Manufactures Association of Nigeria (MAN), the umbrella body of manufacturers in the country, should lead the charge to influence policies that drive digital evolution of the manufacturing sector, Mr Steve Obiago, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Chicason Group, an indigenous conglomerate has told Technology Times.
According to him, digital transformation in the Nigerian manufacturing industry is still at its infancy when compared to the evolution witnessed in the banking sector within the last decade.
Obiago, who has had over 23 years experience in the banking industry before joining the Nigerian manufacturing group says the success achieved in the digital transformation in the banking sector can be replicated in the manufacturing sector.
But that is if MAN and relevant stakeholders care to take a cue from the digital policies and allied initiative in the banking sector championed by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Nigerian banking regulator, the Chicason Group CIO believes.
”A lot of manufacturing companies in the country are still largely analogue. I will urge MAN to rise to the occasion in ensuring that manufacturing industries are fully automated in order to drive efficiency in that sector”, Obiagu told Technology Times in an exclusive interview at the company’s corporate headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos.
He reckons that ”the success recorded in the digital evolution in the banking sector today is not rocket science, it is because CBN has consciously come up with a policy to encourage digital banking and I believe such can be replicated in any sector of our economy if the regulators and stakeholders come up with good initiative and policies.”
According to him, aside from the policies and initiative, the CIO of any manufacturing company should come up with lofty ideas in digitizing and automating the processes in his company in line with global best practices.
”When I came into Chicason Group, my strategy was to see the group comes on a global scale as a fully automated manufacturing entity. Chicason Group is a large conglomerate with over 23 subsidiaries operating in eight countries. So, I had the vision as the CIO to automate all our processes by partnering with very reputable Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and we have been able to establish digitization in most of our factories, although it took sometimes. But we have been able to achieve more”, Obiago says.
He also highlights some of the challenges faced by many manufacturing industries going digital such as the ”the prohibitive cost of IT gadget (software and hardware)” and he believes that the only way out is “for government to step in and ensure that these two components which are the major areas is affordable for the manufacturing industries.”
According to the CIO, ”the reason why the manufacturing industry are still analogue is that when they look at the cost of purchasing IT gadget, they get discouraged. But if you ask ourselves why the banking sector has been ahead of other sector in digitization, the simple reason is that the Federal Government through CBN has subsidized the cost of IT gadget. Such also could be done for the manufacturing industry”, he adds.
”They also need to know that if you don’t automate you die and the only message I preach to any manufacturing CIO I meet is to automate their processes, because when you automate you see efficiency, you see the loopholes and leakages. You cant be analogue and survive in this digital age.
“Take for example,we adopt use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for regular interactions by committees and boards to reduce costs associated with sitting allowances and meetings. With the automation process in my company, we been able to save over N50 million per quarter on travel allowance. We now use skype for business for our meetings and that is just only one aspect. I can’t quantity how much we have saved overall since we fully adopted technology to drive our business”, the Chicason Group CIO tells Technology Times.
Speaking further with Technology Times Obiagu also hinted that his company is pursuing an ambitious plan to build Abuja, the nation’s seat of power, into a smart city in line with fast-growing trend across the world.
”Our smart city project is being done in the Abuja metropolis. We are still in the early stages.However, we also have a mass housing project that has kicked off and its being managed by Rock of Ages, one of our subsidiaries. And talking about the smart city initiative, we are still in talks with some of our partners and once that is concluded, we are going to fully kick off in Abuja. I can assure you that once we fully roll out, it will become the talk of the town”, Obiago says.
The Chicason Group’s goal of building the smart city is to improve quality of life by using urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services and meet residents’ needs, Obiago also told Technology Times about the ambitious plan by the Nigerian manufacturing conglomerate.
”And one of the major diferentiator of our smart city project is affordability. Many people believe that smart city is only for the elite but the truth about it is that smart city is just a concept. It doesn’t have to be elitist. So the strategy of Chicason Group is that the smart city will be affordable by all and every single Nigeria gets the impact of what ICT-oriented city looks like”, Obiago says.