September 27, 2011

electroindustry article – For Hubbell, eBusiness is a Philosophy

After Hubbell Incorporated revamped the eBusiness section of its corporate website, it discovered its website was just the tip of the iceberg-eBusiness goes much deeper into the corporate culture and philosophy with programs, such as the Hubbell Sustainability Initiative (HSI). IDEA (Industry Data Exchange Association) caught up with Phil Barrios, Senior Director of Corporate Marketing and eBusiness, who also sits on the IDEA Board of Directors and chairs the IDEA Industry Standards Committee (ISC).­

IDEA: What have you found works well when it comes to advocating the benefits of eBusiness to your trading partners?

Active participation in the industry has given us the m­ost effective means to get the word out, whether it was Tim Powers as IDEA Chair, my role in the IDEA ISC, or the many other Hubbell staff that have been members of NEMA and IDEA subcommittees over the past two decades. We were one-if not the first- company in the industry to provide incentives to our trading partners to conduct electronic data interchange (EDI). In some cases, back in the midnineties, we physically went to distributor offices for installation and training of our PC-based application, which eventually migrated to our customer portal, myHubbell.com.

IDEA: What advice do you have for readers who are considering an eBusiness initiative?

Get support from the top. We are fortunate to have Tim Powers, Hubbell Chairman, CEO, and president, as an outspoken advocate for initiatives under the eBusiness umbrella, especially the use of the Industry Data Warehouse (IDW) to share product data securely with authorized distributors in one place and one format.

We view this approach as the most efficient means to synchronize our product information, and it fits nicely with lean manufacturing principles and our sustainability initiatives. eBusiness solutions should be a priority for those who want to eliminate waste, improve the speed and effectiveness of new product introductions, streamline their business processes, and benefit from employee productivity.

IDEA: Can you tell us more about HSI?

Notable parts of the initiative are to better manage our resources, eliminate waste, and incorporate lean manufacturing as a means of improving how we do business. We conduct numerous kaizen events (a concept related to lean manufacturing) throughout the year that identify "green" opportunities and focus on continuous improvement of business and manufacturing processes.

At Hubbell, we empower our employees to stop production if they see anything that is incorrect or inefficient, and then schedule a time for everyone involved in that process to go into a room, map it out, and brainstorm ways to fix, redesign, or redefine the process. We don’t leave until an improvement has been made.

For example, when we started automating business processes with our trading partners via EDI, we noticed that the process took longer than we’d like. We held a kaizen event to help identify bottlenecks, and to our surprise, there were more than 100 steps involved from the time the trading partner called requesting to be set up with EDI to when implementation was completed. We mapped out the process and identified ways to streamline the workflow; the results sped up implementations and cut costs for both Hubbell and our trading partners.

A lot of times, companies think that converting manual processes to electronic processes is where the work stops, but it’s important to reevaluate your business processes after the technology changes so that you can maximize your investment.

IDEA: Any closing thoughts?

I am concerned that the industry isn’t moving fast enough to integrate eBusiness into all aspects of daily business. I challenge both management and technical professionals to shift their focus from the technology of eBusiness to a philosophy of improving how we conduct business. EDI does not equal eBusiness-eBusiness is about looking at all the processes in your company and determining if there is a better way to reach a goal or complete a task electronically. Just because a company has performed a task a certain way for years, doesn’t mean it can’t improve.

If your intuition tells you that something is inefficient, my advice is to speak up and take action. Odds are good that there is a way to improve that process, ultimately saving time, money and valuable resources-enabling the electrical channel to be more competitive and continue as the channel of choice.