Bridgestone is embarking on a total enterprise reinvention, leveraging AI, data, and the cloud to improve everything from the supply chain to customer experience. Spearheading that change is a CIO with an entrepreneurial spirit who thrives when faced with a challenge – “and it was a bold challenge,” says Taren Rodabaugh. “Bridgestone wanted to pivot from being the world’s number one tire manufacturer to being a sustainable solutions company.” We spoke with Taren about how she’s enabling that pivot by inspiring her teams to be entrepreneurial and the ‘tire-centric’ solutions that will make the world of mobility safer and more sustainable.
Bridgestone will evolve as a sustainable solutions company, contributing to society with ever growing value. The work of IT ties into that vision based on a three-part strategy. The first piece is modernizing our core. This means, for example, updating the ERP and PLM systems, the core solutions on your manufacturing shop floor, as well as alignment around the supply chain. The second piece is what we call tire-centric solutions, layered on top of the core. We take our deep knowledge about the physics and chemistry of the tire and combine that with insights from digital twin technology and its use in the field. It helps us predict when a tire is wearing or needs incremental inflation, issues that cause it to be less efficient when it comes to CO2 emissions. The third piece is around mobility solutions, where we are adding on to that tire insight to help fleets or customers manage vehicles more effectively. This doesn't just improve your economics—it improves sustainability.
Cybersecurity and information security is top of my list. Attackers are getting smarter and attacking more frequently. Our ability to transform and enable new digital business models requires strong fundamentals around cybersecurity and information security.
The second priority relates to avoiding the trap of changing the technology without transforming the business. We must drive the team to ask key questions: ‘how are we changing the processes? How is the organization changing? How is this going to enable our new business models?’ This ensures we make the programs transformational.
The third priority is to ensure that we have a digital thread embedded in everything we do. As we develop new digital business platforms, we connect data from manufacturing, digital twin technology and engineering through to the use case in the field and back to our core operations. That requires a really strong data and analytics function.
One example is how we are connecting all of our data into one solution in order to gain better insights around what tires we should make, where we should make them, where we should store them, and how we get them out to the field. We have a supply chain project underway that uses “sell out” data to forecast where retail demand will be, so that we can build and supply it to the right place at the right time. Now, we’re moving to a solution where we run analytics using artificial intelligence so that we can identify which product we need to ship to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for example, in real time. You can upgrade all your technology, but if your enterprise and the value stream—including sales, inventory, supply chain planning, and manufacturing—doesn't see the value of that data accuracy, then your AI and ML (machine learning) fundamentally won't work.
Technology skills around the platform, cloud and security are needed. We expect IT professionals to understand their profession and be learners, so they can evolve skillsets as technologies evolve. Problem solving is also essential—being able to break down a business challenge and go further upstream to understand it and to understand which technology is needed to solve it. That requires incremental business acumen, which isn't always thought of but is critically important in IT. That also requires soft skills, such as communication, negotiation and listening. I believe all these elements are the magic ingredients for innovation. Then it’s about experimenting with the new solutions.