The Bottom Line Per Thomas A. Fisher

By David F. Carr Print this article 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. PDF Download

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 change—or 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.'"

This article was originally published on 2002-12-01
David F. Carr David F. Carr is the Technology Editor for Baseline Magazine, a Ziff Davis publication focused on information technology and its management, with an emphasis on measurable, bottom-line results. He wrote two of Baseline's cover stories focused on the role of technology in disaster recovery, one focused on the response to the tsunami in Indonesia and another on the City of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.David has been the author or co-author of many Baseline Case Dissections on corporate technology successes and failures (such as the role of Kmart's inept supply chain implementation in its decline versus Wal-Mart or the successful use of technology to create new market opportunities for office furniture maker Herman Miller). He has also written about the FAA's halting attempts to modernize air traffic control, and in 2003 he traveled to Sierra Leone and Liberia to report on the role of technology in United Nations peacekeeping.David joined Baseline prior to the launch of the magazine in 2001 and helped define popular elements of the magazine such as Gotcha!, which offers cautionary tales about technology pitfalls and how to avoid them.
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