The Bottom Line Per Thomas A. FisherBy David F. Carr Print
Applica Consumer Products' vice president on taking charge.
Thomas A. Fisher, Ph.D., is vice president of global information technology at Applica Consumer Products, which includes Windmere and Black & Decker Household Products (a spin-off from the toolmaker). Since joining Applica in June 2001, Fisher has been working to rationalize systems that were purchased or developed by independent business units.
Q. What are you driving toward at Applica?
A. A global technology strategy that ties directly into our corporate business direction and initiatives. First we have to better understand our business processes, map and document them, and then overlay the proper technology.
Q. So where do you start?
A. You have to take a long-term view. After each change, you've got to have the follow-up and keep reinforcing the changeor the change is going to fail.
Q. What problems did you try to tackle up front?
A. One of the things I saw when I came in was that the vendors had too much influence, were too demanding of my time and my staff's time. So, last December I hosted a "vendor summit" over two days. For the first half-day, I explained my strategy, which is to simplify, standardize and globalize our technology base. For the next day and a half we all worked on solutions.
Part of what I did in that first half-day was just lay the new ground rules. I told them, "I will buy, but I can't be sold." I put forth a rule for everyone to accept the piece of the pie that they have and don't try to steal it from my other partners, find ways to work with their competition. Supply chain vendors need to work with MRP [manufacturing resource planning] and ERP [enterprise resource planning] application vendors. I do not believe there's one application in the world that can do everything.
Q. Who got more business?
A. [Manufacturing software provider] QAD was in my vendor summit, and was knocking on my door at the time. Black & Decker Household Products had used QAD in facilities around the world, particularly one in Mexico that we obtained through acquisition, and they had gone through many quality initiatives that used QAD's MFG/Pro software. I saw there could be more value there, so we brought that to our plants in South America, hosting it almost like an ASP [application service provider]. We also de-cided to install it in our manufacturing facilities in China. The next step is to get Mexico on the same version as China so we can do full MRP collaboration.
Q. Were the vendors willing to play by your rules?
A. Most were. But there was one attendee I asked to leave. He kept trying to go back to his sales pitch. Finally, he came up to me and said, "I don't understand what you're trying to do here." And I told him, 'No, clearly you don't.'"
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