In an interview with CIOReview, Stephen Katsirubas, Chief Information Officer, Hunter Douglas, discusses about the today’s manufacturing industry needs and a strategic roadmap for the future. Katsirubas’ background is around large ERP type of implementation and transformation projects. He is the CIO for Hunter Douglas North America (which is the premier window covering company) and has been there for three years. Hunter Douglas had embarked on an implementation of SAP S4/HANA, which they finished a couple of months back. This included everything in theback office that one would expect from an SAP implementation to replacing all the shop floor technology around 20 locations with their SAP ME and MII products. So all assembly instructions, machine integration, fabric optimization was completed over the last three years.

How is the CIO’s Role Evolving?

I am personally involved in more transformation activities and moving the business forward. It’s not just about technology but it’s about more technology enablement and how that’s going to help transform the business tomake us more efficient, innovative—putting tools and technology in people’s hands to make them more efficient. But in the last several years we’ve been focusing on enabling our customers which in the Hunter Douglas case, is dealers. Providing them with better tools and as much information as we can in their hands to improve their experience and make it easy for them to do business with us.

"You can be a leader and blaze your own trail but it’s also always beneficial if you have a good strong network and the ability to leverage other people’s experience"

Could you elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address?

The cloud presents its own challenges as we look to move more stuff to whether it is AWS or Azure to ensure those environments are as stable, scalable, and secure as we can have in our own data center. So achieving this poses a challenge. Security is the first and foremost to ensure that we’re not unnecessarily exposing ourselves to undue risk. Additionally, finding good talent in this economy can be difficult. I happen to be sitting in Denver with my team and it’s a very competitive labor market, so finding talented people and getting them on board takes quite a bit of time and effort.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space?

It’s all about learning and networking; understanding people who have gone on some of those journeys before. You can be a leader and blaze your own trail but it’s also always beneficial if you have a good strong network and able to leverage other people’s experience. That being said you also got to take a business first mentality and how is this going to move the business forward, how is it going to make a difference to my customers and better their experience, and how is this going to help generate more sales, revenue or drive efficiency for the organization. So put your business hat on and focus on those things and don’t focus so much on the technology.

How do you see the evolution a few years from now with regards to disruptions and transformations?

For us it’s all about machine learning, IoT, and artificial intelligence. Those are the things we’ll start focusing on as a way to learn from and get more predictive analytics and insight into our business by applying some of these tools and technologies around those three concepts. So we are leveraging IoTfor taking a smart factory approach and then machine learning in conjunction with that. So we remain intently focused on supporting our customers and providing a great experience for them. Everything we have been doing and we will be doing revolves around that principle. So that’s what sets our pace and direction for future initiatives. We just came off a three year transformation journey so we’re anxious to put that to work. We have a great foundation, and are working towards maximizing the efficiency of the investment we made over this time period. We want to continue to drive value and sharpen our operation to a point where we’re operating most efficiently and effectively.