This past week, I traveled to Houston to attend the ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Chemicals conference, marking the first time this industry has come together in person since 2019. It was wonderful to witness firsthand the re-connection between long-time colleagues and new members joining us for the first time.
Held at The Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel & Convention Center, the two-day event saw members of our ASUG community convene to address the multiplicity of business challenges faced by today’s chemical industry customers. From economic headwinds to manufacturing process complexities, supply chain disruptions and an increasing focus on sustainable business practices, such significant challenges present key opportunities for chemical companies to modernize, building resiliency into the core of their operations to sustain the growth and revenue their businesses require.
Serving as our event emcee, Matt Reymann, SAP’s Global VP for Chemicals, set the stage for exploration and conversation around the topic of the “resilient” chemical enterprise, encouraging each of the attendees to find at least three new learnings they could take back from the conference and use in their organizations.
As attendees chose between sessions on SAP S/4HANA adoption, leveraging the SAP Business Technology Platform, and exploring future technologies, SAP executives, customers, and partners teamed up to provide valuable insights into automation and innovation challenges. The sessions I attended were highly engaging and interactive, with audience members asking questions throughout and comparing notes with the presenters and one another. Networking opportunities encouraged continued peer-to-peer connections with lively and wide-ranging discussions.
ASUG members tell us that the most valuable content we provide comes from ASUG members sharing their in-depth stories and experiences. One of the standout sessions I saw was presented by Gary Pehrson, Regulatory Compliance Manager at Tokyo Chemical Industry (TCI), focusing on the company’s transition from ECC to SAP S/4HANA.
Gary narrated his company’s journey, from its initial goals for the project to its outcomes, sharing what went according to plan and where TCI changed course based on lessons learned along the way. I heard one attendee comment that he had gained more insights from an hour at Gary’s session than he had from weeks of trying to independently seek out thought leadership on how to work his way through similar issues at his company.
Much like another conversation by industry expert Vikas Malhotra on the IT simplification journey for a large chemical company, this TCI session was a rich source of actionable information and provided advice on how to navigate what happens next, after “It sounded good on paper…”
Elsewhere, an ASUG Women Connect panel on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) gave the spotlight to speakers Sheree Fields, Senior Director of Information Technologies at Ascend Performance Materials LLC; Allison Martinez, SVP of Business Transformation and CIO at Chevron Phillips Chemical; and Kathy VanLandringham, CIO at LyondellBasell. These panelists opened windows of visibility into how their organizations are working to advance DEI, from establishing clarity in definitions and goals for diversity to creating and supporting Employee Resource Groups, revamping recruiting and selection processes to include diverse selection panels, and facilitating unconscious bias training.
Attendees then offered topics of interest and pledged their personal involvement in building future content for the Women Connect series. To see this level of investment was nothing short of awe-inspiring. That the ASUG community is willing to make such a commitment to themselves and each other, to build their collective leadership capacity and strengthen their teams, is an invaluable demonstration of our organization’s promise: to help our members grow, both individually and with their teams.
Sustainability was top of mind for many attendees, and the conference’s second day opened with a fascinating panel discussion about how this topic of interest impacts supply chains.
Facilitated by Alex Pierroutsakos, Industry Executive Advisor for Chemicals at SAP, the panel featured Darcy MacClaren, Chief Revenue Officer for Digital Supply Chain at SAP North America; Vikas Dhand, Supply Chain and Smart Manufacturing Leader at Deloitte; and David Kobe, Senior Director of Global Logistics and Trade Compliance at Albemarle. This made for quite the star-studded lineup of innovation leaders, not least because Albemarle was recently named to TIME’s list of the Time100 Most Influential Companies, in recognition of the extraordinary impact of its work bringing natural resources like lithium and bromine to market.
Disruption is a strategic business driver and a constant in the chemical industry, requiring resiliency and sustainability to be factored into supply chains, where approximately 72% of a company’s carbon footprint can be found. Offering wisdoms on how and where to get started, and encouraging benchmarking across various industries to see models of innovation at work, the panel discussed automotive’s competitive collaboration in supply chains, consumer packaged goods’ demand planning and use of artificial intelligence/machine learning and employee adoption, life sciences’ move of its high-tech manufacturing on-shore, and the circular economy model that electric vehicles are helping to bring about.
This conference brought together industry professionals who wanted to learn, explore, challenge, and accelerate their successes. It was a pleasure to watch as ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Chemicals created an environment in which they could meet other professionals on a similar journey. We are proud to be of service in creating that space and empowering our members on their growth and innovation journeys.
Carolyn Dolezal is ASUG’s Chief Operating Officer.