by Mark Chillingworth

UK car manufacturing CIOs instrumental in current success

Apr 24, 20144 mins
Cloud ComputingIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Cars made in the UK account for 15% of manufactured goods from this nation, it was revealed today in the latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and it is interesting to note that the three primary car manufacturers in the UK, have at various levels embraced business technology transformation.

In March of this year 12% more vehicles were made in British factories than for the same period last year, the SMMT reports. Of greater interest is that three-quarters of UK production is exported, mostly to Europe. This is something to be proud of and protected, so it does fill me with concern that the Conservative and UKIP political parties want to exit the European community.

Nissan, the largest and most impressive manufacturer in the UK, has already warned that its presence in this country would be unsustainable should we vote to leave Europe.

But let’s not get bogged down in politics and instead focus on the success of British manufacturing and the, to me, obvious correlation between this success and the ability of the industry to embrace technology transformation.

Car manufacturing in the UK has always led on vehicle technology, the vast majority of the Formula One grid is a British based team and firms such as Lotus in Norfolk have pushed the boundaries of what is possible in road cars, but embracing business technology has not always been a strength of our national car builders.

Nissan may not be a British company, but its place in the national economy is highly significant and as this title’s recent CIO 100 demonstrated, it has a British CIO and the culture of the company to embrace the digital revolution set it out as an industry leader. In judging the 2014 CIO 100 the panel of former CIOs and I were impressed with the honest analysis of the role of digital in the sales, after care and continuing relationship consumers have with a car. The car industry, as I said, has not always embraced new methods and Nissan Europe CIO Stephen Kneebone had to be applauded for the collaborative and digital focus of his role.

Jaguar Land Rover has gone from a history of stumbling from one bad news story to the next, but of late great results are followed by great results. Its Land Rover products are selling like hot cakes both in UK cities and across the globe, particularly in China. Again, Jaguar Land Rover has a CIO that driven major business change into a very historic organisation and modernised the way it operates. Jaguar Land Rover was one of the earliest adopters of the Google corporate email system and has reported significant benefits. CIO Jeremy Vincent and his leadership team pursue cloud technologies wherever possible and have totally changed the face of business technology at the venerable manufacturer. Again, Vincent is a regular in the top quarter of the CIO 100.

On a totally different scale to the massive factories operated by Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover is Simon Callow, Head of IT at Aston Martin. While Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan mass manufacturer vehicles by the thousand, Aston Martin bespoke hand build exclusive sports cars. Like Jaguar Land Rover Aston Martin was once owned by global car giant Ford and prior to that had a troubled history. Today the luxury car maker is in better financial state than at any time in its history. During Callow’s tenure at Aston Martin the company has simplified and modernised its legacy IT estate to become a Microsoft shop with Office 365 and Dynamix AX ERP and Azure. This has enabled the organisation to gain an improved understanding of its information and improve processes accordingly.

The UK based car manufacturers in the 2014 CIO 100:

Nissan Europe CIO Stephen Kneebone

Jaguar Land Rover CIO Jeremy Vincent

Aston Martin CIO Simon Callow

“This is transforming the way the business operates and taking time and cost out of standard processes in Manufacturing, Product Design and CRM,”

Today’s positive results and growing European exports are not solely down to the CIO, but the recent successes of these companies adds up to the SMMT results announced today and it cannot be pure coincidence that the stability of these organisations in the still difficult economy is down, in part, to good business technology leadership.