By Gregory Hale
“I’ve lived long enough to have learned
The closer you get to the fire the more you get burned
But that won’t happen to us
Cause it’s always been a matter of trust”
— Lyrics to Billy Joel’s, “Matter of Trust”
Technology is ready to launch any manufacturer into the digital age, but trust and the art of communication amongst the workforce are the keys that will lead a company to the next step.
When it comes to moving in the next direction, operations technology (OT) and information technology (IT) need to work together, speak the same language and remain on the same page to help move the company together, said Melanie Kalmar, vice president and chief information officer and chief digital officer at Dow and Peter Holicki, senior vice president, operations, manufacturing and engineering, environment and health and safety operations at Dow during their keynote at the ARC Industry Forum 2020 in Orlando, FL, last week.
“There was a question of trust,” Holicki said. “IT and operations worked alongside each other, but really didn’t know each other. The time was there, there was no way we could work in silos anymore.”
During an interview type presentation, Kalmar and Holicki went back and forth asking and answering questions relating to IT and OT working closely together, but an underlying message was making sure the environment was secure.
“‘Seek Together’ is a new slogan that supports our vision to become the most innovative, to be the most inclusive materials company in the world. But we can’t do it alone,” Holicki said.
“We are seeking together to collaborate and accelerate our global digital priorities,” Kalmar said.
The two took a quick journey back 33 years ago when they joined Dow.
Back then Holicki said his relationship with IT was pretty much non-existent.
“We had to share a workstation, but I really didn’t need a computer. When I was at a manufacturing site, we had no IT; others helped out. Cyber didn’t even exist.”
Kalmar fell along the same lines of non-existence.
“I never thought about operations, which is strange because two thirds of the companies was focused on manufacturing,” she said.
In 2016, their paths crossed with the merger with DuPont
“We created a company IT strategy that hits three points: Customers, employees, and speed,” Kalmar said. “We had a mandate to be a new Dow, strategies around the three pillars, and digital transformation. Using data to drive better decisions to be a more sustainable and safer company. OT and IT have deep knowledge and expertise, we had to break down the silos to bring that knowledge and expertise together. My team had to find out how operations worked. In IT, we felt OT needed some discipline. Understanding how and why decisions were made were important for the organization. IT takes an organizational approach, kind of like a one size fits most. On the other hand, operations has to take a more customized approach. We had some pretty big differences.”
Finding a Common Ground
“Our organizations speak different languages, we speak operations lingo,” Holicki said. “IT speaks binary code.”
“We had to find a common ground across the organization,” Kalmar said. “We found the common ground, safety. The other big thing we thought about was the culture that used what we both had in common.”
While it may not have been a happy thought among their departments, Kalmar and Holicki knew they had to work together.
“We saw the need to come together more closely,” Holicki said. “For us (as a company) to make the next step, we clearly saw we needed the digital tools. The whole infrastructure we needed to operate, we in operations had to overcome that. We were local and IT worked on a global scale. Melanie began to sit in leadership meetings. I am sure it wasn’t easy for her to understand. She helped us to understand data. I also spoke to Melanie’s organization. We showed working together across paradigms was effective. We also made sure what we did was aligned to our businesses. We also sit on the corporate digital board. We prioritized key initiatives in all areas. Our teams began to fluidly work together. We started to trust each other.”
One of the things they started up was a digital operations center.
“This was a first of a kind initiative between IT and operations,” Kalmar said. “Why not bring all the right people with all the right skills together. We were all working together as one team.”
With the convergence plans and programs in places, Dow has been able to implement capabilities across the world. Some of those capabilities allow for a safer environment.
“Drones, robots and crawlers have allowed us to make Dow safe,” Holicki said. “They allow us to go to places that would not be a quality place for people to go to. The crawlers not only showed us they can do inspections, but they can do some work. That is the next frontier. Making sure they can do work. Innovations that allow us to track equipment and people not only allow us to track work, but to track people. We also have to look at privacy. Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we have to do it.”
Breaking down the barriers and silos helped create a more effective operation.
“Operating the same system separately would not be efficient,” Kalmar said. “If we wanted to go digital using connectivity and data mining we had to create this digital thread. Without a unified front, we were more vulnerable not working together. The biggest surprise was it doesn’t take much success to get more people on board.”
“We aim for speed and we add value,” Holicki said. “I want solutions we can use in as many places as possible. Many of the things we wanted, the solutions are out there, but we didn’t have the capability to understand what was out there and then assess what was out there. How can you screen (all that information) much better.”
Along with working with IT, Holicki had a greater understanding of cybersecurity. “When it comes to cyber and digital threat, I learned that from the IT side.”
“We were showing how each organization has strengths to bring together,” Kalmar said.
Digital Value Proposition
In the end, you can talk about jumping head first into the digital world, but no manufacturer can do it just for the sake of doing it, there must be a business reason.
“From the beginning we were treading quite a bit of water,” Holicki said. “We had to create a value case. Digital solutions have to add value as well.”
In working on the project over the past few years, the two Dow executives learned quite a bit, but in hindsight, would they do anything different?
“If I had to do it over again, I would have sent the IT people out in operations sooner,” Kalmar said. “That showed the differences and challenges and opportunities that are out there. We need to keep working at this and we have to keep focused on this. Plus, our organizational structures will morph. We will continue to work differently and find ways to partner together. We will continue to learn and understand the needs of the organization. We will have to be more agile. Look at the skills we have and not be caught on departmental barriers.”
“The question I have is can you tell us apart two years from now?” Holicki asked. “We have to have the ability to work together. Different geographies have different capabilities. We need to work together, we have to be careful as an industry to understand our platforms can’t be so different and unique.”
Trust and Communications
The two continued to go back to the theme of the discussion on bringing the two areas together: Trust and communications.
“Success will never happen without alignment at the top,” Kalmar said. “Communication has to continue occurring.”
“Trust is important. The willingness to cooperate is important,” Holicki said. “Collaboration is not something you do occasionally, you have to do it all the time. You need to have a strategy and an underlying value proposition.”
It’s just a matter of trust.