How Specialty Chemical Companies Can Use Digital Lab Notebook Software to Remain Competitive
Specialty chemicals form the bedrock of a variety of industries. From cosmetic additives and perfumes to construction chemicals and aerospace products, the ubiquitous nature of these chemicals has allowed the specialty chemicals industry to develop into a mature sector.
Still, there’s always room for growth, especially in the context of specialty chemicals. As Adam Rosner writes in his industry analysis, “industrial and consumer product life cycles and new offerings can create demand for variations.” Additionally, emphasis on protecting the global environment has led to “eco-friendly restrictions, with the aim of reducing pollutants and greenhouse gasses.”
Rosner continues that these new demands have created an opportunity for growth by enabling companies to develop unique chemical products such as water-based plastics or biodegradable electronic products, while developing energy markets such as wind and solar energy companies will likely use specialty chemicals in their product lines as well.
Despite their “cornerstone position” in many industries and the likelihood that specialty chemicals will be used in many others, the global demand for specialty chemicals weakened in 2012 and in 2013, its level of growth did not change significantly. Part of the problem is that specialty chemicals are highly dependent on the swing of other companies in the macroeconomic cycle because of the supply/demand balance inherent in the industry.
Furthermore, the specialty chemicals industry is currently one “in transition.” Though North American, Western European and Japanese firms have dominated the industry, the spread of technology and the rapid growth of Asian economies have shifted the industry’s center of gravity East.
Old Challenges Compound New Challenges
Beyond supply/demand imbalances and increasing competition, the very nature of specialty chemical companies requires that they confront a range of challenges every day. A chemical manufacturer must be able to quickly shift production lines sometimes weekly or even daily for new products. These required and necessarily abrupt changes can disrupt workflows, potentially leading to production delays, lower yields, increased waste and delayed knowledge management as the slowdowns created spread throughout an organizational matrix. Taken together, these challenges can have a significant impact on profitability and productivity, thus reducing the opportunity for a specialty chemical company to address the new challenges discussed above.
Using Digital Lab Notebook Software to Address Industry Challenges
The use of digital lab notebook software can address many of the unique challenges faced by specialty chemical companies:
- Calibrations: Specialty manufacturers often have many products and must change the processing of raw materials, and even the raw materials themselves, in order to generate these products. Due to this high turnover rate, companies must ensure that machines are well-calibrated for safety reasons, batch quality and reliability. Digital lab notebook software allows a company to keep track of machine calibrations and obtain this information instantly so that in switching from one machine to another, workers can ensure the validity of machine readings. Again, this step is crucial for the success of a company and any delays in ensuring the reliability of a machine could result in significant profit loss. Also, if a machine has not been calibrated, companies can provide step-by-step instructions on the mechanisms to do so, further preventing product delays.
- Organizing workers: Digital lab notebook software can also improve employee workflow and increase the likelihood that new ideas are both generated and recorded. As discussed above, the specialty chemicals industry will likely contribute to a multitude of emerging industries and in order to do so, companies not only need to make sure their instruments are working, but that they also have several ideas to shop to prospective clients. Given the many products specialty companies make, lab notebook software provides a central repository for an entire organization. The data collected from certain tests of selected ideas can also be stored in a digital lab notebook and potentially save time later on if a company chooses to pursue a specific idea.
- Regulatory compliance: As environmental concerns increase, regulatory compliance becomes increasingly important in the life cycle of a specialty chemical company. In order to meet these stringent requirements, manufacturers must sometimes purchase new instruments, such as mass spectrometers, in order to ensure the purity of samples. Additionally, tight control should be wrought on the entire manufacturing process and a data management system, as provided through the use of a digital lab notebook, will enable companies to show regulatory bodies how well they follow industry samples, monitor the ‘pathway’ of a chemical within the company (from purchase to use), etc. Likewise, if something were to go wrong or go missing, the use of digital lab notebook software would enable company managers to quickly identify and address the problem.
Looking Ahead with Digital Tools
Specialty chemicals use a variety of chemical reactions and raw materials in order to produce their great variety of products. As new industries arise, there is an opportunity for companies to more successfully compete in an increasingly competitive environment. Digital lab notebook software can provide the necessary support in order to do so. To learn more about how the BIOVIA Notebook can transform your organization, please visit our website today.