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JK Cement is banking on IoT, RPA, analytics for digital growth

JK Cement, one of India’s premier cement companies, has undergone a massive digital journey in the last two and a half years. The company has now become more data-centric and technology-driven than ever before

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JK Cement has been a heavy user of the latest technologies like robotic process automation (RPA), Internet of Things (IoT), analytics and information security to gain a competitive edge. Since the solution is customisable and SAP integrated, today the company has greater control over the manageability aspect of the entire supply chain and delivery mechanism. This monumental change has been driven by Jitendra Singh, Chief Information Officer of JK Cement, who joined the company in 2016.

Speaking exclusively to Express Computer, Singh gives out details of this transformation and how JK Cement aspires to become 90 percent digital company by 2020.

He shares, “Our digital journey started with the suggestions and feedback taken from our re-engineering partner, Accenture’s report. We saw that report as an opportunity to go digital as far as possible, covering the core processes such as order to cash, order to dispatch, plan to produce, procure to pay, record to report. With our due diligence, we started prioritising processes, either based on saving cost or generating additional revenues. We have rolled out more than 20 digitalization initiatives across the organization in the last two years.”

SAP drives the digital journey
The first step of the company towards its digital direction was strengthening the core, SAP, with recent updates and upgrades. The options for the company was either upgrading to the most recent version or moving on to the latest offerings from SAP by S4 HANA. Instead of going in for S4 HANA as it is. The company migrated from the current state to a new state with EHP 8, followed by moving to Suite on HANA. It took one year for JK Cement to move to Suite on HANA, wherein the speed has increased multifold and performance of MIS and analytics has become better.

Singh says, “This was one of the low-hanging fruits for the company with immediate benefits to the organisation in terms of reducing the MIS like daily sales report, reporting time from hours to less than five minutes, parallel to that we found an opportunity in our sales and marketing stream where till that time only the disbursements of the loyalty scheme were online rest of the processes were offline. We had a relatively small application-Sales Force App(SFA) which was capturing the minimum inputs from the fields; later we moved on to a full-blown CRM.”

The company chose SAP C4C CRM which has improved the visibility of field sales force, customer details like outstanding, credits, etc. The next big change that JK Cement made was connecting the dealer’s network, which earlier had no visibility. The company implemented a Dealer Network Automation application outside SAP. Today, the company enjoys better visibility of primary and secondary sales of its dealers.

Simultaneously, at the plant level, JK Cement has made several improvements in areas such as in-plant logistics(RFID), GPS based track and trace, online payment and invoicing. Enabling the vehicles with GPS, followed by providing of this link to dealers and distributors for live tracking of shipments; introducing single material code and inventorisation of freight were also some of the major reforms which the company has made with the help of technology.

Another significant move was the introduction of Analytics. The company selected Qlik Sense and SAP BusinessObjects Business or the purpose. Today, the top management of JK Cement – from MD to CMO, CTO, and CFO – are all connected on the dashboard. Additionally, the payroll is also on the SAP SuccessFactors for HR.

The processes were technology-enabled, but to keep the workforce ready for this new change, Singh further ensured overall awareness and orientation of the company’s workforce. He elaborates, “There were two sets of training – admin and end-user. We trained people countrywide on our new CRM, DNA. Our IT team traveled and provided training in batches along with online content provisioning. As a result, today, people are coming to us and are discussing their business challenges and solutions thereof.”

RPA is a big bet
The company is implementing Robotics Process Automation (RPA) for numerous use cases where manual inputs can be minimized. It has already moved its accounts payable and certain HR workloads to RPA. Citing an example, Singh informs, “Until recently, we required to send the hard copies of invoices from plant to the head office. These copies would be re-validated and registered manually. However, using RPA, the copies are now scanned and the automatic transaction is generated and is forwarded to the finance department for timely payments. This transition has given credibility in the eyes of a supplier, which in turn puts JKCL in commanding better facilities from its suppliers”

Embracing security
Surprisingly, security as a vertical was not so prominent in the organization until last year. The company embarked on this journey in September 2018, after partnering with EY to put security in place with the latest technology, but without going for overkill. “Right now, Cement industry being a commodity business is not considered data-centric. As the data dependency goes higher, the industry may receive greater attention in terms of security breaches. Now, the security policy is in place and best practices are getting institutionalized. Endpoint protection, control access, secured access and appointment of information security officer are some of the initiatives we have taken in the recent past,” Singh shares.

Going forward
The company is now gearing up for S4 HANA journey. The technology team at JK Cement is further fine-tuning the processes with the help of value stream mapping. It will give estimates of different timelines from lead, ideal process cycle to manpower engagement. This value stream mapping is said to help the company in reducing the ideal timing by using RPA, removing redundant steps, customised and configuration the systems and software for the desired result. Both Grey and White cement division of JK Cement are looking at technology and automation as a growth engine, and the company has set a target to go 100 percent digital.

“Conservatively speaking, we are 70 percent digital and by next year, we will be close to 90 percent digital. We are bringing more of our processes under RPA, close to IoT and superior analytics and MIS. The leadership team knows where it wants to reach, and it’s impossible to reach that stage without technology. Our strategy is to move from on-premise to Cloud 100% in the near future. Our cloud journey is very new, we have migrated to public cloud in certain cases, along with organisations made a wide shift to Microsoft Office 365,” he emphasises.

The bottom-line objective for JK Cement is to create technology as a platform for people. Now, a good amount of data is being generated from different sources. The company will be using it for more business and may break in certain silos. Getting closer to end consumer with social media and analytics and transforming 35 plus years old plants with IoT and sensors wherever is possible and setting up new plants with the latest technologies – these are some of the company’s thrust areas.

Sharing some of the key challenges for the company, Singh adds, “The way technology is advancing, my team needs to be prepared with the latest and the best. Manpower is something you can’t replace 100 percent every year. Selecting relevant technology partners, keeping the balance of cost-benefit versus, consulting and technology, etc is crucial.”


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