Dubai’s Precision Group takes manufacturing into the cloud

Head of IT at mould and packaging company talks about leading its digital transformation programme

Two years ago, Dubai-based Precision Group realised that without digital transformation, it would begin to lag behind its peers.

The mould and packaging company has operated in Dubai for more than 30 years, but changing customer demand meant it had to adapt to continue to prosper.

It has since tested out and implemented a suite of cloud-based products from Oracle to offer it a wide range of capabilities, from harnessing analytics to monitoring orders.

“Without us changing, we knew it would be very difficult to sustain ourselves in the market,” Jayakumar Mohanachandran, head of IT at Precision, told Computer Weekly.

Launched in 1984, Precision produces millions of products each month at its Jebel Ali-based factory – including aluminium moulds and plastic packaging products.

Its clients include large multinationals and regional manufacturers of diary, beverages, food, confectionery, healthcare and homecare products.

With demanding blue chips such as Proctor & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson on the company’s books, Mohanachandran knew there was no time to waste in becoming technologically innovative to stay competitive. “Our customers are the ones who wanted us to disrupt,” he said.

After reviewing its options, Precision took a giant leap into the world of cloud computing in May 2018.

“We knew it would be our biggest enabler in getting everything we needed for the company in a short space of time,” said Mohanachandran.

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The company now holds the accolade of being the first manufacturer in the UAE to trial OracleCloud. “We are viewing this as a huge transformation across the organisation,” he said. “Our manufacturing plant is going wall-to-wall cloud – that includes everything from order management to analytics.”

Mohanachandran said the company is also working with other partners to ensure it has access to emerging technologies. “With this platform, we can now get into the IoT [internet of things] and ERP [enterprise resource planning] space,” he said.

“We are looking at ways that cloud could help us integrate the latest technology. For example, Smart Factory is our project – we want to make sure we connect the shop floor to our top floor.” This involves widespread automation, he added.

An experienced tech leader, Mohanachandran provides strategic direction for Precision’s IT operations, including infrastructure and architecture, applications development, re-engineering business processes, networks, outsourcing and security.

Oracle odyssey

Over the past year, he has spearheaded the implementation of Oracle Fusion R13 ERP across the company as a part of its digital transformation programme.

The Oracle technology includes Fusion Order management, Fusion Manufacturing, Fusion HCM, Payroll, Oracle Time and Labour, Fusion CRM, Fusion Procurement, Fusion Inventory, Fusion Financials and Oracle Analytics Cloud.

“This stack is a long way from our previous 20-year-old legacy system,” said Mohanachandran. “We implemented the whole thing in a very aggressive manner in just nine months.

“We have already seen that the system has given us a lot more visibility into the supply chain and the shop floor. We believe that these real-time insights will have significant cost reductions for us and directly impact our bottom line.”

Precision currently employs about 1,000 people – 70% work on the factory floor, with the rest in the administration and management offices.

Mohanachandran admitted that the company’s IT team had been reduced since its implementation of cloud. “We had 10 IT staff, but now are managing everything through managed services,” he said. “However, we are not cutting people. We are working on reskilling and upskilling our people.”

There has also been a significant cut in processing costs, he said. “We’ve realised we can leverage the cloud system to get rid of unwanted, unnecessary processes. We can also cut our procurement costs by half because there is no more printing.”

Very competitive sector

But it is not just about saving costs. Mohanachandran said the global mould-manufacturing sector is becoming very competitive – and the Middle East is no exception.

“We think the visibility into the shop floor is something that gives us improved productivity,” he said. “It will also improve our customer service and maintain our competitive edge. About 80% of our income comes from the top 20% of our customers. It’s important that we improve their experience.

“For example, Oracle Analytics Cloud gives us valuable real-time insights across the supply chain, the shop floor, HR, manufacturing, sales and finance.”

Mohanachandran said all the company’s HR staff now have their own mobile self-service portals, and management has everything available through the dashboard. “We also want to improve the experience for our employees,” he added.

Companies in the Middle East are currently investing in digital transformation, adopting technologies such as cloud computing to improve efficiency and agility.

According to Computer Weekly’s IT Priorities survey for the Middle East, nearly three-quarters of organisations in the region expect their IT budgets to increase this year as more companies embark on digital transformations.

More than half (51%) of the organisations surveyed said streamlining operations through internal efficiency and better process management was a driver of digital transformation.

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