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Premier 100 IT Leader: Nancy Wolk

Smart manufacturing tops Alcoa CIO's list of innovation initiatives

February 25, 2013 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - As CIO of a very large company -- Alcoa employs 61,000 people in 200-plus locations in 31 countries -- Nancy Wolk sees her primary role as advancing technology to drive what she describes as "profitability through innovation."

Nancy Wolk

At what's also a very old company -- the world's leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, Alcoa was founded in 1888 -- modernization is always a priority. After a 10-year effort to standardize and consolidate IT, Wolk and her team are now advancing a five-year program to plan future IT investments, with a focus on mobile technologies, security, cloud computing and data analytics.

Of particular significance is Pittsburgh-based Alcoa's commitment to smart manufacturing. The goal is to leverage technology and data to achieve process efficiencies and improve decision-making. Other initiatives, like a supply-chain transparency project that uses bar codes, scanners and other mobile technologies, aim to empower employees to make quicker, more accurate decisions. "Low-cost sensors, video interfaces, tablets -- they open up all kinds of possibilities," Wolk says.

Wolk's boss, Mark Davies, executive vice president and president of global business services, cites her history of establishing links between process measurement and IT data systems. "Now, as CIO, she is able to propagate that to the rest of the company," and that's a key to keeping Alcoa competitive, say Davies.

Such improvements go to the heart of Alcoa's fundamental processes. "At its core, Alcoa is a manufacturing organization," she says. "We win or lose against our competition within our manufacturing processes."

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