With deep industry knowledge and a commitment to value realization, the SAP partner ecosystem is critical to the success of the chemical industry. SAP partners help customers of all sizes in countries worldwide take advantage of SAP’s innovative solutions, simplify their business processes, and orchestrate the Intelligent Enterprise.

To bring this perspective to the SAP community in the chemical industry, we are kicking off 2021 with our Chemical Industry Partner Stage Series.

Hitachi Vantara, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., announced it has come together with Hitachi Consulting as one company to create a new digital infrastructure and solutions powerhouse. The new Hitachi Vantara combines consulting-led digital solutions and vertical industry expertise of Hitachi Consulting with Hitachi Vantara’s IT and Internet of Things (IoT) domain expertise. Going forward, the integrated company will help customers develop practical, scalable digital strategies and solutions that transform operational processes, improve customer experiences, and create new business models to drive innovation and growth.

Hitachi Vantara has evolved since its founding in 1989 from a manufacturer of mainframes, to enterprise storage systems, to complete cloud computing solutions, to complete digital transformation services. Today, Hitachi Vantara provides hardware, software, content platforms, storage arrays, and professional services globally.

Hitachi was founded over 100 years ago and is one of the largest manufacturing conglomerates in the world with over 200 manufacturing facilities that produce automotive parts and systems, robotics, military vehicles, construction machinery, locomotives, consumer products, steel, wire and cable, telecommunications equipment, IT infrastructure, wind generation systems, nuclear power plants, hydroelectric power plants, elevators and escalators, aerospace components, power grid equipment, chemicals, and infrastructure components.

Here, we talk with Jack Roman, vice president of Americas, and Kimberly Reid, vice president of U.S., SAP Solutions, from Hitachi Vantara.

Q: When you talk to chemical customers, what excites you about the chemical industry?

A: Our company was founded as a manufacturing company and both of us have backgrounds in manufacturing. Kimberley came out of the chemical industry, Jack came out of the glass manufacturing industry, and both of us have spent over 25 years consulting for primarily manufacturing firms. Close to 20 years ago we decided to focus on the chemical industry and have worked with many chemical companies over the years.

We both have a passion for manufacturing, helping process manufacturing companies improve and compete, and, for a lack of a better term, working with old school heavy industrial manufacturing firms. We both still get excited to walk into a chemical plant and learn about its business, challenges, history, and evolution as a firm. Some people get excited about Silicon Valley or fancy consumer products; we get excited about chemicals!

2020 was a crazy year. Looking forward, what do you see as the top priorities for chemical customers in 2021?

Yes, 2020 was a crazy year. We saw chemical companies having economic challenges for probably 12 months or more before the coronavirus hit. COVID-19 obviously added greatly to these challenges. We saw a lot of companies in crisis management throughout 2020, but now we are starting to see management refocusing on longer term priorities.

I think the top themes we hear from chemical company executives are the reevaluation of supply chains caused by both COVID-19 and trade disputes, new technologies and consumer demands impacting the bottom line and the ability to forecast the future, sustainability and risk management, and the volatility of commodity prices. Besides managing the impact of COVID-19 and trying to determine how work life will change in the future, if we had to prioritize what challenges we hear chemical companies addressing and investing in to address in 2021, number one would be sustainability and the circular economy, then alternative material sources (renewable, bio-based), and finally digitization (IoT, sensors, automation).

How has digital enabled these priorities from your perspective?

Digital is all about capturing data, storing data, and analyzing data. Digital has enabled the ability to capture huge amounts of data that weren’t available in the past. Capturing it is one thing, but the value comes from having the tools and ability to analyze the data and use it to make decisions, change, and react. Whether its customer preferences, supply chain track and trace, manufacturing efficiencies, product quality, or employee and environmental safety – whatever the priority – we see companies investing to build the capability to capture data and use the results of analysis to improve their business.

When we talk to chemical industry customers, big or small, change management is a key pillar of digital transformation. How are companies embracing these changes and equipping their teams for success?

From our perspective as a professional services firm focused on process manufacturing for the past 25 years, we have seen a significant shift in our projects. At one time it was very technical, a very technology-centric approach to implementing solutions. Then it became all about speed: how can customers reduce three- to five-year implementations to a year or under a year—pre-configured industry solutions, methodologies, code libraries, and templates.

But, even the most efficient implementations were not always totally successful because one piece was missing: change management. About 10 years ago we realized that change management was as important or perhaps more important than any other component of a transformation. We started placing much more emphasis on it in our projects, training our consultants, and eventually incorporating it as a key part of our methodology. Our chemical customers today are much more aware of the importance of change management, and they don’t need to be convinced to invest the money and resources in this part of a project.

Companies recognize that there is a lot of change involved and recognize the importance of planning for this and addressing it. It’s one of our primary conversation topics with customers when we are planning digital transformations. When it comes to equipping their teams, it’s recognized that key customer resources that hold credibility in the organization should be tasked with change management. It is recognized that consulting resources, in some cases a significant amount, should be retained as part of the project. Whether our project manager pushes it or the customer realizes it and wants it, there is an emphasis on change management tasks and deliverables. These include training, communication, executive sponsorship and involvement, job function change evaluation, and all of the tools that help with these.

We had a chance to hear about Hitachi Vantara’s SAP S/4HANA implementation at Tokyo Chemicals during the 2019 Best Practices for Chemicals event. What made this project successful?

This project was successful because of our desire to be fully aligned with their strategic goals and business vision. We understood the need to partner, collaborate, and think creatively in the midst of a global pandemic where our entire global team worked virtually. Our SAP S/4HANA go-live occurred in May 2020 and the global big bang deployment to transform operations was quite remarkable.

What does Hitachi Vantara deliver in your Chemical Industry Best Practices business scenarios template?

We leverage the pre-configured content at the core of SAP S/4HANA and focus on bringing to light the value of specific SAP Fiori apps, embedded analytics, and embedded capabilities in transportation management and warehouse management to provide an end-to-end solution capability. In addition, we deliver simplified integrated business planning scenarios to enable consensus-based planning processes, inventory optimization, and the development of constrained supply plans. Our focus is on delivering value in a meaningful way that will drive higher user adoption rates and sustainable business value.

What makes Hitachi Vantara different from other implementation partners in the chemical industry?

We believe that our understanding of the pain points, challenges, and trends facing our customers is one of our greatest strengths. We recognize that when we help our clients learn their new business processes in conjunction with SAP products, end users will adhere to the new ways of executing tasks. This supports maximizing business value attainment and helps our customers see value in the SAP investment.

We stay connected to the latest innovations that are planned in our areas of focus and we assist in determining the relevancy of these capabilities for the clients we serve. We define implementation strategies and approaches that support the customer throughout their entire journey. We enjoy sharing our lessons learned and helping our clients to grow and develop a passion for SAP solution capabilities.

Why partner with Hitachi Vantara?

Hitachi isn’t just a top SAP partner and a leader in the chemical industry; we are also a large, global manufacturing organization that happens to be one of the largest users of SAP in the world. We focus on manufacturing companies with a heavy emphasis on process manufacturing. We have been delivering SAP solutions utilizing the Chemical Industry Best Practices template for over 15 years. Change management is a key component of our methodology and all our projects. Our teams consist of experienced consultants, many of whom have worked in the chemical industry and understand manufacturing.

How does Hitachi Vantara create value for the chemical industry and how can people connect with you?

We create value by helping to demystify the SAP value proposition for mid-size chemical manufacturing companies and allow them to streamline their software portfolio while lowering operational costs associated with using SAP. We help to provide the foundation for growth and further innovation through the SAP platform. We help our clients adopt new business models by leveraging the tools and accelerators available through our Hitachi manufacturing heritage. You can reach us at Jack.Roman@hitachivantara.com and Kimberley.Reid@hitachivantara.com.

Looking to stay connected with the chemical industry? Join the SAP Chemical Industry Community on LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter @SAPChemicals, and check out our SAP Community page.

SAP is a leader in the chemical industry, and we are committed to continuous innovation. We encourage you to collaborate with us and discuss how the SAP solution portfolio can enable the intelligent chemical enterprise.

Mark Carlson is a chemicals solution expert at SAP.