By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
In this interview, Sramana and Paul Stamas, VP of IT at Mohawk Fine Papers, discuss how cloud computing has helped Mohawk compete with larger players without having to grow its data center and staffing. Paul believes that cloud computing is an essential element of IT for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing because survival for them is dependent on enterprise agility, adaptability, and developing highly differentiated products and services in a global value chain.
Paul Stamas is vice president of information technology at Mohawk Fine Papers, the largest premium paper manufacturer in North America. Prior to Mohawk, he held executive IT management positions at Sprint PCS; Phillips Medical Systems; GM-Hughes, and the Department of Defense. He received BA in applied statistics from the State University of New York (SUNY); a BS in industrial and systems engineering from (SUNY); an executive MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; and he is currently pursuing a doctorate from the Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool).
Mohawk Fine Papers is headquartered in Cohoes, New York, and has five facilities in New York and Ohio that annually deliver more than $300 million in high-end paper products to distributors globally. Mohawk received a Progressive Manufacturing Award in 2008 for Supply Chain Mastery, in 2009 for Environmental Sustainability, and for 2009 Leadership Mastery.
SM: Paul could give me a background of your company? How big is your company, how many people work there, and what do you do? Then we will get into the discussion of what you think about cloud computing.
PS: I am Paul Stamas, CIO, and VP of information technology (IT) at a company called Mohawk Fine Papers. Mohawk is in the small and medium enterprise (SME) space. We have about 800 employees, about half of whom are manufacturing type of people. And we have about $300 million in annual sales. Mohawk Fine Papers is a manufacturer of fine paper, which a niche market where we seek to differentiate our products. We have been in business for almost 80 years. We are a privately held company, a third generation family-owned business, and are we located in upstate New York just outside Albany. We have five manufacturing facilities in New York and Ohio.
SM: So, all of your manufacturing is done in the United States?
PS: Yes, it is.
SM: Wonderful. So, let’s start our discussion about cloud computing from a broad adoption point of view. Where would you say you are in the adoption process? Are you already moving major workloads on the cloud, or you are running pilots?
PS: We are in what I would call the diffusion phase, where we will adopt cloud computing extensively.
SM: What workloads have you moved to the cloud so far?
PS: We have moved quite a few applications. We moved a human resources application called Kronos in the cloud. We have recently gone live with a product called SugarCRM, which as you will know is a sales force automation CRM product, competing with Salesforce.com. We recently moved our business intelligence or analytics environment to the cloud with a product called Birst. We have moved part of our business to the Google Docs and Google Mail as part of our e-mail enterprise, we have moved our transportation management systems (TMS) system to a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider, and there are probably several others that we are going to implement within a few months.
SM: And when you think about your cloud computing strategy, how do think about what to move, how to prioritize what to move, and how to select vendors? What is the thought process or philosophy behind that?
PS: Well, generally we have a view of information technology that is less about technology and managing infrastructure and more about adding business value to the business through an understanding and application or IT. Therefore, we ask ourselves the basic question, Is there a good reason to manage infrastructure in-house vs. off-site or in the cloud. Our tendency is to move it to the cloud. Generally, we move applications to the cloud that are a heavy administrative burden in terms of complexity and time. By this I mean we moved more mundane, routine work in some cases. And in other instances we desired the best in-breed, say applications such as business intelligence software. I talked about our transportation management system – we use a Software as a Service provider because first, it is best in breed and second, it indeed allows us it enables to spend less time on TMS and gives us the agility to deploy a capability or functionality more quickly.