For Krishnan Venkateswaran, Chief Digital & Information Officer, Titan Company Ltd, the business before him requires the precision of the needle going round in the clock. The watch and wearables maker is in the business of B2C, including front-end of brick and mortar as well as digital. It has multi-layer supply chain and fairly complex manufacturing. The biggest challenge that his team faces is the convergence of various departments in the business. For instance, the production scheduling is now based on the demand pull on the ground.
"We are now working with the robotic manufacturing, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the digital team, we are not only interacting with infotech as earlier, but also with operational technologies. Predictive maintenance, collecting stats and applying Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to analyse the data are all key to the business nowadays. We are getting into a new domain," he says.
When we ask the chief technology and digital officers in the industry about how technology has drastically changed over the recent years to make their life hectic, they say that the changes were in the making, but the outbreak of COVID-19 has made its adoption faster. KR Venkatadri, Chief Innovation & Digital Officer, Tata Chemicals says that the pandemic has changed the way they work and technology has become the most important factor for the business continuity. "The manufacturing sector will see a transformed digital and IT system to create a manufacturing unit of the 21st century that will have all the elements of Industry 4.0," he says.
Asfar Khan, Director IT, Kellogg South Asia, says that the role of the chief technology officers (CTOs) has compounded due to the quantum of data one has to work with. "And as a result, it is reshaping the minds of CTOs, and building them to be analytical. It is a huge skill that technology leaders need to learn and swiftly adapt to."
Khan says that, at Kellogg, they are constantly in the market to understand how they can create a better supply and sales systems. "We had some legacy platforms and have migrated our existing distributor management systems, sales force automation management platform and remote access mechanisms to the new-age ones that can help us optimise the way our sales and distribution teams operate over the past 12-18 months. My role, in all of this, is to go beyond the conventional definition of a CTO and identify how these focus areas for Kellogg can be made more efficient not just with technology but also the smart use of data," he says.
Digital engagement has acquired new dimensions nowadays. The customers are bothered about the time they spend in the shops. Venkateswaran of Titan says that it is important for creating a digital ecosystem for the customers to make ready their wish list before they enter into a shop of Tanishq, the jewellery brand of Titan. If the technology chiefs were working in silos to support just the digital infrastructure in the earlier era, the companies need them the most today as they are part of reinvention of manufacturing, improve logistics and enhancement of customer experience.
Kellogg makes use of AI to consult on-ground sales representatives, who engaged directly with the retailer, on what would be the best product propositions to make to them. "These propositions are computed and suggested based on the retailer's past selling record and that is how technology actually aids the human effort of selling which would not be possible with such efficiency or accuracy otherwise," says Khan of Kellogg.
In a traditional manufacturing business, Venkatadri of Tata Chemicals says, any change due to technology results in the shop floor and middle level makes the managers feel that their jobs will be taken away due to automation and predictive technologies. However, after implementing the predictive analytical technologies, the team has found that it has reduced their workload; it is less fatiguing and resulted in a better quality of work. Embracing such technology has helped them become champions now for further change.
Technologically friendly team which understands the benefits of embracing these new technologies and an openness to working on new ways will be the future requirement that the companies keep in mind while going for hiring.