Mexichem CIO Pedro Martinez Mexichem | Best Practice
CIO Talk

“From commodities to real impact”

Mexichem CIO Pedro Martinez and T-Systems Global Account Executive Maricarmen Torres talk about corporate digital strategies, learning curves in global partnerships and delivering on promises. 
Author: Thomas van Zütphen
Photos: Oliver Krato

Mr. Martinez, Mexichem is on a course of a worldwide expansion. How does ICT contribute to the company’s success? 

Reliable ICT means Mexichem can re­direct internal resources, transitioning from a “keeping the lights on” approach to a focus on increasing business value. We offer a vast variety of products and services and operate across multiple geographies which means we need IT solutions that fit many specific scenarios. To allow us to focus on what really matters, the underlying IT services need to be invisible. When you plug in your cell­phone charger or turn on the faucet; you simply expect it to work. And people want the same smooth experience when using email, working on a secure network, running an SAP® application, or setting up a town­hall webcast for employees around the globe. Finding the right partner to help you provide basic technology services globally, flawlessly and at the right price is an essential key to success. This creates a platform to address important issues – like how we can be closer to our customers and how we can launch digital projects in certain areas. If you have fundamental IT problems, these things are impossible.

FACTS & FIGURES 
With its roots in the processing of petroleum and petroleum products into plastics and a company history of more than  60 years, Mexichem is today a leading producer of innovative solutions for a wide variety of industries and industrial sectors. Its business areas include the production and infrastructure of plastic pipe systems, data communication, irrigation and the development of special materials.

Wavin in the Netherlands, Dura-Line in the US, Netafim in Israel are just three examples of your recent acquisitions. Can you tell us about the type of business you have incorporated into your portfolio? 

As our company name indicates, we started as a Mexican producer of chemical­based commodities. And we have evolved into a provider of innovative solutions to address all kinds of global issues. Currently, 60 percent of Mexichem’s Group EBITDA comes from speciality products and solutions, including precision irrigation, building and infrastructure, made­to­order resin compounds, datacom fiber micro­ducts and fluoride applications in the medical and automotive industries. Our current combination of assets makes us a truly global player equipped to effectively tackle diverse challenges, such as food safety, water scarcity or abundance and burgeoning urban populations. As we speak, we are busy redefining the purpose of our company. We want to better represent the fundamental “why” at the heart of this unique and powerful blend of business. Technology plays a major role in this, helping us accelerate the pace and become more than the sum of our parts. We’re moving from delivering commodities to really making an impact in the communities and countries we operate in. For example, we’re positioning ourselves as a leading developer of solutions that address food and water shortages, respond to the demand for increased crop yields and meet higher sustainability standards for fertilisation.

Vita
IT boss Pedro Martínez (47) has been with the company since October 2015 as Corporate Vice President of IT. Prior to this, he was CIO of the Henkel Group for the Latin America region and sub se quently Head of IT and Process Owner at Henkel’s head quarters in Düsseldorf. Pedro Martínez holds a Bachelor’s degree in Manage ment and Business Administration from the ESADE Business School in Barcelona and an MBA from the School of Economics in Rotterdam.

What do you expect from an ICT provider to keep up with this speed? 

The acquisitions I mentioned are global in their nature and they all have the potential to continue growing internationally at breakneck speed. So to deliver the same user experience and underlying technology infrastructure – whether it is in Norway, Colombia, Israel or the States – we need dynamic scalability. This helps us move forward fast and provide standardised core applications, such as our harmonised human resources processes. Also, it allows us to deliver in a timely fashion and offer specific solutions for certain geographies or business groups. 
What was behind your strategic decision to task T-Systems with transitioning your SAP operations to a cloud technology platform? The initial decision­driving factors were scalability and reliability combined with T-­Systems’ global footprint. We also wanted to minimise operational outages and perform according to established KPIs. The cost reductions we have achieved are a consequence of executing this strategy well and reaching a more significant critical mass. We were also looking for a long­term perspective to help the relationship work smoothly; mainly to overcome the first steps of the learning curve in new implementations.


What can you tell us about the cloud migration at T-Systems’ data center in Houston? What was your experience of the services and what are the first results?

T­-Systems helped us to set the stage for this migration, from the financial business case to educating on using the cloud securely for a public company (listed on the BMV stock exchange). We are currently executing this program in the Americas and have already migrated more than 47 on­premise SAP servers and 63 TB of data. T-­Systems has consistently delivered what was promised, and worked seamlessly with our internal IT team, both during the projects themselves and afterwards to ensure availability and service levels. Collateral benefits included the reinforcement of best industry practices and continuous improvements in the IT processes affected by this program.

Cloud computing is a milestone in your digital transformation. But it’s not the whole story by far. What else has happened along Mexichem’s transformation journey and what’s coming up next? 

An excellent example is the launch of NetBeat™ in May 2018. This enables the substitution of flood or sprinkler systems with drip ones (which means lower water consumption and increased yield) and we are now setting up the first intelligent irrigation system. A powerful algorithm combines the knowledge accumulated in years spent studying each type of plantation, with current figures recorded by sensors in the ground, as well as local weather forecast information or photographs captured by drones that show the colour of the fields. The possibility to store, classify and analyse huge amounts of data from customers around the globe in the cloud is revolutionising the way we optimise the industry and benefitting the communities depending on it. 

When it comes to the PLC of your production plants, their machines
Maricarmen Torres, Global Account Executive at T­Systems for the chemical company Mexichem.
​​​​​​​and Mexichem’s wide range of products, what role do predictive technologies play for your processes and the reliability of your infrastructures? 

We are just scraping the surface of the immense possibilities that connected factories offer. We have one of the most significant concentrations of extrusion and moulding machines within our pipe manufacturing plants. Since 2017, we have successfully launched IoT smart adaptations in our plants (the first in Sumaré in Brazil). Moreover, we have seen savings in raw material and waste reduction that delivered financial payback in less than ten months. These successes are boosting interest in Industry 4.0 across more than 130 Mexichem plants.


How long does it take you to identify the technologies you need, like real time data, IoT, AR and analytics, and how long does it take you to tie everything together? 

Our digital projects call for a new approach to design where the traditional lengthy methodology of capturing requirements and selecting a vendor does not necessarily fit. In the NetBeat™ example, the solution prototype was the result of joining forces with three start­ups in Israel that provided ideas for hardware, programming, and user experience. We have recently launched a corporate digital strategic pillar to convey this new way of working. This means we will need to adapt significant portions of our IT architecture, attract and develop new talent capabilities (such as data science, content design and user experience), and recalibrate the balance between internal and external resources. 


In a recent interview (with InnovationWeek) you said: “The balance between business goals and IT security” is a major challenge for Mexichem. What do you mean by that? 

I believe there is a very delicate equilibrium of protecting the assets used internally by more than 10,000 users (without counting our customers, vendors, and stakeholders), while not disrupting our business operation requirements. That is the ongoing challenge I was referring to. To help us on this long­term journey, T­-Systems has been assisting us with our global security operation centre (SOC) since late 2018. This is another excellent example of how the partnership helps us deliver consistent global 24x7 service and monitor, respond to, and resolve cyber incidents. 

Mexichem produces individual plastic jackets for almost everything that flows – from water and data to electricity.