The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic forced chemical manufacturers and distributors to quickly reassess how they operated.
Not only did businesses have to navigate social distancing and remote working measures but they were also required to manage significant supply chain disruption stemming from manufacturer shutdowns, driver and trucking shortages, port delays, and the severe winter storms in Texas.
If nothing else, this past year has demonstrated the agility and preparedness of the industry to continue providing essential services in even the most difficult of circumstances. Ensuring continuity of service while protecting employees, customers and the public has been paramount.
To determine the impact of all these events on the industry, Datacor, Inc. has joined forces with the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) to produce its recently published 2021 State of the Chemical Industry Report.
The new study surveyed more than 200 industry professionals to measure the experiences, challenges, and key takeaways from 2020, as well as their plans and expectations for the year ahead.
Those questioned represented a cross section of the industry, encompassing small, medium, and large-sized businesses – most with fewer than 100 employees.
The report highlighted that the majority of chemical and process manufacturers and chemical distributors shared a sense of optimism now that the economy was starting to reopen.
Boosting operational efficiency looks set to be the main priority for 2021, with 76% of the 192 respondents putting this top of their agenda. This was followed by plans to expand their product lines (40%) and focus more on digitalization (34%).
When asked how COVID-19 had impacted their business, nearly half said it had resulted in a greater dependence on technology to complete tasks.
“The way to become more efficient is through digitalization,” says Dan McCusker, Vice President of Sales at Datacor. “Using automation, you can grow your business without having to hire more people, and you get better at what you’re doing.”
In fact, new digital technologies are empowering businesses and enabling them to implement change. Software solutions, such as Datacor’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, can automate and streamline processes to improve productivity – even when the unexpected happens.
“The goal is to find the least efficient parts of your business that can give you the greatest increases in efficiency and free up more man-hours, so those people can focus on more important initiatives.”
“When something like the Texas freeze or the Suez Canal happens, it has tools to change those lead
times, and can suggest what you should be buying and making in order to meet that proposed plan,”
“Software allows you to globally model your costs, determine what the right prices are, and quickly notify your customers.”
The survey showed most companies (78%) were looking to grow revenue from existing customers over the next 12 months, whether by expanding their product line or taking on new suppliers.
They are also eyeing other growth opportunities by adding to their sales teams, opening new sales channels, improving product availability, and expanding their territories.
The results also revealed plans to invest in technology such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, hardware and infrastructure, pricing analysis, and security to help better understand and meet their customers’ needs.
There certainly appears to be a prevailing sense of optimism across the sector with regards to business and society returning to normalcy, with particular confidence in the new presidential administration and how it is handling vaccine deployment and the reopening of stores, schools, and businesses. However, many also appear hesitant – or even pessimistic – about how much new regulation is likely to be introduced in 2021, and how it will be enforced.
Whatever the future holds, the consensus seems to be that new software solutions and technologies will play an increasingly important role in helping businesses of all sizes work smarter and adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace.
To find out more, or to request a copy of the 2021 State of the Chemical Industry Report, click here.