Why ExxonMobil Chemical strategically creates digital twins of their products
In the age of innovation, there are countless opportunities for companies to take another step in the direction of digitalization. But how do market leaders like ExxonMobil Chemical choose the way to go and set the priorities where a new digital initiative will bring the most value? We asked this question to Michael Vinck, Global New Products Marketing Manager for Polyethylene products, and Raf Cornelissen, Commercial Support & Innovation Manager, at ExxonMobil Chemical.
Michael: November 2020 we thought what else can we do in digital space. We put together a 60-page document. We decided to start with the customer journey. What does the customer do? How do we create growth at customers? How can we improve the customer journey and customer experience through digital? And then we went through the whole list of initiatives and one of those was the QR code. Initially we thought it would make our customers' lives easier and it would be easier to do business with ExxonMobil Chemical, because all the information that you have to compile from different sources is now available in one scan.
This was the initial thinking, and once we started learning more about QR codes interfacing with a lot of different people within the organisation it became clear that it was a much more powerful thing than we had imagined. The business was already excited about it at that point. Yet once we started seeing that you can map what people are scanning, when people are scanning, who they are... You get a lot of data back. You don't only make it easier to do business with you, you also get visibility on the logistics movements.
And then we engaged with Twintag and you guys gave us a lot more ideas as well. You are obviously very professional and you have many different viewpoints that we don't have. This compliments what we are doing and helps us understand our additional potential. So that's how this whole thing started.
In order to stay competitive but also retain and grow a customer base, it becomes paramount to understand the ingredients of success as well as to use technology to strengthen the foundation of your business. Raf explained what contributes to the success of ExxonMobil Chemical and how a solution like Twintag strategically fits in this vision.
Raf: We have embarked on a digital journey since 2018. This was something we launched at the corporate and the company level, with company being the chemical business and corporate all our oil and gas assets. Just like any big company or even small company, we were looking at how digital can transform our business and how this is going to apply to all different parts of the company.
Within the chemical company we agreed to focus our digital efforts on the customer before focusing on our internal processes. This need for digital transformation led to starting a customer experience program.
There are a number of capabilities in place that make it easy to do the business with, yet ultimately we want to be the supplier that our customers prefer to do business with. You can break that down as follows.
Firstly, it consists of delivering constant quality, predictable outcomes. This is the basis, the bottom layer - the way you run your business needs to be based on a solid foundation. If you ask our customers, that’s something we’ve done well over time. Our customers typically prefer doing business with us today because they think our products and our level of professionalism show a constant level of quality, above average in the industry.
The second layer is that you need to be easy to do business with. More and more, companies choose not so much based on just business fundamentals, yet on convenience and customer experience. So that's where we need to zoom in. Identifying a number of pain points and figuring out how we become easier to do business with.
There is a third layer of how to become more local, how to connect better with our customers as to where they want to do business. We started to emphasise much more our non-core markets like Latin America, Mexico, Asia. How do you communicate effectively with customers in those geographies?
And the top layer is how to become more of a partner for our customers. Connecting with them not only on transactional stuff but on innovation and at a strategic level.
Initiatives like Twintag allow you to work along all 4 of those layers, those strategic agenda points. Basically, having a digital copy or digital twin of your products provides a way to reinforce your quality, to have a full-featured business offering, to improve this ease of doing business by providing convenient access to information and functionalities. On top of that it is multilingual so if you scan, you get a local version. It is a nice fit with our vision on customer experience overall and our desire to digitally transform.
Product-led communication not only creates an additional value for the customer, but also establishes a communication channel with important stakeholders whom companies traditionally don’t interact with directly. Raf and Michael explained more about the value exchange with their customers and the importance of interacting with multiple personas at the customer.
Raf: There are in fact several goals. I still think the ultimate goal is for customers to use it. And customers will only use it if we provide them value in return, meaning they won't just scan because we want them to scan. They need to have an incentive to do so, a strong “what's in it for me?”. That can only be achieved if functionality, data, features unlocked through scanning provide value to customers in a more efficient, richer and faster way than the alternative - having to go look for it themselves.
Success means people use this new digital channel - that it becomes the heart of how they interact with our products. Turning the rich data we’re collecting through scanning into returned value for our customers, for our markets, for our logistics partner. It needs to be two-ways or it cannot succeed.
Michael: The other thing we are looking for as well is to start interfacing with different people at the customer, those personas that we don't have access to - on a regular basis or ever - today. We believe this QR code channel will lead us to some people who are much more powerful than we think they are, or even then they think they are. People who are actually using your product have the power to make or break. They can make it work or they can make it not work.
Adding a digital twin to a physical product without a doubt generates additional value for end consumers, but what's in it for ExxonMobil Chemical? Raf explained to us how the Twintag solution helps to streamline their logistics chain.
Raf: Imagine the product journey: product gets produced, packaged, stored and eventually dispatched to customers or to outside storage locations. Today a large part of that journey is managed by logistics service providers that basically make sure all these different steps are organised.
I think the first expectation we have is that we can streamline the way those products or packages are tracked through the logistics steps on our side of the supply chain. Today, depending on which partner is working and in which location, there are different ways of working. A partner brings their own system where they work with QR codes yet they are warehouse-specific ones. My hope would be that one day this is all streamlined so we have full transparency of the information between the different partners working those logistic chains.
Then I think you need to take it to the broader product perspective and extend it to trucking companies, shipping lines… basically through the whole value chain. That's where there is a huge opportunity to increase visibility of where the product is and who is operating it.
When starting an initiative that significantly influences both customer experience and the entire logistics chain, it is crucial to find the right partner to go on this journey together. Michael and Raf shared what made them choose Twintag as a partner.
Michael: I think that working with the Twintag team has been very easy for us. You guys are very organised. We have our weekly meetings, there is a good follow-up. The product that you have delivered meets expectations, is probably better than I have envisioned in my mind. So when it came out, I was like "OK this is nice. I can go show this to everybody". You guys get it right the first time and you understand what our needs are. We don't have to explain things three times. Easy to do business with, very professional, good product, quick turnaround, good follow-up.
Raf: It's flexibility, can-do attitude, high-quality people, a good base product. I can see that it's still being actively developed but that's ok. That eagerness to learn, to engage, to accommodate as well.
Thank you for those kind words - we can’t wait to continue this journey together!