Transforming the Chemical Industry with Innovative Technology
How do you see the benefits of cloud computing for the Chemical industry, and how have you embraced it?
Cloud computing has really transformed the speed and agility with which a company such as Linde is able to respond to the challenges we face in the marketplace and unlock productivity gains through technology innovation. Where 10 or 15 years ago our focus was on traditional on-premise ERP systems, and although these have been very successful in driving business process, they lacked the speed and flexibility that we can now achieve with cloud based platforms.
Chemical companies have lots of information but can’t use it effectively to drive business. Data is both difficult to access and needed by more applications. How do you examine the effective and proactive use of data—how to consolidate, integrate and use it to drive business?
I think many ‘traditional’ industries have been guilty of not recognizing how much data they actually have that has the potential to drive overall business success. For example, so much data is generated at many points in our production process. Traditionally, this may have been used in a limited, or restricted way. When the reliability and efficiency of this directly effects a customer whose operation is dependent on the security of that supply, that data can become a powerful tool to bring value directly to our customer relationship. The power of analytics platforms today allows us to unlock this value from data that previously was held in silos.
What does the internet of things mean for Chemical industry?
IoT is a potential game changer for the chemical industry. The ability to increase the connectedness of all steps in our supply chain, from the production process to delivering our products, allows us to streamline our business processes, increase our reliability and transform the customer experience.
What is the innovative technology and processes chemical companies are in need of right now?
Linde has a very distributed network of production and distribution locations across North America, over 300 locations. Exploiting mobile solution to bring business process engagement, and collaboration tools directly into the hands of our workers in the field is transforming how our business gets done and is one of our biggest needs.
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. How do you think digitalization and technology will bring in a change?
In our sector, challenges are driven by the increasing demands of customers for security of supply and seamless customer service. For a B2B industry, digitalization has the power to transform how we interact with our customers and execute our operations. Our customers expect to have the same customer experience when they deal with us as they would with a true ‘digital company’, e.g. where is my delivery? In our supply chain we have the power to use data to increase the efficiency and reliability of our plants.
Over the years, we have witnessed a massive change pertaining to the role of CIOs depending on the organization, the industry, the business strategies, the prevailing market conditions and the financial climate in terms of business value. How would you describe your own role as CIO and the change you have undergone in the past couple of years?
Historically, the CIO role was cast as a supporting player to ensure that the demands of the business were met. It was quite transactional and we were not really leading. As technology has evolved, its role has become more strategic. I have seen my role shift to become one where we are being asked to help really shape the business vision, as digital capabilities become increasingly central. This has also meant that pure technology knowledge is no longer enough for a CIO, they have to have a business mindset.
With your rich experience of managing IT organization and steering technology for your enterprise, can you please share some of the unique lessons learned and your advice for fellow CIOs?
Prioritization is your key to success. As traditional industries we have a long ‘legacies’ that present an almost overwhelming set of opportunities to exploit technology and digital solutions. Focus on finding those that will truly drive significant bottom line improvement and execute those relentlessly.
Don’t forget you need to keep the lights on. A prerequisite to being able to drive strategic change through digitalization is also by ensuring that the basic IT service needs of your organization are being met. This is everything from keeping the business secure to ensuring everyone has a working device that can connect.