Forecasters have been predicting a digital revolution in chemicals for years, but the industry has waited patiently to see dramatic results. The complexity of chemical plant operations and significant entry barriers are among the forces that have limited experimentation in digital technologies. That may be changing: Some chemical executives are becoming concerned about the risk of disintermediation by third parties who can make better use of data and analytical techniques to operate more efficiently, design better materials or build new business models. These concerns may be prompting the sector to broader experimentation: Bain research indicates chemical producers are expecting more disruption from digital solutions over the next five years. To make the most of these opportunities, chemical companies will need to build up new digital capabilities and forge partnerships with third parties who can fill in the gaps.
Jason McLinn and Edel O’Sullivan are partners with Bain & Company in Chicago and Washington, DC. They work with Bain’s Global Chemicals practice, which Jason leads in the Americas.