A.V. Dharmakrishnan, CEO, Madras Cements
Late last year, when I was meeting A.V. Dharmakrishnan of Madras Cements, I was hardly prepared to meet a CEO who runs his business literally off an iPad.
Madras Cements is the flagship company of Chennai-headquartered $1 billion Ramco Group. The Ramco group has interests in textiles, cement, fibre cement products, software, surgical cotton, and bio-tech.
As impressions go, being operational in a traditional line of business-cement-one would hardly expect its CEO to be so high-tech. Using a wi-fi connection, Dharmakrishnan demonstrated to me how he could track almost all critical aspects of his company on a real time basis: What is the financial health of the company? Who is late or absent in office today? What is the stock situation in different locations? How are the windmills doing? He could even track the live transportation of his (cement) stock working with an antiquated Indian Railways system (live movement of wagons).
And he was showing me all this on his iPad-a demonstration of enterprise resource planning (ERP) on cloud. Later on, I came to know that Dharmakrishnan has banned paper, PowerPoint and Excel in his company and he demands everything to be live on his system. And he gets it.
How did he achieve such a high level of technological automation and sophistication (data on the go) for his company?
Of course, it did not happen overnight. Madras Cements started operations in 1957 with a cement manufacturing plant in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The company expanded to include seven manufacturing facilities with a combined capacity of 11 million metric tonnes per year. Besides cement manufacturing, the company operated several wind power sites with combined capacity of 185 MW that provided it with a cheaper power supply.
Manufacturing Portland cement is an extremely competitive business. To achieve efficiency in a market like this, the company's management needed to standardise processes across plants and establish the technology infrastructure to monitor and control costs effectively. Different systems and processes at its plants created difficulties for the management to create efficiencies and get that competitive edge. For example, there was a lack of a connecting infrastructure between locations (forcing each plant to develop its own independent identity) and a lack of standardisation of systems and processes. It hampered the management in making accurate operational decisions.
Things had to change.
Ramco Systems, a Ramco Group company, came to its rescue. This company had started operations in 1989 and it specialised in the development and deployment of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions. It is the first ERP product company in APAC.
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