In the last one decade, digital transformation has enabled the manufacturing sector to create innovative and scalable business models and stay ahead of the competition. While the global pandemic did bring a screeching halt to supply chain and other areas, companies that are adopting cloud, analytics and other advanced technologies and solutions across their factories and supply chains, are best positioned to successfully navigate this crisis to become more resilient and sustainable.
Forbes Marshall, a multinational engineering company that specializes in steam engineering and control instrumentation has always been at the forefront of this innovation. A leader in process efficiency and energy conservation for the process industry, the Pune-headquartered company currently has five manufacturing facilities spread across India and UK. As part of its digital transformation roadmap, the manufacturer moved a number of business critical applications to the cloud and is exploring various technologies to ensure growth and maintain scalability.
In an interaction with CXOToday, Beena Nayar, Head-IT, Forbes Marshall explains how technology has helped in Forbes Marshall’s growth even during the pandemic and speeded up business innovation.
How has innovation aided Forbes Marshall’s growth and success?
Forbes Marshall is a leading provider of energy conservation and automation solutions for the process industry.R&D is a very important wing in our company, and we have always had a technology-first approach to business. So technology and innovation are inseparable for us.
We combine steam and control systems technologies to build unique and innovative offerings. Some of our industry-first offerings include CMTD – the redefining steam trap, Effimax -digitization of boilers in the early 2000s, BioSens – a revolutionary effluent monitoring sensor, among others.We have a dedicated internal industrial design team responsible for ensuring that all our new products we develop strictly adhere to technical specifications along with their intended purpose, while being simple, easy to use and convenient, as well as being compact and aesthetic. Some of our products such as the Two Orifice Float Trap, Mini Max Boiler, SteaMon and Master Air Control have brought us coveted design awards.
What’s your current approach to cloud and digital transformation?
In the last few years, we have embraced a cloud-first strategy for accelerating digital transformation. Having most of our applications running on the cloud gives us the flexibility to enhance the applications’ capabilities and scale them easily. And having the strategy of developing all new applications on the cloud allows us to try many new initiatives without the fear of failure. Even if we fail, we can shut it down fast and move very quickly onto another initiative.
Can you mention some of Forbes Marshall’s digital innovation strategies in recent times?
We are looking at a digital-first, cloud-led model to fast-track innovation, introduce new products or services quickly to market and enhance customer delight. Our core IT landscape includes Oracle EBS (ERP),Oracle ASCP and bespoke applications that are customized to enable digitalization and automation. We also have a mobility solution that gives us quick and accurate track and trace capabilities to better monitor material movement and minimize supply chain inefficiencies.
Given we were already using Oracle EBS and Oracle ASCP in an on-premises environment, we realized running these applications on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) was the best option, even from a future upgrade and capability enhancement perspective. Using OCI, we have observed substantial improvement in reporting and analytics-especially for some of the long-running, time-intensive reports/procedures. We have already seen an average 30% improvement in application performance. Further, we have also reduced time taken to replicate instances and backup by 50 percent.
As the CIO, how did the sudden shift to remote or hybrid work affect you and your team? And what steps did you take to help yourself, your team and the company adjust to the new normal?
The onset of the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns plus remote working pattern have enhanced the use of IT systems and solutions. This caused an increase of virtual meetings, virtual trackers, virtual project planning, design and execution etc. My team had to work round the clock to ensure that people have the necessary capabilities and infrastructure, like laptops, printers, access to remote connectivity solutions etc so that our employees remained productive even when working from home. We also focused on ensuring IT security, given the sudden surge in employees had to access some business critical applications from their homes. Having most of our applications running on the cloud was indeed a blessing in helping the organization adjust to the new normal with minimal disruption.
Has the pandemic affected your IT strategy? What are some of the key initiatives you’re prioritizing for the next 12 months?
This pandemic and the work from home pattern, has brought about a lot of innovation, deeper bonding and cohesiveness between the IT and operations technology (OT) teams. The IT and OT teams work together as one team, which has resulted in many innovations and a more efficient way of functioning. This has helped us implement newer ways of increasing productivity and efficiency of members in a number of areas. We have automated many processes to help employees increase their productivity and also eliminated paper-based process flows wherever possible. By using RPA, we have significantly eliminated manual transactions.
Any IT leadership tips you can share with budding CIOs?
IT is a very dynamic space today. A plethora of technologies and solutions are available, and many tickle our technical/IT nerves, often tempting us to jump and be one of the first ones to use them. Here’s where CIOs need to remain very objective and focused. CIOs need to consistently assess which technologies are best aligned to meet their organization’s business goals. And if there is a lot of gap between the products available in the market and the needs of the business, we should consider developing it in-house. So the right ‘buy or build’ decisions are very important for a CIO.