Chemical, rubber and plastics industry: already 75% use e-business

There has been a dynamic uptake of e-business activity in the European chemical, rubber and plastics industries, according to a recently released empirica study (2008). The study shows that the quality of companies' ICT infrastructure has significantly improved since 2003, in particular among small and medium-sized enterprises. This enables companies to introduce more advanced forms of e-business: increasingly, paper-based, manual processes are automated by exchanging and processing data electronically. The Chem eStandards, an industry standard for e-business, and specialised e-business connectivity providers such as Elemica, facilitate this process. More than a quarter of the companies (by their share of employment) said in a survey of 2007 that "a good deal" or "most" of their exchanges with business partners were conducted electronically; three quarters said that at least "some" of their processes are conducted as e business

Besides reducing costs through improving the efficiency of business processes, a key driver for e-business innovations is to enhance long-term partnerships with customers by optimising customer service. This implies that companies have started to take a different approach to e-commerce. The focus is no longer on merely conducting transactions electronically, but on providing a range of different "e-solutions" for different groups of customers, adapted to their respective requirements. This comprehensive approach to e-business aims to provide integrated services such as enhanced access to a wide range of order-related information, for example about the order status and about products which customers have purchased. Larger companies typically maintain sophisticated extranet customer portals for this purpose.

As a result, not only the number of companies that offer their products online has increased, but also the intensity of this activity: the Sectoral e-Business Watch estimates that the average share of orders that are received online has surged from about 5-8% in 2003 to 20-30% in 2007.

The study "ICT and e-Business Impact in the Chemical, Rubber and Plastics Industry" was conducted by empirica GmbH in 2008, as part of the "Sectoral e-Business Watch" research programme of the European Commission, Enterprise & Industry Directorate General. The study and more information about Sectoral e-Business Watch are available at www.ebusiness-watch.org.

Main study author and contact person: Hannes Selhofer (hannes.selhohofer@empirica.com)