Using advancements afforded by digital technology can be wide-ranging in the chemical industry. Artificial intelligence, including machine learning and concepts of neural networks, can help formulators in their development efforts. From a wider perspective, digital tools can help when analyzing and managing broader priorities, including the creation of a more transparent supply chain, optimizing manufacturing and customer interface, tracking and managing use, and ideally, creating a more circular life for chemical products. The increasing availability of data is what makes this possible.

I recently read an article from Ernst & Young that points out how important the move to digitalization has become to leaders in the chemical sector. The article reports that digitalization is “the second-most prominent capital issue for chemical businesses — with 65% expecting it to impact their businesses significantly.” This trend is increasing post-pandemic, due, in part, to disruptions in supply chains and inflation in material and labor costs. Leaders see digital technology as a way to manage these challenges.

Digital tools are increasing across all areas of chemical production. Besides business operations and customer interaction, technologies such as automated chemical synthesis are being used more. According to the article, 80% of respondents report that they are considering this technology for developing new products and services.

Digitization makes huge amounts of data available for technologies like artificial intelligence to flourish; it also makes such data available to hostile forces. During the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, the organization released a report, Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023, which stated that 93% of cybersecurity experts and 86% of business leaders believe “a far-reaching, catastrophic cyber event is likely in the next two years.” A critical skills gap is one reason for this threat; 34% of cybersecurity experts say they lack necessary skills to protect their organizations’ operations. The World Economic Forum states that, “awareness and preparation will help organizations balance the value of new technology against the cyber risk that comes with it.”

Leaders in the chemical industry are aware of this. From the Ernst & Young report, security concerns ranked as the second-biggest barrier to digitalization among industry leaders. At the top of the list is technical infrastructure, followed by security concerns, high investment requirements, and very few qualified personnel. Lack of IT know-how rounds out the top five. One takeaway from that list and the Davos report is that if industries are to benefit from the advantages digitalization offers, training people is key.

Finally, a personal observation. I have a neuroscientist in my family. It is the reason I am interested in things like artificial intelligence, neural networks, and machine learning. Recently, we were discussing a news article about brains and technology. He said, “This technology is old.” I asked how old. The answer: around 10 years. In this environment, 10 years is old. This technology makes everything move faster, and it is a challenge to keep up.

As I research content for ASI, I hope to present new digital tools available to professionals in the adhesives and sealants industry. The impact of artificial intelligence on our society and industry is just beginning, and we don’t want to be left behind! In January, ASI ran an article about how Dow scientists are using digitalization within their product development. This month, the eMagazine features an article discussing the use of modeling methodology to better understand flexible foam chemistry. Also included this month is an article about how one company is taking real steps towards a circular economy, sustainable packaging for adhesives, and an overview of the market for pressure-sensitive adhesives. Thanks for reading!