Nov 27 2007

IT Investment Savvy

CEOs recommend putting spending where problems lie.

Jeff Jeffery, IRMCO

What’s your greatest business challenge?
Understanding customers. We deal with the automotive industry, which is troubled and complex. With layoffs in the industry, contacts change. There is a lot of confusion.

Where has IT made the biggest impact on your business?
Collecting customer data. We have an edge in that regard. We were early adopters of databases. We collect a lot of customer, process and quality data so we can make educated decisions and help our customers do the same.

— Jeff Jeffery is CEO of IRMCO, an Evanston, Ill., manufacturer of environmentally focused advanced forming film and non-oil lubrication technologies for the automotive industry

Mitch Free, MFG.com

What’s your greatest business challenge?
Our greatest challenge is recruiting the right people for our business. Atlanta is not exactly the hotbed for Web technology and people who have experience building large, global Web businesses. So getting the right people on the MFG.com team at the right time is challenging, but when the right person comes in that door, it is extremely rewarding.

What’s been your biggest IT mistake?
When I founded MFG.com in 2000, we quickly built a prototype site and, before we knew it, the manufacturing community began to adopt and use our platform at a far greater pace than we had anticipated. Instead of backing up and rebuilding the platform, we continued to enhance the MFG.com prototype site. Eventually we ran into scalability issues that have caused us a lot of pain. Not starting with a stronger platform has been our largest IT mistake.

What has been your best IT investment?
Our best investment is our people. Establishing a dedicated quality-assurance team and process is, by far, the best IT investment that we have ever made. We look forward to continuing to invest in our people and advance our technology.  

— Mitch Free is CEO of MFG.com, an online sourcing marketplace in Atlanta that facilitates the complex process of sourcing and selling manufacturing services

Gary N. Kriadis, Hobart Electronics

What is your greatest business challenge? 
Understanding customers. The market is moving so quickly. From an IT standpoint, it is difficult to channel our resources and align IT with the future direction of our customers.

Where has IT made the biggest impact on growth for your business?
We're in a commodity business. What differentiates us is our systems and service levels. IT has allowed us to do more with less. It has freed us from expensive overhead resources. This has allowed us to grow and become more competitive.

What was the best IT investment you ever made?

Our current enterprise resource planning system. During the year-plus it took us to install it, I probably wouldn't have given you that answer. But now that it is installed, I can see the benefit. I can see all of the redundancy it has removed from our processes. The system is doing so much more of the work behind the scenes.

— Gary N. Kriadis is president of Hobart Electronics, a manufacturer of transformers and supplier of electrical coil components in Hobart, Ind.