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Ensuring data quality is crucial as it underpins all operational aspects: Rajesh Dutta, CIO, Usha Martin

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In an exclusive interaction with Express Computer, Rajesh Dutta, CIO, Usha Martin, discusses the company’s recent digital initiatives and its ongoing transformation journey. Highlighting initiatives such as ERP rollout, CRM implementation, and plans for IoT integration, Dutta sheds light on Usha Martin’s strategic approach to enhancing operational efficiencies and embracing digital innovation across its global operations.

Could you discuss the recent digital initiatives Usha Martin has undertaken?

Currently, we are in the midst of our digital transformation journey. We have undertaken several initiatives. Firstly, on the ERP front, we are rolling out the RISE solution across all our subsidiary organisations. Recently completed in Thailand, we are now progressing to Singapore and other locations, with plans to return to India after a year to complete the implementation there, followed by the UK and other regions. This represents a comprehensive re-implementation effort for us, particularly as our Indian operations currently use ECC (SOH).

Another significant initiative is the implementation of Salesforce as our CRM software to optimise sales processes and data management. We commenced this global implementation a year ago and it remains ongoing. In manufacturing, we typically address production, sales, and operations. With CRM handling sales, our next focus will be exploring an IoT journey for production, albeit over an extended timeframe. Initial steps involved conducting POCs this year to assess integration feasibility, leveraging our existing cloud infrastructure for streamlined data management.

Regarding security, we are initiating various projects to enhance our cloud-based operations. In addition, we recognise the pivotal role of data in AI initiatives, emphasising the importance of robust data sets and governance. Our approach involves identifying specific use cases, such as plant maintenance, to pilot AI applications.

Beyond these efforts, we are implementing SuccessFactors and a SharePoint portal for intranet services, alongside consolidating our Office 365 resources under a single Indian tenant. Addressing data consistency and governance across different segments remains crucial, as it underpins the success of our AI journey and overall digital strategy. Concurrently, ongoing digital marketing initiatives complement our broader transformation objectives.

From an infrastructure perspective, investments are earmarked for both general IT infrastructure and potential IoT-specific requirements over the next 2-3 years. These initiatives collectively underscore our commitment to digital evolution and operational excellence across all facets of our organisation.

How has the digital transformation journey been for Usha Martin in the last few decades?

We began our digital transformation journey approximately two and a half years ago, which coincided with my joining three years back. Initially, only SAP was in place. Now, we are implementing the initiatives we’ve been discussing. Previously, India operations relied solely on SAP. Our goal was to standardise this and align all subsidiaries to the same baseline, particularly focusing on ERP since manufacturing operations hinge on it. This initiative is underway. Additionally, Usha Martin expressed a strong interest in investing heavily in digital initiatives.

Our website reflects the key initiatives we’ve undertaken, as mentioned there. Many organisations are pursuing similar strategies, albeit some started later but have caught up now.

Are you leveraging GenAI to integrate your workflows across your global business operations in the UK, US, and Asia?

Not yet. The organisational structure was such that all subsidiaries operated in silos. They worked independently. The first step is to integrate these silos and foster a more collaborative approach. Alongside this integration, we need to establish data models to support advanced analytics and machine learning (AAML) initiatives. Currently, our primary source system is SAP, and we utilise SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) for analytics. Ensuring data quality is crucial because without accurate data, all other aspects of our operations face challenges.

Are you focusing on cloud security or data security measures, especially since your recent shift to the cloud?

Yeah, so we migrated our workloads to the cloud about 7-8 months ago. We’re currently assessing our security posture and identifying any gaps that need to be addressed. Our goal is to eventually move towards something like SSE, though it’s still early to specify. Initially, we’ve done a lift and shift of our systems. Moving forward, we’re also planning to focus on modernisation, including areas like data AI models and cloud modernisation, possibly within the next quarter or so.

How can organisations across industries achieve a balance in utilising AI, considering its dual role in mitigating and enhancing risk factors?

Yeah, so it all depends on the dataset—what you’re inputting and what you expect to get out of it. There has to be logic in that process. You need to know your objectives clearly, especially in AI. For instance, if you’re gathering data from a camera placed outside a house, you can’t go inside someone’s home. Therefore, it’s crucial to establish a clear thought process or benchmark for the data you collect. The data’s authenticity is also vital. For example, we have proprietary designs for our wires and ropes, which are patented and cannot be shared. It’s essential to identify the relevant use cases within your industry to guide you effectively.

Are there any technological challenges you plan to address or new technologies you’re considering introducing, particularly in AI?

So, there are several aspects to consider. Currently, our focus is on three main initiatives, larger projects that we have already started and intend to complete. Concurrently, we plan to embark on our IoT journey, particularly in the production area. This involves integrating production planning with sales data, which is crucial. Also, we aim to streamline our supply chain operations. These three areas constitute the primary focus for us in the manufacturing segments.

Again, the success of these efforts hinges greatly on the data, as I have emphasised repeatedly. Historically, this organisation has operated quite primitively; for instance, even quotations were handled in Excel. Moving forward, we are transitioning to a more sophisticated system with the introduction of Salesforce. This shift represents a significant change from the perspective of our business users. Given our global presence now, standardising operations across all facets is a top priority for us.

Any other industry trends you want to capitalise on or discuss that are relevant in this industry?

Yes. Since manufacturing is a specialised area, obtaining industry data is crucial, and determining the appropriate metric to measure holds significant importance. There are about 2000 industry metrics to consider. The challenge lies in selecting the most relevant one for your specific needs. Therefore, the first step involves identifying which metric is important for you to measure. This initial decision is crucial. Once you’ve made that determination, you can proceed to measure all the relevant metrics based on the data and its source.

What outlook do you have for the industry in 2024, and what are your key initiatives for the next 6 to 12 months?

We have a clear roadmap outlined for the next three to four years. AdSense and inventory standardisation are areas of focus. Additionally, from a security standpoint, we plan to implement a SOC solution according to our roadmap; this is part of our wish list.

Our roadmap is divided into short-term and long-term goals spanning five years. IoT represents a significant journey, potentially starting to take shape after three years. It’s crucial for our private organisation to engage and educate business users about the value of data. This will be a foundational starting point for us.

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