Digital chemistry

Publish Date

08 MAY 2021


Kai Beckmann


Apart from sustainability, digitalization is one of the key challenges facing the chemical industry. Digital solutions for all business sectors are more in demand than ever before.

The materials and solutions offered by EMD Electronics contribute to making life a little more digital. And digitalization is playing an increasingly significant role throughout EMD Serrano and MilliporeSigma as well.

On the way to a new era

These days, digitalization has become a crucial part of our lives. We can already control household appliances via our smartphones and collect health data using a smartwatch. And in companies, manufacturing processes, logistics and sales would now be unimaginable without digital assistance.

In the chemical industry, the digitalization of production and supply chain processes is well advanced. Technologies such as Big Data, augmented and virtual reality and predictive maintenance, all of which are based on large volumes of data, are used there. Compared with telecommunications or retail companies, the chemical industry is still in the midst of its digital transformation, but we’re making progress. 

According to a study by the consulting firm EY, executives in the chemical industry expect all roles within their companies to continue to change considerably during the course of digitalization – whether in research and development, sales, order management, or customer service. Overall, around 90% of those surveyed expect evolutionary, revolutionary or even disruptive changes in the next three years. It is not without reason that the German Chemical Industry Association (VCI), in its “Chemistry 4.0” study, is seeing the dawn of a new era for the industry. Companies are fundamentally changing their products, processes, and business models, including internal and external data to optimize operating processes and new digital business models.

Digitalization has already been introduced in our production in Darmstadt, Germany, where we manufacture liquid crystals, OLEDs and pharmaceutical products. As a result, every employee can access information in production and can detect defects early. Additionally, we’re increasingly relying on predictive maintenance in production, such as in our centrifuges, which purify liquid crystals and effect pigments. The centrifuges have been equipped with sensors that record and analyze vibrations and changes in the power supply to feed the data into a central network to plan targeted maintenance.

Using digitalization to help against the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has made it clear that digitalizing production processes are not enough. Never before have we depended on digital applications for collaboration as much as we do now. In a very short time, companies had to switch to remote work and digitalize previously still performed processes in person.

At the same time, the health and safety of our employees were our top priority. That’s why we at EMD Electronics developed a software solution, which digitalizes, rationalizes and automates a significant proportion of the Covid-19 testing procedure for employees. The initial version of the software is intended for internal use. It focuses on administrative tasks such as automating e-mails, test invitations and medical history.

Infrastructure and competencies of the future

One important prerequisite for making full use of digital technologies is a functional digital infrastructure that includes extensive glass fiber and 5G networks. However, digital training is just as important. Our professional activities and thus the requirements that are placed on us are changing. The German Mining, Chemical and Energy Industrial Union (IG BCE) and the German Federation of Chemical Employers' Associations (BAVC), the latter of which I am President, recently published the “Future Skills Report Chemistry” for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. This analysis was carried out with the aid of Big Data and artificial intelligence, and it shows which skills will increasingly be required of chemical industry employees in the future. The trends that already have a great deal of influence on the workplace or are likely to in the future range from cybersecurity and machine learning to automation and robotics. For example, today, one in five job postings requires skills in data science and analytics.

It is important for the chemical industry to keep at it and drive forward digitalization even beyond production. To do this, the developments of the coming years must be recognized early. At EMD Electronics, we are helping to secure the basic prerequisites for digital living with our materials and solutions. At the same time, we’re driving the digitalization of our company through innovative ideas and concepts.

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