The Digital Metamorphosis of a Steel Company

How a new CIO revitalised a 55 year-old company digitally within a year
Key Learnings
  • Attain Situational Awareness: For a new CIO in an organisation, it is crucial to attain awareness of the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the environment within which they are now operating. The focus of work in determining the situational awareness of the environment you are operating within is primarily business, rather than technology. This initial work will enable you to use empathy to gain the support of business colleagues and guide technology colleagues.
  • Develop a Personal Plan: Create a roadmap to determine how you see yourself communicating and interacting with the leadership team and the ICT team; identify the gaps in the alignment of the business strategy and the ICT capability to deliver; and determine the approach of ICT to the three top risks for success of ICT to support business.
  • Show the Power of Technology: It is important to first convince yourself, as a CIO, on why the project is crucial for the organisation. Kumar did a thorough study of the ROI on each project before undertaking them. He walked the extra mile to convince management. Before going ahead with the IoT project, Kumar took the plant manager to an IoT-enabled factory to show actually how it benefits business.

The Challenge

Founded in 1970, Ambica Steels is a fully integrated specialty stainless steel long products producer. The company has four manufacturing facilities with an annual production capacity of 80,000 tons of steel products. In addition to catering to the Indian market, the company exports steel products to over 50 countries globally in more than 100 steel grades.

In the last few years, the company witnessed strong growth, quickly moving from a topline of USD 187 million to USD 437 million.

Historically, technology was not accorded much importance in many steel companies, and Ambica Steels was no exception. However, the rapid growth and increasing global competitive landscape compelled Ambica Steels to recognise the need for stronger compliance and a robust technology backbone to support operations. In February 2023, Ambica Steels’s board created the position of a CIO with the mandate to reinvent business through technology. The new role went to Manoj Kumar, a seasoned ICT veteran.

Upon taking the role, Kumar set about identifying critical business areas that needed digitisation and creating a list of ICT priorities. He decided to streamline operations, elevate customer experience and enhance productivity. To meet these goals, Kumar aligned with the best-of-breed solution providers.

IBRS notes that it is vital for a new CIO to establish and communicate such priorities to business leaders and frame the priorities in a way that the business leaders understand and support. As detailed in the New CIO Handbook series of advisory papers, IBRS research shows that CIOs have less than three months to build trust and support of the executive, set the ICT agenda and deliver a longer-term strategy. By working with the executive team to pinpoint the key initiatives needed to support growth and improve compliance, Kumar set the scene for a transformation of how the 55-year-old firm not only used but thought about technology. 

Transforming Business Digitally with SaaS

Show Me the Money: Starting with Finance and Operations

Ambica Steels was using a legacy version of Microsoft ERP whose support had ended. To uplift the firm’s finance operations, and solve the security risks of being on an unsupported core solution, Kumar decided to implement Microsoft Dynamic 365 F&O (finance and operations) ERP solution. The project was started in April 2023 and went live in October of the same year.

“We successfully implemented all the modules of the solution and seamlessly combined a range of functions, including supply chain management, finance, customer service, sales, and human resources,” says Kumar.

With the solution going live, the company now has complete visibility and access to real-time information such as pricing, quotations, payments, and invoicing.

“Implementing the financial management module enhanced our accounting procedures, optimised cash flow supervision, and facilitated instant financial reporting and analysis. Through functionalities like accounts receivable, accounts payable, and general ledger, clients experienced heightened command over their financial activities. This had a positive impact on customer experience,” says Kumar.

By leveraging Power BI, which is integrated with ERP, Kumar created several dashboards. “We can now examine sales data, revenue patterns, and customer interactions, which enable us to pinpoint top-performing products, target markets, and potential sales prospects,” he says.

A key benefit of prioritising an uplift in finance and operational performance reporting is that it gave Kumar a very visible ‘quick win’ with Ambica Steels executives. By modernising this firm area, Kumar demonstrated the advantages new technologies could deliver to the very people that would be critical for future, deeper operational invitations.   

Learning from the Digital Generation: Implementing Ecommerce for Industrial Products

Kumar also deployed Salesforce CRM and built an ecommerce platform for the company’s distributors.

In the past, sales operations at Ambica Steels relied heavily on manual processes that were laborious and time-intensive. Data was fragmented across various systems, posing challenges for teams to obtain a cohesive customer perspective.

To enhance customer service and streamline sales activities, there was a need for a centralised customer database. The rollout of the CRM fulfilled these needs.

“We now have a 360-degree view of each customer, including their purchase history, strategic moves, and new announcements. This enables the sales team to have more meaningful customer conversations and provide personalised service,” says Kumar. Through the Salesforce mobile app, sales representatives can effortlessly record customer details while on the move. Besides, the optimisation of field sales visits has enhanced operational efficiency.

By integrating the ERP with the CRM, Ambica Steels can now monitor orders, invoices, financial records, and transactional documents.

In an innovative move, Kumar leveraged Salesforce Commerce Cloud to build an ecommerce portal for its distributors.

“The ecommerce platform contributed 20 per cent to the overall revenue of the company last year,” he says.

From No-Tech to High-Tech: Enabling Smart Manufacturing with IoT

Kumar’s third major digital initiative was implementing IoT to enhance the productivity and efficiency of the manufacturing facility.

“By harnessing the power of advanced sensors, data analytics, and machine learning, we are able to gain instantaneous visibility into the health of our assets, empowering us to adopt a proactive stance and avert expensive equipment failures through timely interventions. As the solution went live in only one of the manufacturing facilities in February 2024, we haven’t yet calculated its impact on overall business but expect a substantial reduction in downtime and maintenance costs,” says Kumar.

Fast Forward: Setting the Foundations for the Next Decade

Kumar’s approach to moving from legacy, on-prem monolithic ERP throws light on how even organisations that have traditionally had a low digital maturity are adopting fourth-wave ICT principles. Companies have now realised the need for agility and are going in for SaaS solutions that are readily integrated with other existing IT infrastructures.

Fourth-wave of ICT architecture is emerging wherein organisations are evolving their enterprise software architecture to include elements of traditional larger solutions, surrounded by smaller niche solutions, and finally, micro-solutions, all supported by a low-code digital fabric that blends features of application interfaces, workflow, interfaces to other services, and robotic process automation.

One of the advantages of the architectural approach Kumar has taken is agility: the ability to quickly uplift business processes or deploy new capabilities. This is a key goal of fourth-wave ICT. However, this case study also illustrates additional benefits, including the ability to accurately measure operational improvements, perform deeper cost analysis, reduce ‘time to market’ for customer-facing services and thus provide a competitive advantage. 

In addition, by adopting SaaS-based core systems, Ambica Steels is setting itself up to take advantage of the coming wave of new AI technologies that will be embedded in future versions of these core solutions.

Going forward, Kumar has plans to move completely to the Cloud. “Currently, 80% of our applications are on the Cloud and we intend to move the remaining 20% also in the next couple of years,” he says.

He is also looking to reduce the cost of energy (electricity and gas) by 5 per cent through IoT. Besides, there are plans of extending the IoT solution to all the manufacturing units and integrating AI and ML with the CRM.

CIO Insights

“The ecommerce platform contributed 20 per cent to the overall revenue of the company last year,”

  • Manoj Kumar, CIO, Ambica Steels.

Company Details

Manoj Kumar

CIO at Ambica Steels and national level IT award winner of more than 20 years of experience a digital leader and a true business partner who specializes in transforming teams, processes, and digital products. 

Company Name: Ambica Steels

Industry: Manufacturing

Turnover: 437 million USD approx.

Total Employees: 3000 approx.

Trouble viewing this article?