Partnering Proves Profitable

Chemical makers increasingly look for outside help to improve performance

By By Seán Ottewell, Editor at Large

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To help manufacturers better monitor and manage productivity in real time and thus make more insightful decisions about business priorities such as global supply chain management, Rockwell has introduced FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI business intelligence software. The new application is based on a unified production model (UPM) that pulls together seemingly disparate manufacturing data and gives a context for relationships among equipment, product, materials and people. The UPM organizes various manufacturing and enterprise data using commonly referenced business terms such as "equipment," "batches," or "manufacturing lots."

The new application suits single or multiple manufacturing problems, on one manufacturing line or across a global enterprise. In addition, the software can handle specific manufacturing needs like downtime reporting, status tracking or multiple control-system reporting.

Human Resources, Too
BASF looked for outside help to radically improve its pan-European HR capabilities so staff could connect with specialist HR services more easily. Transforming how its chemical plants operate also was one of the key drivers for the effort.

More than a third of the company's 97,000 worldwide employees work at its complex in Ludwigshafen. However, each of BASF's European production sites had its own HR department. This was relatively costly and hampered standardizing processes, analyzing operations and developing best practices.

By leveraging its extensive customer relationship management (CRM) and HR expertise, IBM Global Business Services, Armonk, N.Y., helped BASF implement and integrate SAP applications to create two shared HR service centers — one for Ludwigshafen and one for European group companies — and introduce self-service kiosks in production facilities that enable workers to access HR services online for the first time.

Real-time reporting on HR activity aids BASF in designing new HR services based on user demand and feedback. SAP CRM manages HR processes from end to end, automatically routing enquiries to the appropriate HR specialist, so users have a single point of contact for all HR-related issues.

"By leveraging the SAP CRM and employee self-service applications, we now only need 110 HR specialists to serve more than 36,000 employees in Ludwigshafen, and Europe-wide we serve 18,000 employees with 90 HR specialists — so it is a very cost-effective solution," says Peter Schimbeno, global HR governance.

"In the near future we are hoping to extend this use of the business intelligence function to help us do more than just optimize processes. Through monitoring the usage of the existing services and gaining feedback from our end users, we will be able to identify where new services should be developed — responding to the user ecosystem in a much more proactive fashion than was ever possible before," he adds.

A Stronger Voice
A new strategic initiative by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), Arlington, Va., which now mainly includes large chemical manufacturers, aims to expand membership to small- and medium-sized companies as well as value-chain partners (though an affiliate membership category).

This, says the ACC, will improve the effectiveness of getting its message out and also will help overcome perceptions at some small companies that participation in its Responsible Care program (www.americanchemistry.com/s_responsiblecare/sec.asp?CID=1298&DID=4841) requires a financial commitment beyond their means.

"The business of chemistry is facing an unprecedented number of global and domestic policy challenges — from product attacks, to chemical management

reform, to climate change, facility security and rail competition," notes Cal Dooley, ACC president and CEO. "We believe our initiative will attract new members, expand ACC's advocacy base, enhance the reach of the Responsible Care program, and enable the industry to speak with a stronger and more effective voice," he adds.


Seán Ottewell is Chemical Processing's Editor at Large. You can e-mail him at sottewell@putman.net.

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