manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Technology Transforming Manufacturing

By Matt Meier, VP & CIO, North America, Whirlpool Corporation

Matt Meier, VP & CIO, North America, Whirlpool Corporation

The changing landscape of information technology has come to transform the market space of appliance manufacturing. The manufacturing industry has begun to shift its focus from durable goods to that of customer experiences, enabling increased demands in the market, unlike ever before. Accompanying this trend is also the increased demand on the IT organizations, making them an integral part of today’s manufacturing. As Whirlpool steers ahead with this emerging trend, digitizing its products to enhance customer experiences, my prime focus as the CIO is to prepare the grounds for organizational alignment, enabling the right conditions and executing the right plan.

"It is highly important to know your customers and the context of your businesses, only then would one be able to make informed recommendations and lead one’s business in the desired direction"

The Right Approach for Technological Partnership

Whirlpool enjoys the distinction of partnering with a rich band of solution providers equipped with a deep set of capabilities, empowering Whirlpool in finding the right people and more importantly the thought leadership around specific dimensions of Whirlpool’s endeavor. As the CIO of this prestigious organization, on one hand, I make reinforcements with the existing partners and on the other hand, make zealous attempts in bench marking with peers both within and outside the industry, trying to discover a number of small players in the arena. The small software providers, although short on the required scale, have proven time and again of coming up with great concepts, helping Whirlpool reinvigorate its solutions constantly.

As Whirlpool moves into the digital arena, the need for different perspectives, agility, minimalism, experimentation, and implementation have become highly important. Whirlpool is taking the at the most initiative in endowing its portfolio with a diverse mix of providers. The bigger software provider will carry out the bigger technological projects, and the smaller providers will aid in the process of experimentation and laying out the strategies for the future.

Whirlpool’s upcoming projects in the phase of changing technology

As one will never get away from the foundational IT to run the business, our prime focus is to take our enterprise resource planning (ERP) to the cloud, and as our ERP environment is largely handled by SAP, we are platforming it to the HANA software. Whirlpool is looking forward to taking the leaping steps towards the automation of the shop floor.

One of the more exciting projects we are working on is to pair well with the customers; we are looking at re-platforming our entire customer experience, on how we present our brands through the web and other mobile experiences. We are looking at the internet of things (IOT) and digital experiences as part of this connected experience. A notable example of these lines is our recent acquisition of Yummly, a personalized recipe platform that has played a catalyst in bringing consumer experiences around the upcoming product launches of the company.

As all of Whirlpool’s initiatives (both regionally and globally) are technologically enabling and has data capabilities as one of the core enablers, I have taken it upon myself to champion a global big data initiative. I am working with a cross functional team, trying to figure out the right big data solutions, the right analytical tools, the right operating model, and the right organizational structure that we need to incorporate in order to scale the company both regionally and globally.

Personality traits contributing to leadership

As I work at a position of challenge cum excitement, my innate optimism has come to be a productive factor for the position. It has played a defining role in focusing on the work at hand, envisaging the direction of the business and in identifying the enablement of the right technology. Another quality which has done a great good for my position as a CIO is humility, as someone who is relatively new to the company, it is important that I not only work on aligning the organization or planning strategies but most importantly to learn the business. It was my personal trait of humility that helped me take up the continuous path for learning and help the company move to the next level.

Future of the changing technological landscape

One of the most revolutionary disruptions that we witness today is the “Democratization of IT”, as we move ahead into the realm of democratization; we have come to witness increasing trends of commoditization and immediate accessibility of IT services, as we move into the cloud. With such emerging trends, it would not be wrong in speculating functions like data analytics and digital experiences embedded within the businesses, requiring everyone in the businesses to become tech savvy, and eventually resulting in the lesser relevance of IT organizations. Although a disruptive trend, I find it enabling, making every company more effective in its operations.

The Changing Role of CIO

The emerging technological trends have initiated further embedding of businesses; I see the role of the CIOs becoming more significant than ever before. It has become incumbent on the CIOs to develop business acumen and become the students of business. I would see my energy channelized into business as a key note leadership above and beyond IT, for IT is becoming the business at Whirlpool.

As the CIO of Whirlpool, my advice to the CIOs embarking on similar solutions is to learn your business, not just the technological aspect of your business but to truly understand and become a student of the marketplace. It is highly important to know your customers and the context of your businesses, only then would one be able to make informed recommendations and lead one’s business in the desired direction.