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The Customer Journey in the Paints & Coatings Supply Chain is Broken and What can we do About it?

The other day I ordered a pair of sneakers on my way to work. I got them in 3 days. Sneakers were delivered straight to my office, from the UK to Slovenia.

A couple of years ago, I got lost in Paris. No problem! Uber was already on the way to rescue me.

That is not surprising. We’re used to some things work that way. If it were any way differently, I’d feel it as friction in my purchase journey. We carry powerful smartphones around, and with it, we expect services to work the certain way.

Right now, you are probably wondering, what has this to do with the supply chain of the paint & coatings industry. Right?

A lot.

Is the distribution and buying chemicals more complex than online shopping? No doubt.

Is the supply chain of the chemical industry more complex than ordering a cab via an app? Sure thing.

Now let me ask you this. How would you order a cab in the middle of Paris, not knowing where you are and not knowing how to speak French in the pre-smartphone era? Horror story.

How would you order a limited-edition pair of sneakers that were launched only in the UK in the pre-online shops’ era? I‘d say, the whole process would be quite annoying.

How does the customer journey of a formulator in a paint manufacturing company look like today?

You’ve got it right and you’re probably smiling or having one of those “aha” moments right now.

Let me summarize it:

Supply chain in the paint & coatings industry is broken = still stuck in the pre-digitalization era.

Yes, there are few material search engines out there, and yes, there were made individual attempts of selling raw materials via marketplaces/e-commerce platforms.

The problem with search engines and e-commerce platforms is this; they do not take out the main friction of the customer journey in the paint & coatings industry.

Today the paint & coatings industry looks something like this:

I could find the sneakers online with basic description, but there wouldn’t be a single picture, and if I wanted to buy a pair I’d first have to pick up the phone have a long conversation about the sneakers’ details. A person on the other side might not be able to answer all of my questions so they would transfer me to someone else. When I’d finally decide to buy the shoes, I’d have to wire the money via the invoice at the bank, then wait a few days, pick up the phone again to leave my address info and so on.

I would get lost in Paris. First I’d have to ask someone to give me the local cab service telephone number. I’d have to call them and describe the surroundings (preferably in French) and then if I would have luck dispatcher on the other side would figure out where am I and send a cab to the destination. I would have to memorize the hotel address; otherwise, the cab driver wouldn’t know where to drop me off.

The main problem is that the supply chain in the paint & coatings industry still relies on papers, catalogs, emails, and telephone calls. That is the main stumbling block of moving forward to true digitalization.

I apologize in advance, but I must be blunt: PDF files are NOT part of the digital transformation.

The main challenge of both parties in the paint & coatings industry is not buying and selling chemicals but figuring what kind of a raw material customer wants and needs.

In other words, the main friction is a material data distribution along with the last valid chemical documentation. This friction is called information on a static paper.

Let’s tackle in deeper:

1. Product knowledge distribution between sales rep and formulator (R&D)

Formulators usually know what kind of the material they are looking for. They have an idea about its physical and/or chemical properties or problem the product they are making needs to solve.

If they use a raw material search engine, they can’t just type in the needed parameters or choose the solution for their problem. They don’t see how the material will affect their final product regarding the hazards and parameters of the product, like VOC, density, solids, etc.

They end up with PDF files.

To find those properties, they have to go through piles of technical and safety data sheets, manually process data, go to the lab with the samples and calculate additional parameters and so on.

This process is lengthy and quite tedious.

Alternatively, they contact the sales rep, or the sales rep visit them with a bunch of catalogs and data sheets, can’t answer to all of the formulator’s question at the spot but have to call technical support.

This process is again lengthy.

Because Allchemist works with a digitized raw material database, its use is beneficial for both parties involved.

On the one hand, formulators can search for the right material in many different ways: by the name of the company, exact parameters, properties, by problems you are looking to solve, coatings system, etc.

Here you can read about all the possibilities. The best part is that you can compare all of the materials in a search criterion on one screen.

Further on, formulators can make virtual formulations before they go to the actual lab and see parameters like density, VOC, solids, etc. and all the hazards automatically displayed on one screen.

On the other hand, sales reps can collaborate with their customers in a completely new way. They can create Allchemist workgroup for a customer and show them all the details of each material in the starting point or their formulation. They can share each material data to their customer the same way you share contact information from your smartphone via text messenger. The formulator can then immediately use shared data in their project.

2. Product knowledge distribution between organizational departments

The bigger the organization, the bigger the problem with communication between different departments. When you have data on sheets, like catalogs, PDFs, or paper, it is impossible to keep track of the last valid version of each material.

That’s why you can use Allchemist as this cross-department database of the whole product portfolio that is always up to date. No more confusions and delays in information distribution.

3. Product knowledge – training and updating sales reps about products

Sales representatives in the paints and coatings industry present hundreds, sometimes even thousands of raw materials to R&D experts daily.

In addition to this, every year, an increasing number of new raw materials are introduced to the global market. The same goes for the ever-increasing requirements of new formulations.

This knowledge is usually shared and distributed by sales representatives and technical support experts.

One of the major challenges for suppliers and especially distributors is how to train sales reps to effectively sell many varied materials to a customer with specific requirements. In most cases, sales reps cannot make a deal on the spot. To find the best solution for a customer, they first have to find the right person in the technical support department and, in the end, all their efforts may, or may not, result in a deal.

This guide will help you make your sales process more efficient, help your sales reps to make deals faster, and thus generate new revenue sources.

4. Chemical documentation throughout the supply chain

Not only that you can create (M)SDS’ in 30+ languages in a user-friendly way (check out the video below), you won’t have to deal with the documentation being all over the place ever again. Everyone will easily keep up with the last valid version, and you won’t have to burden the IT with label preparation as it is automatically generated according to your (M)SDS and you can choose the right size of it with a few clicks.

The more people involved in the supply chain, the longer it takes to get the information from the source to the end user.

You can avoid those frictions in the entire supply chain by using the new-generation digital platform Allchemist.

If you have additional questions or want to schedule a conference call, send me an email at maja@allchemist.net

Alternatively, register for a 30-day free trial and see how it works for yourself.

Information on this blog is prepared with utmost care, but it is not about (chemical) consulting, and the provider does not assume any responsibility or liability for the correctness, accuracy and up-to-dateness of published content. If you need advice for a specific case, you can write to us at info@allchemist.net.

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