Commerce and Consumer Goods,  Industrial Sector

How a chemicals manufacturer is becoming a data organisation

Discover how a speciality chemicals company collaborated with Zühlke to smash siloes and build a holistic, bottom-up blueprint for scalable data parity.

    • Hands-on, human-first outcome planning secures company-wide buy-in 

    • Seismic shift in data culture widens data access 

    • Repeatable framework benefits both product and business lines 

    Better alignment, smarter decision-making

    Operating out Germany – but active in more than 100 countries – our client is one of the world’s largest speciality chemical research and supply companies. Its work touches a wealth of sectors, with chemicals that, among many other use cases, make tyres fuel-efficient, mattresses more elastic, medications more effective, and animal feeds healthier.

    But with some 30,000 employees and a global scale, our client has traditionally faced an age-old enterprise issue: siloed teams, scattered data, and the inter-departmental inefficiencies that arise as a result. 

    When coming to Zühlke, then, the team sought help in tearing down those silos, realising the power of the business’ expansive data sets, and establishing a blueprint for a much more data-driven organisation. 

    ‘Our colleagues are always willing to collaborate’, says our client’s digital strategist. ‘But if data is very scattered, where everybody has their own private spreadsheets and tools, there's no data equality, and no aligned basis on which to make decisions or gather insights’. 

    The opportunity, then, was to create a way of working in which teams could benefit from data they might not even know they were missing – and to do so in a way that would see the chemicals company through a period of unprecedented, acquisition-based growth.

    Connecting the dots

    Against the backdrop of the first COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020, Zühlke and our client began by focusing on a single business unit, with a view to audit and transform how data is shared in a manner that could then be repeated across the organisation. 

    That process began with employee interviews and workflow audits to establish what the status quo looked like, where the company would like to be, and to map out the gap between the two. 

    That process led to the creation of four ‘horizons’ denoting different levels of digital maturity:  

    1. Self-service data visualisation 
    2. Digital innovation 
    3. Change management 
    4. Full data ecosystem 

    Those horizons defined 12 clear work packages spanning some three years, with an agile workflow designed to empower individuals within the organisation to deliver practical innovations. In self-service data visualisation, for example, real-time, data-driven departmental dashboards were designed and built that multiple teams across the business unit could benefit from.  

    'With Zühlke’s support, we now have the people, processes, and platforms we need to become a data-driven organisation'.

    In practice, this meant taking a bottom-up approach, directly involving people who would benefit most from a more connected data ecosystem. ‘That really helped people buy into the project’, says our client, ‘because they got the feeling that their problems were being addressed – and that they could actually contribute’. 

    At the same time, learnings from each package – including what worked, what was beneficial, and what should be made a priority – were being used to form an ever-evolving blueprint that could be used to transform further business units later down the line. 

    At every stage, Zühlke not only consulted with the chemicals company, but also worked at the ground level, conducting interviews, gathering learnings, and deploying solutions. 

    Scalable, data-driven success

    With products and capabilities that serve multiple industries and use cases, the organisation stands to gain much from data-enabled co-innovation alongside diverse partners. 

    But to reap the rewards of ecosystem innovation, our client first needed to become a data-driven organisation. It needed to break internal silos, democratise data, and transform it into valuable, actionable, and real-time business knowledge.  

    With our support, that’s exactly what the organisation was able to achieve. 

    After three years of close collaboration, the successes of our client’s digital transformation can be grouped into three key areas: 

    1. Cross-departmental data streams democratise knowledge across teams
    2. Onboarding and upskilling flows empower individuals to derive business value from the new tooling.  
    3. The curated blueprint provides an approach that can be scaled across the wider organisation. 

    ‘Typically we’ve had a very need to know data management culture’, our client explains, ‘so we've been very limited in terms of sharing data internally. But together with Zühlke, were able to generate need to share principles – so we now have much broader data access. 

    ‘We created a self-service data visualisation concept, but it didn't stay as a concept; we actually deployed it, giving our people access to accurate data through Power BI dashboard templates that are really helpful’. 

    And, as our client’s digital strategist explains, those newly deployed tools work alongside a set of unique upskilling tools that Zühlke helped build in tandem: 

    ‘We can have the best dashboards, but if people don't have the skills to use them, or don't want to adopt them, then they can’t work with the data available to them. So, together, we looked at different skill profiles – uncovering who needs what – and created a range of learning and onboarding journeys as a result. So that, for me, was also a big milestone’. 

    ‘My experience with Zühlke was very positive; we had a really open, collaborative partnership’. 

    Lastly, the blueprint. The aim of the project as a whole was to use one business unit as a microcosm of the organisation’s digital needs, and work to fine-tune the move towards data-driven decision making in a way that could then be easily replicated across the organisation. 

    That meant documenting what went well alongside what didn’t, and being extremely agile with each work package as the project developed. The result? A bespoke, curated process for digital transformation that’s scalable across departments. 

    ‘There are already a few other business units and departments asking what we did and how we did it’, our client explains. ‘So this blueprint is not just going to be an example; we’ve developed it to also transform the other product lines within the business. We’ve helped the whole business say, “Okay, there is a real benefit and a value here”’. 

    We asked 110 companies about the obstacles they faced on their data journey and how they overcame them. Download the report to get their advice and insights.

    Download the report
    Contact person for Germany

    Dr. Stefan Weiß, MBA

    Principle Business Consultant

    Dr. Stefan Weiss is Principle Business Innovation Consultant at the Zühlke Group and has a broad background in Neuroscience combined with a profound expertise in economics and innovation management. Before joining Zühlke, Stefan shaped the future of Healthcare and Life Sciences at the Innovation Center of Merck KGaA. He is passionate about the digitalization of the Pharma- and MedTech Industry with innovative solutions and business models by applying his scientific and economic expertise. At Zühlke, he extends technical excellence with domain-specific insights and thereby strengthens the partnerships with Pharma- and MedTech customers

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