In 2022, information technology (IT) professionals in supply chains can no longer sit on the sidelines. Responsible for more than just technology, they play a major role in strategy and business functions.
No one knows this better than Heidi Mattison, Chief Information Officer at Superior Industries. From the beginning of her career in the automotive industry on the manufacturing floor, she saw how tech plays a crucial role in every corner of the company.
As an IT professional, “you need to have a seat at the table,” Heidi says. “If you don’t understand how your role affects the P&L, you need to figure it out.”
In this episode of Auto Supply Chain Prophets, Heidi talks about her auto supply chain journey, growing up in an auto household, and launching a career in IT. Expect to come away from this episode with a totally different view of your IT department!
Themes discussed in this episode:
- Why tech matters across the supply chain
- How IT functions can better support the supply chain process
- Why cybersecurity should be everybody’s concern, from shop floor workers to executives
- How IT professionals can get a seat at the C-suite table
- Why traditional lines around IT are blurring and overlapping with other roles
Featured on this Episode
Name: Heidi Mattison
Title: VP and Chief Information Officer, Superior Industries
About: Heidi has worked for several original equipment manufacturers and Tier 1 companies
throughout her career in the auto supply chain industry. As Chief Information Officer at Superior
Industries, she focuses on the crucial role of technology in the business.
Timestamped inflection points from the show
[0:40] Meet ‘auto baby’ Heidi Mattison: Heidi Mattison has motor oil in her blood. Listen to how she started on the manufacturing floor before falling into information technology.
[4:32] Cooperation to integration: Heidi explains how Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has evolved throughout her career — from a disconnected string of islands to an integrated web.
[5:31] A measurable impact: Information technology is a pretty big career leap from Heidi’s starting point in manufacturing, but the shop floor is where she got her first exposure to the importance of tech in the business and in the supply chain.
[7:16] A seat at the table: Technology impacts everything that happens in the supply chain. That’s why “IT professionals need to have a seat at the table and participate in executive-level conversations”, Heidi says.
[9:12] Blurring the lines: Heidi discusses why the roles of business analysts and IT professionals are overlapping with one another, and why those lines will continue to blur in the future.
[10:03] Be vocal: IT professionals are playing a vital and challenging role in a changing industry. Heidi offers some insight on what they can do to better support supply chain processes.
[13:49] Breaking the silos: Information and operational technology can no longer be discussed separately, especially given how integrated and important technology has become throughout the supply chain. Heidi breaks down barriers across her company to improve communication and collaboration.
[16:05] Stronger partnerships, stronger security: As an IT professional, cybersecurity is on Heidi’s radar every day. But it should be a concern that the industry works to address together, she explains.
[18:23] Budget and educate: Tier 2 and Tier 3 companies might not have the budget or ability for their own IT departments or teams, but security needs to be one of the first lines of defense in your company, Heidi says.
[19:50] The one thing: We have more data than ever available at our fingertips, and the cost of storing all that data is only going down. Supply chain leaders should embrace that data and be open to change, says Heidi.
[7:48] Heidi: “I think you can no longer be responsible for [just] technology, you have to be responsible for strategy. It’s no longer a day where you are in the basement; you need to have a seat at the table. If you don’t understand how your role affects the P&L, you need to figure it out.”
[8:45] Heidi: “Timing is everything. Not only in your love life, but in technology, too. You may have the exact solution that is going to solve the business problem, but if there are other initiatives that are key drivers […] you need to find where that fits in.”
[17:43] Heidi: “That line of communication, all the way through the board of directors, needs to stay open. And to be quite honest, there are a lot of boards of directors that do not have technology, especially cybersecurity expertise, within them. So we have a very large role right now to be educators, all the way through the C-suite and into our boards.”
[20:15] Heidi: “I think the one thing that supply chain leaders need to do right now is embrace data. We, right now, have more data available at our fingertips than ever in our history. Cost of storage has decreased, it’s led to the ability for more data, extensive analytics and extensive reporting. Embrace what your technology team can deliver to you, and be open to change.”
We really can’t predict the future because nobody can. What we can do though, is help auto manufacturers recognize, prepare for in profit from whatever comes next. Auto Supply Chain Prophets gives you timely and relevant insights and best practices from industry leaders. It’s all about what’s happening now in the automotive supply chain and how to prepare your organization for the future. Because the auto supply chain is where the money is.
Jan Griffiths: 00:34
Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Auto Supply Chain Prophets podcast. In this episode, you’ll meet the auto baby who worked for several OEMs and tier ones. Attained her mechanical engineering degree worked in many different supply chain operations, culminating in her C suite role as CIO of superior industries. You’ll learn about the interdependency of different functions, how ERP systems have evolved from cooperation to integration, and how technology moves the bottom line of the business. This episode comes with a warning, you’ll see your IT department in a totally different way after you listen to Heidi Mattison. Heidi, welcome to the show.
Heidi M: 01:29
Hi, Jan, thank you for having me. I’m very happy to be here.
Jan Griffiths: 01:33
Heidi, what is your story?
Heidi M: 01:35
My story is that I am an automotive baby. I grew up in an automotive household. My father was a 42-year GM executive. And I grew up with cars in my blood. So there was not much of a question for me of where I was going to end up. I went to school at Michigan State and graduated with a degree in engineering. Immediately went into the automotive industry working at Mercedes Benz on the manufacturing floor and made a few jumps around to Robert Bosch FCA now, Stellantis. Moving over to some consulting with Accenture, TRW automotive ZF group and now here at Superior Industries. So a long stint in the automotive industry. And it’s right where I should be.
Cathy Fisher: 02:31
Heidi that is so exciting. I too have motor oil in my blood. Very much a car person. In speaking with you previously, you shared with us that your work experiences exposed you to a lot of different aspects of automotive supply chain, despite the fact you’re currently in the IT function at your organization. So tell us a little bit about those previous experiences in working in the automotive supply chain.
Heidi M: 02:58
I did not come into supply chain right away. But I found my way there from the manufacturing floor. I think it was very clear from the manufacturing floor that supply chain was the link that binds us all together, not understanding the breadth of supply chain and the undeniable interdependencies between all of the corporate functions. I knew if I was going to progress, my career in the automotive industry supply chain would certainly be a pretty long stop along the train. From my point of view, understanding the manufacturing floor and understanding how supply chain plays a role to those that are actually building our products. And then carrying that through afterward into my consulting work and understanding how supply chain carries through into the corporate functions of finance. And further that helps make that link now into technology and understand how those are all bound together.
Cathy Fisher: 04:00
But it’s so excellent. You know, we like to say that money is made in the supply chain, not just on the shop floor. I think you definitely reflect that, especially through your work experiences.
Heidi M: 04:11
That is very true. It certainly is shown in our industry where we are experiencing fluctuations in aluminum, understanding the conversations that are happening and where that’s playing in to our industry. It’s a daily topic and it’s a high point on our CEOs vision for sure.
Terry Onica: 04:32
So one of the things that we like to talk about a lot with our guests is the value of ERP, how have you seen ERP evolve over your career?
Heidi M: 04:42
I would say the the best way to summarize it for me is that it’s gone from cooperation to integration. Previously, ERP started as a way to take manual paper processes and put them into a management system of record. And then those islands, those individual systems of record started coming together. And you could say there were maybe ferries or shuttles between those islands with integrations to other systems. And now, there’s no longer an acceptance of a ferry between the islands, there’s got to be a hoverboard of information tying all of those islands together. So there’s no longer the acceptance of cooperating with data and business processes. They all must now be integrated.
Cathy Fisher: 05:31
I wonder, Heidi, how did you go from manufacturing shop floor to supply chain, and now land in I.T? What led you to being in the I.T function now?
Heidi M: 05:43
Yeah, I always say that one day I woke up and here I was, I certainly didn’t plan it that way. But all of a sudden, I woke up and I was in technology. You know, I think understanding when I was on the shop floor at Mercedes Benz, and we were implementing a new MES system, understanding how that plays into the shop floor, I very quickly started to be fascinated by the way that data can transform decision making. And I carried that in my back pocket for a number of years as something that was always intriguing to me, when I had an opportunity with Accenture, to put my varied experiences together into management consulting, and I was responsible for the divestiture between Daimler and Chrysler for the ERP systems in the aftermarket space. That was a chance for me to bring my manufacturing, my supply chain, a little bit of finance that was thrown in there. And all of my varied experiences and tie them together into technology. From there on the impact that I saw technology make for my business partners, I knew that finding the way that technology moves, the bottom line of a business was going to be my driving force.
Cathy Fisher: 07:16
Terry and I recently have been kind of sharing this when we speak especially to other IT professionals, that we feel the day of IT emerging out of the basement, and up to the top of the organization, and truly having a seat at the C suite like really being a part of the strategic direction of the organization. I think we’re there now. But what would you say? Are you seeing that change of perception around the technology function inside of automotive manufacturers?
Heidi M: 07:49
I think you can no longer be responsible for technology, you have to be responsible for strategy. It’s no longer a day where you are in the basement, you need to have a seat at the table. If you don’t understand how your role affects the p&l, you need to figure it out.
Terry Onica: 08:08
How would you recommend that people sell technology at the C level for those organizations that struggle with that still?
Heidi M: 08:14
I think really having that seat participating in the business conversations participating in the monthly business reviews and the annual planning strategy reviews. That’s where you need to be you need to understand your product, and understand what are your key driving factors for your C suite. I think the business case and the business value behind technology need to be the driver. The other thing that you need to understand is timing is everything. Not only in your love life, but in technology too. You may have the exact solution that is going to solve the business problem. But if there are other initiatives that are key drivers, revenue drivers or making a key business difference, you need to find where that fits in. So I think understanding timing, understanding strategy and understanding your product.
Cathy Fisher: 09:12
This is one of the things we’re finding many automotive manufacturers are now renaming it functions as business analysts is really about looking holistically at the business and how you can strategically apply technology to the goals of the business.
Heidi M: 09:29
I think historically, a business analyst had set in a business team. Now I would say that that skill set is moving into technology. There’s honestly a blur happening and it’s only going to continue. It’s happening between business partner and technology partner. It’s happening between operational technology and information technology. They’re coming very much together and that’s only going to continue into the future.
Cathy Fisher: 10:00
We love that the silos are coming down.
Terry Onica: 10:03
Yes, we’d love to hear that. What should IT functions do right now to help support the supply chain processes?
Heidi M: 10:12
Similar to what I said earlier, you have to understand your product, you have to be curious about technology. And you have to be vocal. I think an IT professional right now plays a very interesting role because they not only need to understand the rules and responsibilities of their business partners, but they need to understand emerging technologies and where they can apply those in a way that drives business value. So very tough role, you need to be vocal, you need to understand when is the time to vocalize a process improvement, a technology improvement. It takes a lot of perseverance right now, there’s this understanding that data driven decision making is the only way that we’re moving forward right now. But there’s also the ever present resistance to change. IT is generally the one that’s caught in the middle of that understanding where we need to go, and the one that has to be a convincer and push that change forward.
Cathy Fisher: 11:21
I wonder, as an IT leader, what are your sources of inspiration for learning about what technology options are available?
Heidi M: 11:30
There is an infinite amount of information available these days. But I think what I encourage my teams to do is not only read articles, attend webinars, listen to podcasts that are relevant to their specific area of technology. If you’re responsible for infrastructure, or data center, go ahead and listen to what’s happening in the ERP space or in AI, what’s happening in IOT on the shop floor. Understanding that there is learning to be had in so many areas of technology. That’s very important right now, we talked about breaking down silos. And that’s not only amongst business partners and information technology, I think that’s within information technology itself, I think we need to understand that we can no longer be responsible for only the network. You’re now responsible for the network and our manufacturing plants that runs all of our robotics and our automation that’s delivering all of the data to our manufacturing decision makers. My network engineer now needs to understand that he plays a role in automation on the shop floor. But I encourage information technology, and what I encourage my team to do is be ever curious about things outside of your area of scope.
Cathy Fisher: 13:01
What recommendations or thoughts do you have for how organizations would best structure their IT functions with their technology functions to support the enterprise?
Heidi M: 13:14
Historically, IT has organized itself around technical specialties, network data center, infrastructure, application development, I think now is critical to align to business process, not business function, but end to end business process. That is where we drive value is understanding how to take technology for and put it to use for an end to end business process.
Terry Onica: 13:49
How do you break the silos between IT and the plant? When I used to work in it many years ago, we would find the plant going buying things behind us? I think a lot had to do the way it was structured years ago. But what can leaders like yourself do to really reach out to the plants and really help them with supply chain?
Heidi M: 14:09
That is incredibly important, as I had mentioned before, IT and OT are no longer able to be discussed separately. They are coming together. They are one piece of technology. I think that there’s responsibility for that breakdown of those barriers in many areas of the C suite. The CEO plays a role in that, that they have IT professionals and the manufacturing leadership at the table together. I think having the CIO in all of the plant reviews and monthly business reviews and strategy reviews that shows the importance of the function on a corporate level. But I have to be honest, I think our plant support team has one of the most difficult jobs, they are there supporting the Manufacturing Day in day out. Their role is to keep the plant manager happy, keep product moving out the door. And they have to juggle a lot of priorities. And they have to juggle priorities coming from both directions. I don’t think a CIO can sit in a corporate office. I think you need to be present on the shop floor. You need to make those personal relationships with your plant managers, and have those understandings. I think the driver of plant managers in the past going on their own, sourcing a software or moving forward with a technology, I think it was because they didn’t feel their technology partners understood their priorities and their sense of urgency. I think that’s a partnership that you need to forge and understand the urgency and the priorities of your plant management.
Cathy Fisher: 16:05
We have to ask a question about cybersecurity. So, Heidi, how is your organization addressing all of the concerns, especially that have recently bubbled up in the automotive supply chain related to cybersecurity or cyber risks?
Heidi M: 16:23
I think that is a question and a topic that I discussed with one member of my C suite colleagues at least once a day. It’s on the forefront of everybody’s mind. A lot of the automotive industry is coming together right now, from both the OEMs and the tier ones coming together and creating forums for discussion. I think that is one of the most critical ways that we’re going to stay aligned is forging partnerships between the OEMs and the tier ones. And I also believe that cybersecurity is one area where there is a openness and encouragement to share business practice, the amount of collaboration that we can find amongst CISOs in the automotive industry, is phenomenal. So build relationships, network, forge the relationships with your OEM partners, really starting to understand incident response, and building out a very cohesive incident response plan. And communication with the board of directors. I think that line of communication all the way through the board of directors needs to stay open. And to be quite honest, there are a lot of boards of directors that do not have technology, especially cybersecurity expertise within them. So we have a very large role right now to be educators all the way through the C suite and into our boards.
Cathy Fisher: 18:07
Cybersecurity is everybody’s business and the organization from the board, all the way through to the people who are working on the shop floor, everybody has a role to play in terms of cybersecurity, indeed.
Terry Onica: 18:19
And even making sure your suppliers are going to be secure.
Cathy Fisher: 18:23
And that’s exactly where I was gonna go. So, one other question I really feel I would like for us to be able to speak about is your with a tier one, it sounds like you’ve got a team. The reality when we look, tier two, tier three is we get down the supply chain. Now we’re talking about much smaller organizations that may or may not even have an IT function within their four walls. What advice do you have for the tier twos, tier threes, those smaller organizations that may not have the ability to staff an IT department, but have the aspiration to adopt and embrace technology?
Heidi M: 19:07
I think one question that every leadership team should be asking themselves is are we budgeting enough for security? So I think that that is a question that all leadership teams should be asking. Understanding that some of it must be outsourced if you can’t afford to insource. And then I think the other thing that everyone can do, regardless of the size of your organization, is education. End-user education is in my mind, one of the first lines of defense in cybersecurity. So regardless of the size of your organization, devote yourselves to education.
Jan Griffiths: 19:50
Heidi, what is the one piece of advice that you would give supply chain leaders out there in the world of automotive today, something that they can start to action to do immediately?
Heidi M: 20:02
Well, I’m going to answer that from two perspectives. I’m going to answer that from what do I believe Supply Chain Leaders can do? And I’m going to answer that from what my supply chain support team can do. I think the one thing that supply chain leaders need to do right now is embrace data. We, right now have more data available at our fingertips than ever in our history. Cost of storage has decreased it’s led to the ability for more data, extensive analytics and extensive reporting. Embrace what your technology team can deliver to you, and be open to change. I think from an IT supply chain support team. Be persistent. Understand your customer, have a seat at the table, understand how to drive business value, and deploy and empower your team.
Jan Griffiths: 21:03
I love that. I love the embrace technology. Don’t fight it, right? Bring it on.
Jan Griffiths: 21:07
Heidi, thank you for joining us today.
Heidi M: 21:10
It was my pleasure to be here. Thank you for your time.
At the heart of The Prophets’ vision are “The 24 Essential Supply Chain Processes.” What are they? Find out, and see the future yourself. [ DOWNLOAD OUR WHITEPAPER ]
Are you ready to find the money in your supply chain? Visit www.autosupplychainprophets.com to learn how.