Big information technology challenges in the manufacturing industry:
1. Securing electronic intellectual property: As a global company, we have intellectual property relating to products that is distributed across many engineering centers and shared with numerous manufacturing facilities. Keeping this information accessible, enabling collaborative product design, while keeping it secure is a formidable challenge. We are intently focused on IT Security and are always looking for technology partners that can help us improve our security posture and confidentiality.
“Be more competitive in this industry you have to invest in new product innovation”
2. Wide Area Network stability: We rely heavily on WAN technology to connect our many locations around the world, so that we can leverage core IT systems capabilities and run efficiently. Unfortunately, we experience far too many network circuit outages. These outages range from less than an hour to several days in some cases, and too many times the impact on our business is significant. We have implemented backup circuits to lessen the effectsof a down circuit, but there is still disruption to productivity.
Enterprises to have a 360 Degree View:
I believe that one of the keys to having a better view of the customer for a global company that supplies automotive OEM’s, is having good master data management around “Customer” and “Part”. There are many architectural ways to approach this integration, however, without clean master data it is very difficult to get a good view of specific customers across our lines of business and their various regional organizations.
Creating Competitive Edge:
There are two areas of technology that really stand out as a requirement for competitive advantage. To be in the game you have to achieve excellence in manufacturing, which requires cost effective, well defined, and well executed IT capabilities - centered around product manufacturing, logistics and quality. To be more competitive in this industry you have to invest in new product innovation. This requires highly collaborative product design and engineering IT capabilities, including a significant Computer Aided Engineering capability to conduct product-engineering simulations.
Advancement in Technological Trends:
I will reference our dependency on WAN technology that just is not as reliable when compared to other IT technologies. When you examine the big picture, virtually all other areas of technology are improving at availability and reliability such as processors, storage, memory, power management, and thermal management. All of these technologies are more reliable than ever, yet some of the more basic network technology appears to lag behind. As we rely on it heavily on the telecom industry, it is clear that there is great opportunity for improvement in this sector.
Another challenge that we commonly experience is with end-user device security. We expend a great deal of energy trying to put a secure our end user compute devices, especially PC’s. An entire industry has evolved with the goal of making PC’s more secure. This seems fundamentally wrong because they need to be engineered from the ground-up as secure platforms.
Our business is primarily supplying original equipment manufacturers, which puts significant focus on new product innovation to drive new sales. A technology trend that can help us be more successful would naturally improve our product design capability and improve our speed to market for new products. Technology advances in engineering simulation software have been significant and we continue to add these tools toolbox. Simulation tools require significant computing horsepower and are reliant on advances in high performance computing technology make them more cost effective and enable faster product design cycles.
One of the most significant impacts technology is having on our business is in product design. With high performance computing, we are able to increase the level of product testing in isolation and as part of our customers’ systems. Today’s product designs require high levels of performance to be competitive, including performance in areas such as Noise Vehicle Harmonics (NVH). Being able to simulate NVH in a customer vehicle platform significantly increases our ability to deliver a product that can satisfy the end user of our products on or off the road.
Changing Role of IT and CIO:
With the era of cloud computing becoming more mature, many traditionally insourced business applications are shifting to a SAAS model. This shift of the delivery model requires a different approach for IT to bring value to the business, since there is no longer a “captive” audience. The CIO role needs to help the business select and onboard IT solutions, in lieu of the business going it alone, navigating relevant technology issues that cloud marketing-hype seems to overlook or to minimize during the sales cycle. It all requires a tighter integration between IT and the business and forces technology profession as to be more business and value focused.
IT’s New Role at your Organization:
Project intake and delivering on expectations: I inherited a capable IT organization, however, the processes around project intake and managing to customer expectations presented significant challenges. These two things go hand in hand, as it is important to ensure that everyone is on the same page at the very beginning of a project request. We were finding that after IT delivered the solution, it missed expectations and did not achieve the desired level of customer satisfaction. This also had an adverse impact on the view of IT within the company.
We implemented a “Project Screening Process” for all projects, which is designed to allow all parties to a project be informed and provided a chance to weigh in. While the initial view was this was another level of bureaucracy. In reality, the exact opposite was true. The process serves two purposes – first, the requestor and IT ensure alignment to the deliverables up front and, second,this gives visibility to other effected functions into what is coming at them. IT Operations, in particular, was frequently “surprised” by new requests and was not given sufficient lead-time to react. This new collaborative process greatly improved our working relationship with all our customers.
Role of CIO or CISO as an Ombudsman:
Given that our business continues to focus on product innovation, IT Security is one of our top IT investment themes. I have been an active advocate of Security and this has resulted in good awareness among the executive leadership of the company. With this awareness, we have received the support that we needed to build-out a security team and a multi-faceted roadmap to deploy the security capabilities required to protect our information assets.
Guidance Tip to CIOs:
Treat IT as a service business and never forget your customer. IT can be a valued function within the company driving innovation and improvement. Good customer satisfaction and a solid, strong working relationship within the company is paramount to the success of any company’s IT initiatives.