“IOT is one of those areas where I think there is a lot of hype, but I also think there is a lot of opportunities. We need to figure out where there is value for our customers. I think IT is in a great place, not only to find solutions for that but to provide ideas for the business about how we can go develop these opportunities into new business models.”
Insightive.tv: Do you think IT is seen as an enabler or necessary cost — has there has been a change in this perspective recently?
Gary: Over the last few years, I think the perspective has rapidly changed from cost to key enabler. Jabil has definitely undergone this transition. My boss, our COO, has developed an insatiable appetite for the transformation power the IT team can bring. The goal has really become to take a broad and strategic approach.
The development and availability of technology has had an impact. But, as much as anything else, I think the change has come from an attitude shift within the IT team itself. We made a purposeful pivot to look at the new technologies and work with the business to figure out how to best leverage those technologies in innovative ways. It was the combination of realising the opportunities in the digital space and opening up a dialogue with the business leaders that has allowed us to have success. This has created a much more value based and strategic set of priorities than existed even a few years ago.
Insightive.tv: What are some of the recent developments you have been working on?
Gary: One large project involved working with our supply chain leaders to develop an intelligent digital supply chain. We have also done quite a bit around analytics within the production line and within our production facilities.
We started working to implement digital analytics about two years ago — beginning with some specific tools like Microsoft Azure. We implemented these technologies within the product line to analyse how to improve our product quality. This also enabled us to run algorithms on production parts to predict failures before they showed up in the inspection processes. We can then look at all this information and improve some of our other operations. Things like machine maintenance operate on prescribed cycles, which, frankly, may or may not be optimal for what we are doing. So we are using analytics to improve those processes, and we are seeing some early success.
To help cultivate the skills needed to engage in a digital culture we recently started our Citizen Data Scientist Program. This is a training program that takes internal subject matter experts through a curriculum on how to use analytical tools.
Insightive.tv: If you look to the future, what are your plans in terms of transformation — what are your dream transformation projects?
Gary: In our digital program we have three guiding principles. First, our digital efforts need to improve our customer experience. Second, we must focus on improving our operations. The third element is about using digital strategies to identify new business opportunities. Looking forward, it is that third aspect where I want to see IT get even more aggressive with our business partners in identifying and developing opportunities that can take technology and transform our business from a digital standpoint.
IOT is one of those areas where I think there is a lot of hype, but I also think there is a lot of opportunities. We need to figure out where there is value for our customers. I think IT is in a great place, not only to find solutions for that but to provide ideas for the business about how we can go develop these opportunities into new business models.
That is my long-term view. But this is challenging. We have to get the mindset right within the IT organisation to take that step of being business people — as opposed to just IT people. This creates a second challenge— developing business models requires a different skill set than we have had historically. We have had to go on a fairly aggressive talent development process over the last few years to bring in some of the new talents that have helped us make that transition.
The other important piece of context that has to be taken into account during implementation is that we have to continue to take care of our operations while undertaking transformation projects. We are working very quickly on transforming to cloud infrastructure. That will allow us to reskill part of our IT force to start thinking about where we can provide new business opportunities, away from what we do on the operations side. That is where I get excited.
Insightive.tv: In terms of the workforce, are you doing anything to increase manufacturing and production productivity?
Gary: In the physical manufacturing of the products there are a number of initiatives we have where we are partnering with the operations teams. You get a lot of dialogue about IT/OT. Jabil is probably right in the middle of that pack in regards to having a lot of IT and OT. Over the last eighteen months, we have made some really good strides partnering with the operational teams to make both technical and strategic improvements to the shop floor.
Part of that is a new MES systems that we are rolling out. This gives us better visibility and flexibility to tailor that system to what is needed. There has been a lot of work done around analytics and visibility on the shop floor, which is helping drive productivity. We have had a lot of success using analytics to improve the quality of our products and to catch early defects as items go through the assembly line.
We are able to look at a lot of this information in real time. It varies a little by site, but what we are focusing on right now is taking the analytics work from the shop floor and figuring out where we can increase value.
Insightive.tv: How do your transformation projects link into the supply chain — how big of a role do you see there in the future?
Gary: We partner with our global supply chain and work a lot with them on their enablement. This relationship has actually kind of turned a corner in the last eight or nine months to where the supply chain partners are now asking us to take a look at the embedded capabilities in the systems we have and work with them on identifying opportunities to improve their processes. From that perspective, we work with them pretty tightly and I only see that improving in the future.
We have to convince our IT guys to spend more time down on the shop floor, and with the supply chain leaders themselves. We have to understand these processes to be able to improve the capabilities and tools. This, again, is a challenge when we ask our guys to do this on top of their day job.
Historically, IT has been a little bit of a response organisation, versus an organisation that pushes its ideas and advertises opportunities. Moving away from this is the big shift we are undertaking in all areas of the business. I see this developing in the future — it is the key to adding value.
Gary Cantrell is the SVP and Chief Information Officer at Jabil. He has over twenty-five years of experience in IT and Supply Chain leadership positions, with particular expertise in SAP/ERP, staff development and transformation projects. Since joining Jabil in 2013, Gary has been tasked with delivering end-to-end solutions in support of manufacturing operations in fifty-seven locations. We spoke to Gary to get his insight into how digital transformation has changed operations at Jabil and how he sees technology impacting the future of manufacturing in the UK.
Jabil is a manufacturing services company. Founded in 1966, Jabil began trading publicly in 1993 and provides products for industries ranging from healthcare and life sciences to aerospace and automobiles. With operations in twenty-eight countries, their engineering and manufacturing supply chain solutions aim to help companies capitalise on an increasingly digital world — bringing innovative products to the market with ever greater speed and reliability.
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