits from digital will include improved productivity (25 percent), redefined product development (24 percent) and an impact on customer relationships (22 percent). And over the past three years, 90 percent said their organisation has increased its investment in employees dedicated to digital.
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