How the internet is affecting transportation within the chemical sector
There is no doubt the endless possibilities of the internet have eased our lives in a lot of ways, but for the transportation sector it has also led to some unforeseen challenges, which has a knock-on effect on the chemical sector.
For a long period of time, the transportation sector has experienced a shortage in drivers. One of the things that puts even further pressure on the driver shortage is online shopping as Rene Fleischer, Transportation Manager at Brenntag Nordic, explains.
“Being a driver is not as attractive as it used to be, and a lot of young people do not see it as a career path. This means that transporters have a hard time recruiting new drivers. In addition to this, we are struck by what I refer to as “the internet effect”. Today, we are accustomed to being able to purchase something online and get it delivered within a day or two. This of course means more cars on the road as the packages are being delivered, but it also provides an alternative for drivers. Traditionally, drivers have been working under similar conditions as sailors with being on the road for a few weeks and then back home for a few weeks. However, opposed to transporters commercial parcel distributors offers working hours from 8-17, which enables drivers to live a more ordinary life, where they can be with their families in the evenings and weekends. Transporters who freight chemicals cannot compete with such working hours, which means they have to offer something else, e.g. higher salaries. And the only way to compensate for this is to increase prices on transportation”.
Chemistry is complicated
It is not just prices on transportation that are affected by “the internet effect”, Rene points out. It is also our attitude. “Most of us take the habits from our private lives with us when we go to work. This also applies to our online-shopping habits. We are accustomed to being able to order something in the evening and get it delivered within a day or two, and we can see this attitude is also gaining ground within the chemical sector. However, it is important to understand that chemistry is not a standard product. Going online, you can find a pair of shoes, put them in your basket and within a few days they are delivered at your front door. It is straight forward. But if you are purchasing in example hydrochloric acid in cans or even in a concentration not usually on stock it gets a little more complicated. Technically, chemicals are hazardous, and you need to treat chemicals with respect. You need to be conscious in how you store chemicals, transport chemicals and how you use chemicals in your production, and this means that being able to deliver chemical products within a day or two is a little more complicated and in some cases almost impossible”, Rene explains and emphasizes that flexibility is key.
Clearing the way for a more efficient industry
Of course, the internet and new technology also opens for new solutions that will move the industry forward, Rene stresses. “We have to take the rough with the smooth, and there is no doubt that we will see a lot of innovative solutions over the next years that bring the chemical sector forward. As an example, Brenntag Nordic are offering many of our customers volume monitoring solutions that enable customers to have a constant overview of how much product is left in their storage tanks. In this way, customers can better predict when they need a new delivery and can avoid those last-minute orders.
Another technology that I believe will gain ground over the next period within the chemical sector is track & trace as we know it from online-shopping. A lot of transports already have GPS’s installed in their trucks, but the systems that communicate a location to the receiver are yet to be developed. Digital solutions like this will make it easier for customers to plan their production and create a sense of certainty”.