Experts Statements: Peter Overlack, Oqema

E-Commerce Platforms in the Chemical Industry: Opinions on how to Deal with a Possible Disruption Caused by Digital Innovation

  • Peter Overlack, Co-CEO, Oqema: "Providers with the Best Timing Will Win" Peter Overlack, Co-CEO, Oqema: "Providers with the Best Timing Will Win"

Digitalization is a very important topic not only in the chemical industry as a whole, but also in chemical distribution. As Wolfgang Falter states in his article: Customers increasingly search online and initiate digital contacts via websites, social networks, search engines and commercial platforms. Those distributors that they do not find online are no longer present in the relevant markets.

This development has led to many discussions within the chemical distribution industry on how best to address the issue of digitalization.

CHEManager asked executives and industry experts familiar with the development of e-commerce in chemical distribution to share their opinion on what needs to be done in order to survive in an increasingly competitive environment and how to deal with a possible disruption caused by new digital developments. We wanted to know:

Will e-commerce platforms in chemical distribution be more successful today than CheMatch, ChemSystems, ChemConnect et. al. were 20 years ago?

Peter Overlack: Most probably. Digitalization is starting to change every single business process, hence platforms acting as “connectors” are urgently required. The experiences from the 2003 e-business cannot be compared to today’s overall situation. And finally, even if it sounds a little funny, the ubiquitous mobile phones have greatly reduced resistance towards new digital solutions among our staff, our clients.

Who in the chemical supply chain from principal to distributor, logistics provider, online retailer, start-up to customer will be winners/losers in online distribution?

"Providers with the
Best Timing Will Win"

Peter Overlack, Co-CEO, Oqema

Peter Overlack: Winners will be the ones who are ready to use the digital opportunities the moment we reach the inflection point for our industry.

Since no one knows exactly when this will be, all of us cautiously balance between spending too much and too little on digitalization. The ones who embrace the issue wholeheartedly, but too early, risk being set back by a substantial amount of money. The ones who do nothing, will enjoy some more laid-back months or years, but finally might risk being out of business one day. Thus, the ones with the best timing will win.

What do you (either alone or with partners) plan regarding online distribution?

Peter Overlack: We try to get our timing as good as possible — preparing our organization internally, but also screening and testing external developments. And it includes not yet giving up completely on our Kemix vision. Two years down the road, there remain strong arguments in its favor.


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