Rajeev Khade, VP and Global Head – IT, Sigma Electric in conversation with Shipra Malhotra, Executive Editor, dynamicCIO talks about the disruptions caused by COVID-19 crisis and how cloud helped the company be better prepared to tackle them. He further talks about the component manufacturer’s digital strategy and how its partnership with Oracle Cloud is helping accelerate the digitalization journey.
Shipra Malhotra: In what ways is COVID-19 pandemic shaping up digital adoption trends in the manufacturing sector?
Rajeev Khade: The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a rebuilding and re-innovating stage, where companies are focusing on making the right technology bets considering the long term benefits. Leveraging technologies such as cloud, IoT, AI/ML, big data and analytics are proving to be highly beneficial to businesses. They are continuously working towards fine-tuning their business models to make them highly resilient and reduce the impact of such unforeseen disruptions in the future.
Companies have had to scale remote work and accelerate digitalization pretty rapidly. In fact, a recent WEF report highlights that in the manufacturing sector about 89% companies have adopted cloud computing in pursuit of digitalization. This pace will only quicken in the near future and we will see greater adoption of automated technologies to not only enhance factory operations to ensure increased product capacities and greater quality but also to ensure workers’ safety.
SM: How prepared was Sigma Electric to tackle the disruptions caused by the pandemic crisis?
The unprecedented situation posed serious disruptions in not only the supply chain but also the overall workflow of many organizations. Fortunately for us, we had planned our move to cloud even earlier, which helped minimize the disruption to business to a great extent. From an employee perspective, enabling them to successfully work remotely wasn’t as difficult as we initially imagined.
RK: Can you cite an example of how your existing cloud infrastructure provided you with the agility and resilience that’s key to staying operational amid the current circumstances?
Our biggest challenge has been time to market, especially during these challenging times. Owing to limited mobility and transport during the nationwide lockdown period, it became all the more difficult to fulfil customer orders ahead of time or even on time. In our case, most of the customers are US based. So, we need to factor additional time for logistics and shipping beyond core production. Cloud helped us address this issue and quicken the pace of our entire supply chain – from planning to order delivery.
SM: Can you give us an overview of your current cloud footprint?
RK: We completed our migration to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) around June 2020 and have already moved three business critical applications including ERP to Oracle Cloud, and subsequently plan to move more workloads onto OCI. Our internal stakeholders have consistently witnessed improved availability and performance of business critical applications since the move to Oracle Cloud. We will be clocking 30% improvement in performance. Further, by switching to an OPEX IT model with cloud, we have realized upfront cost savings to the tune of 20-30%.
More importantly, our move to cloud has helped expedite our digitalization efforts, which were earlier constrained by the maintenance, scalability and availability limitations of our on-premise IT set up. Currently, we are working on nearly 200 digital initiatives across various departments and functions, and Oracle Cloud has provided us with a strong, high performant cloud foundation to help accelerate these projects. We no longer have to worry about the infrastructure, maintenance and upgrades, as they are managed by Oracle automatically.
SM: What’s your digital strategy both in the near and long term, and which technologies are you betting on in the next one year?
RK: We have a holistic approach to digitalization and don’t experiment with emerging technologies if they don’t address an immediate or long-term business need. Our focus is on achieving agility and innovation through complete digitalization to bring in increased efficiency across core business functions.
Going forward, leveraging cloud to its full potential is going to be our priority, helping us accelerate the pace of our digitalization efforts. In addition, we are focused on specific digital initiatives and innovations that will help us improve manufacturing productivity and operational efficiencies across departments – be it shopfloor, finance or HR. These include initiatives around quality improvement and consistency, new RFQ process, virtual HR outreach through video/audio call features, item registration, etc. At Sigma Electric, we have a clear roadmap for expediting our Industry 4.0 transformation and these projects will see us taking advantage of Machine Learning (ML) and IoT in a bigger way in the next 12-18 months. For instance, capturing machine data to help the operations and maintenance teams analyze and forecast machine availability and productivity better.