Experts Statements: Peter Wilkes, Biesterfeld Spezialchemie

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

  • Peter Wilkes, Managing director, Biesterfeld SpezialchemiePeter Wilkes, Managing director, Biesterfeld Spezialchemie

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?

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?

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

Peter Wilkes: As technology has evolved rapidly over the last two decades, it is reasonable to believe that all of this will accelerate the use of trading platforms in the chemical industry. Reality confirms that our industry is more complex than others, leading to a different and broader role for chemical distributors: It goes beyond the purely physical distribution of products. While I see opportunities for platforms primarily in the management of back-office processes, I still doubt that platforms will play a leading role in the coming years.

Of course, there will be several changes in our markets, and it is becoming increasingly important to adapt to changes, to be able to innovate and to offer services clearly, transparently and effectively. Those who adjust will have a chance to play, others won’t. Having online services available is one element — but only one out of many.

"Increasingly Important
to Adapt to Changes"

Peter Wilkes, Managing director, Biesterfeld Spezialchemie

We as Biesterfeld are very engaged in exploring several opportunities regarding online distribution. Much is about learning and validating how digital processes can help to better serve industry. There won‘t be the one and only magic solution for everyone, so we have to engage in several ways and see which offerings fit into certain segments of our business. 

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