Supply chain revolution is on the way

ICIS Jul15Imagine a world where your local garage uses 3D printing to provide you with a new car bumper. You have had a bump in a car park, and just want to get it fixed.

Unlike today, there’ll be no more waiting for the part to arrive. The garage will simply download the design from the internet, and print the new bumper whilst you wait.

And this will be good news for the manufacturer as well.  They won’t have stock sitting for years, tying up cash and tempting thieves to steal it.

Does this sound like a science fiction fantasy?  Well it isn’t.  Boeing, the aircraft manufacturer are already using 3D printing to replace 20k spare parts.  And earlier this year they filed a patent application relating to the database they have developed for tracking these parts.

Of course, its more expensive per part to manufacture locally that at their HQ in Seattle.  But the cost of manufacture is only a small part of the actual cost – and it is minimal compared to keeping 400 passengers waiting overnight from a grounded 747, let alone the airline’s cost in disrupted schedules.

This is the subject of my latest video interview with ICB deputy editor, Will Beacham.  As he summarises the discussion:

“A supply chain revolution will take place which will create opportunities for innovative chemicals companies, according to Paul Hodges, chairman of consultancy International eChem.

“Automotive and aerospace manufacturers are already moving towards a manufacturing model where spare parts are printed locally to order rather than centrally to be held for years in warehouses.

“Chemical companies which respond to new business models like this will be the winners, according to Hodges, who also writes the Chemicals & the Economy blog for ICIS.

“Forward-thinking CEOs will also take notice of changing demand patterns caused by demographic trends such as the aging population in mature and emerging economies, he adds. 

“Oil prices are in the “middle of a journey” from high to sustained low levels. Demand will falter as economies move away from reliance on fossil fuels, meaning much oil will be left in the ground. For this reason many major producing countries are ramping up production and are likely to maintain high levels. Low oil prices are good for chemicals demand because they put money in consumers’ pockets, says Hodges.”

Please click here to view the interview.

Please click here to download the full article from ICIS Chemical Business.

ICIS Innovation Awards could be key to your future success

NiTech Jun15Innovation is the life-blood of the chemical industry. It is also a critical success factor as we transition to the New Normal. Many of today’s plants and processes are simply too old and inefficient to remain competitive in a world of slow and volatile economic growth.

Equally important is that changing demand patterns will demand the use of smaller plants, located close to the customer and able to produce smaller quantities on a continuous basis.

Yet making the case for investment in new technology is always difficult. So a key enabler can often be entry to a major innovation competition. The ICIS Innovation Awards, now in their 12th year, can thus prove an ideal springboard for future success.

I have personally seen this happen, though my other role as chairman of NiTech Solutions, now a successful spin-out company from Scotland’s Heriot Watt University

    • In 2010, NiTech entered the ICIS Innovation Awards and won the SME category – its latest Mobile unit for the pharma industry is shown above
    • The technology in its winning entry was installed by Sanofi and has now run successfully for 7 years with minimum maintenance
    • It replaced traditional processes which required 2 x 150m3 (40,000 US gallon) pressurised reactors

Winning the Award helped to give us the credibility needed to work with major chemical and pharma companies around the world.

Winning can, of course, be equally important for large companies. Previous winners include household names such as BASF, Dow, Teijin, ExxonMobil, Solvay, DSM, Clariant, Cabot, Huntsman and Arkema.

If you are an SME moving onto the global stage, or an innovative business in a major company, I would strongly recommend that you consider entering this year. The entry process is simple, and there are full details are on a dedicated website, as well as a video.

But don’t delay – there are just 2 weeks to the 26 June deadline.