As the automotive sector continues evolving at pace, businesses must keep up. UK EV battery manufacturer, Britishvolt, has invested in Infor CloudSuite Automotive to manage its business operations more sustainability and innovatively. Here, David Threlfall, CIO, Britishvolt, talks to Alix Pressley about the partnership with Infor in more detail and highlights the importance of achieving and maintaining flexibility to support the global presence of Britishvolt; making British a global brand.
Infor, the industry cloud company, has announced that battery pioneer, Britishvolt, the UK’s foremost investor in battery cell technologies and research and development, has selected Infor CloudSuite Automotive to manage business operations at its £3.8 billion 38GWh Gigaplant in Cambois, Northumberland, UK.
2022 will see phase one of the software rollout, comprising finance, procurement and HR, withphase two planned to complete in 2023 and encompass production, planning, inventory and warehousing, with 300 core Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) users supporting 3,000 employees.
Britishvolt recently announced backing for its Gigaplant from the UK Government’s Automotive Transformation Fund, as well as an agreement with strategic partner, Glencore, to build a battery recycling ecosystem in the UK.
Committed to ensuring maximum performance of all manufacturing and non-manufacturing systems, Britishvolt undertook a thorough assessment of the market and a competitive tender process before choosing Infor CloudSuite Automotive.
Britishvolt chose Infor CloudSuite Automotive for its out-of-the-box industry-specific capabilities, including the automotive and supplier exchange functionality, which streamlines and simplifies collaboration with all types of automotive customers and suppliers. Infor’s strong automotive credentials and rapid implementation approach were instrumental in Britishvolt’s decision, alongside the solution’s ability to scale quickly geographically and in line with increasing manufacturing volumes.
“Our key drivers are sustainability and innovation, which also apply to our business management systems,” said Britishvolt CIO, David Threlfall. “Our decision to invest in Infor CloudSuite Automotive matches our overarching ethos of employing systems and platforms capable of dynamic evolution, using proven modern technologies that deliver competitive advantage, sustainability and reliability.
“With Infor CloudSuite Automotive, we know we’ve chosen the best solution to support our rapid growth and innovation. A rapid implementation will enable us to hit the ground running, bolstered by industry-specific functionality to facilitate that all-important seamless digital interaction with customers and suppliers throughout the supply chain, as well as optimum operational efficiency and agility. This investment will create a data-rich environment to enable full traceability from raw material to end-user, a core component of our aim to create a genuinely circular economy.”
We caught up with David Threlfall, CIO, Britishvolt, who tells us more about the organisation’s key drivers and strategic vision, as well as its work with Infor.
Can you start by telling us what your role entails at Britishvolt?
I’ve been at the company for around 13 months now and I was brought in as Britishvolt CIO to build the whole IT enterprise architecture from the ground up.
What business/IT challenges were you looking to address ahead of your work with Infor?
We chose Infor as our ERP solution and ERP was one of the main cornerstones of our application architecture. One of the things we were looking for in an ERP vendor was a true native cloud solution. Given that we – with no data centre facilities – didn’t want to get into that business, we needed flexibility across all regions. So it was really important that we had a true cloud solution and something that was born in the cloud. Also, it was key that we had the capability to integrate very closely with our first tranche of customers who will be car manufacturers, OEMs.
What was the unique selling point of Infor CloudSuite Automotive and how has it met expectations so far?
We went through a really rigorous selection process with one of our business partners and went out to the market over a six-month period. We settled on Infor because we wanted it to demonstrate – and it did – how it has implemented Tier One suppliers into automotive. So it was really important that there was those business relationships already in place in the market. And critically for Britishvolt, of course, being a startup at that time we didn’t have any legacy processes or platforms so Infor demonstrated the ability to provide standard process that we could adopt.
How does Infor allow you to fulfil your key business drivers, sustainability and innovation?
Inforhas a key partnership with AWS and as a result of that, we automatically get native functionality that exists in the AWS suite which we can use within our ERP environment. A good example of this would be the Alexa voice control, so there’s plans to use that functionality within our ERP which will hopefully, break down barriers for people with physical disabilities or experience challenges in other areas – they may not have been able to gain a role in data import. So using that kind of functionality is really key for us as well as being able to tap into that R&D blueprint that Infor has with AWS.
How do you ensure continued innovation and how does this factor into the company’s strategic vision?
What’s important for us is not just to implement cool technology, but to also deliver on our business objectives and that’s our starting point. It’s great for me because Britishvolt has very clear strategic targets we can aim towards. We know what we need for a set horizon business plan and then we can plan where we go from there – so maybe a more utopian vision in a couple of years’ time. So it’s really listening to our business and what the drivers are, what the challenges are and making sure we adopt the technology that’s both appropriate and provides value at the end.
Can you tell us about your wider digital platform strategy and how it’s supporting your business plans while allowing you to stand out from the crowd?
What’s crucial for us is being a digital business. Yes, we design and will be manufacturing the high-performing green batteries for the automotive industry initially in the UK, but critically there’s a couple of reasons why our applications and our data layer must be able to support our digital strategy. One reason is de-risking, especially now with the current global situation. There’s a lot of nervousness in the world, particularly for those wanting to invest in organisations so understandably, investors and shareholders want to make sure that we can do what we say we’re going to do and a great way of doing that is by digital simulation and then ultimately creating a Digital Twin of our products and our process. This way, we can actually demonstrate that what we’re actually planning will actually work and will provide the results we’re planning to deliver. We’re doing that in partnership with the likes of Siemens by using digital simulation tools right across manufacturing, right across the operation all the way from R&D product development. So that’s de-risking, and then it’s de-risking the actual operation – it’s making it the leanest, most efficient operation that we can. So we can use the same technology stack and the same innovation all the way from building our facility to actually running the facility.
More generally, what are your thoughts on the changing role of the CIO – has this impacted your approach/management style?
I’ve been saying for some time now that the CIO is really well placed to influence the direction of any organisation and there has never been a better time now for CIOs, head of IT, whatever the job title, but if you’re running and heading up a technology function to be able to get into the DNA of your business and not just be a service provider, but be a real enabler is absolutely key. A good example of that would be, an ESG agenda. Every organisation has ESG on their corporate agenda, however, no company would be able to deliver the ESG agenda without a really strong digital presence within the organisation. So my rule is for CIOs, when we’re talking to our board or senior people, we only talk about three things: revenue, cost and risk because that’s really all the board of directors are interested in. If you go in talking about the actual technology, that may interest some people but really, we need to be talking about what that technology actually brings to the organisation in terms of value.
What are your plans for the future – how do you intend to continue meeting your business/IT objectives?
Once we have established ourselves as the primary UK battery manufacturer, we have ambitions across the border. We’ve already acquired a company in Europe in Germany, we’re in the advanced stages of building a gigaplant in Quebec, Canada. We’re looking at global presence. So really, from an IT perspective, it’s really important that anything we’re architecting now is able to be flexible enough to support that global presence of Britishvolt; making British a global brand.Click below to share this article