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The Chemical Supply Chain: 3 Things Learned from This Year’s LogiChem Conference

The Chemical Supply Chain: 3 Things Learned from This Year’s LogiChem Conference. Transporfolio by C.H. Robinson

chemical-supply-chain

The panels and presenters at LogiChem USA displayed an expertise in chemical supply chains seen nowhere else. Because individuals at the event openly share challenges their firms face and the process to overcoming those challenges, the content is always relevant and helpful. This was my third year attending the LogiChem conference, and I am always pleased to find the focus shifts from year to year to address current trends and issues while also providing insight to the future of the industry.

On Monday, I was part of a panel discussing tools and strategies to reduce costs and risks all while keeping capacity available. I was joined by Paul Lord of Gartner Supply Chain Research. I think our session was informative and productive. We shared a myriad of insights with the goal of generating some new ideas for attendees to implement within their organizations.

The rest of the day on Monday and into Tuesday, I participated in several breakout sessions. While each had their own specific topic, I heard three key themes throughout the two-day LogiChem conference:

Supply chains
I heard a lot about the adoption of Integrated Business Planning (IBP) and sales and operations planning (S&OP). They both have led to better cross-functional alignment for long-term supply chain planning (i.e., 18-20 months).

Perfect order fulfillment was another hot topic and continues to be a target for shippers. To truly achieve a “perfect order,” you must first understand the processes used by each facility, adjust to one standardized process, develop or buy systems to aggregate performance data, set metrics, monitor, and improve from there.

Chemical
As LogiChem is an event focused on logistics in the chemical industry, it came as no surprise that this was one of the overarching themes. A large percentage of production cost is tied to the cost of feedstock. Chemical prices tend to move in conjunction with crude/natural gas prices. With variability in feedstock prices, chemical firms need to develop strategies to execute in a high, medium, and low cost environment.

Recent changes in the political landscape likely will allow the United States to maintain position as a low-cost, global manufacturer, but supply means little without demand. China is likely to be the leading country for global chemical demand. Therefore, relations between the United States and China will largely influence success of domestic chemical production.

Talent
And finally, but certainly not least, throughout LogiChem, I kept hearing just how much chemical supply chain talent continues to be constrained. Tenured employees are nearing retirement. Their departure signifies a lot of key organizational knowledge and experience to be lost.

Many firms are collaborating with universities that offer supply chain programs. Engaging students early through an assortment of programs, including internships is just one way to secure and retain new talent.

If you attended the LogiChem USA event, what were your takeaways? If you were unable to attend this year’s event—or even if you did—you may want to read New Ideas to Strengthen the Chemical Supply Chain. The white paper touches on some of these same themes from this year’s conference. And of course, you’ll definitely want to attend next year’s conference. I’ll see you there.

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