The Shaping of Manufacturing Technology

Regina Salazar, Regional CIO, GPO, Whirlpool Corporation [NYSE:WHR]
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How has Cloud Computing/Big Data/Networking/ Mobility/SaaS/New Technologies affected the Manufacturing industry?

Cloud Computing and Big Data are some of the key infrastructure components that enabled the Internet of Things—which in turn, added a completely new dimension to traditional manufacturing. Nowadays, almost every manufacturer is trying to find ways to leverage connectivity to not only increase profitability, but also enter spaces that were once out of reach.

Automotive companies are becoming mobility companies and hardware manufacturers are becoming service providers. Movie rental companies have been replaced with video streaming companies and so on.

In addition to that, the introduction of virtualization has not only saved companies millions of dollars in facility costs, but also has greatly expedited their ability to stand up to new computational environments and quickly recover from system downtimes. In our product development organization for instance, the adoption of virtual solutions has reduced our time to recover after an outage from over 24 hours to approximately four hours. Whirlpool Corporation has also virtualized over 95 percent of our Product Lifecycle Management environment and reduced overall hardware and maintenance annual costs by approximately 67 percent over the last three years. That adds up to a significant and positive impact in our productivity and cost.

  IT strategies are no longer developed to last year’s learnings, but instead they must be designed to quickly adapt 

It is also interesting to see how traditional manufacturing companies are trying to take a more entrepreneurial approach by leveraging the knowledge and capabilities offered by small start-ups.

This approach makes the concept of a “true eco-system” a reality, and is helping to create a completely new experience for the consumers.

Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?

I am personally excited about the direction we are going with our connected products. Helping Whirlpool Corporation create and realize our connected appliance strategy has been the most exciting challenge in my career.

Whirlpool Corporation focuses on making consumers lives easier by helping them care for their families. With the introduction of a digital component to our product lines, we believe we can take our consumer experience to the next level. By delivering purposeful innovation through the use of digital technology to save families time— allowing them to spend more time on the real things that matter in life. Good examples of these technologies are the voice integration of our appliances and the launch of our Scan-to- Cook technology.

It is very exciting to see the transformation that IOT has had on our product development process. We are constantly working with our global product team to not only influence and design simplified and agile processes, but also to implement tools and solutions that support Whirlpool Corporation’s new product development model.

How do you see technologies like IOT, Big Data, Cloud impact on the security aspect of the Manufacturing industry?

These technologies are continuing to raise the bar when it comes to security standards and, at the same time, are enabling levels of flexibility that we did not have previously. With everything being connected, our responsibility of keeping our consumer data safe is our first priority. The advancement of the cloud has also helped companies to move away from heavy physical infrastructure investments. The other aspect of having data on the cloud is also the ability to apply analytics tools to solve business issues across many products, regions and languages. It also opens the door for new revenue streams through the offering of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) to both receive and provide data to internal and external partners.

Even though you do not measure your team on project deadlines, fast delivery must still be important to you. How are you delivering faster?

We actually do measure our teams on project deadlines. A plan is only as good as its execution so meeting deadlines is important to us. Productivity and quality are also equally important, and for us the concept of delivering faster goes along with the work we are doing in making our project delivery process more agile. Influenced by the transformation that our product development process is going through, last year we made the decision to start deploying DevOps in our IT team supporting the Whirlpool Global Product Organization. It has been only a few months since we started and we are already seeing results. Communication among the global technical teams has improved, roles and responsibilities became clearer, and in some areas of our code development we are already seeing a reduction of 50 percent in development, testing and deployment lead times.

With the introduction of connectivity into our products we are also seeing a complete change in our product development operating model, with IT being 100 percent embedded in the process. The concept of collaborative design thinking, continuous integration, test driven development, automation and fast time to market are becoming critical to us. IT has to adjust and, in some cases, drive the change.

Manufacturers taking advantage of advanced analytics can reduce process flaws, saving time and money. Please share your thoughts on this.

The opportunities are endless when it comes to taking advantage of data and analytics. In any industry data will help improve customer service, maintenance and warranty costs, and overall product features. In some cases, we do not have a technology constraint. Instead, we have a challenge of asking the right questions and clearly defining what problem we are trying to solve. I believe analytics can be the glue between several business teams and IT, and when well implemented, can demonstrate not only what “re-using data” can mean, but also the importance of collaboration and fact-based decision making.

What is your advice for the upcoming or budding leaders in the IT sector?

Knowing technology and keeping ourselves up to date with the industry are critical skills to have, however they are no longer the most important trait that an IT leader brings to the table. The world we are living in is so extremely dynamic that if I were to give anyone advice on how to be successful in the IT sector, my first reaction would be: “learn how to handle uncertainty and see opportunity where no one else can.” IT strategies are no longer developed to last year’s learnings, but instead they must be designed to quickly adapt. In order to be successful and help to influence critical business decisions, IT professionals must be able to design and develop solutions that are flexible enough to adapt fast, and also be in a position to anticipate business and consumer’s needs.

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