5 Minutes with Kris Kupilas, Digital Transformation Lead - R&D, ArcelorMittal

Kris Kupilas joined ArcelorMittal in June 2018 to lead the digital transformation of the R&D function globally. Accountable to the leadership team, he manages multimillion budget with direct reports who lead functions including architecture, education/communication, platforms, innovation and new technologies. The wider team runs into the hundreds and is located across Europe and the Americas.

Having already implemented digital tools, he has enabled a raft of day to day cost savings and efficiency optimisations. He also targets behavioural goals such as cross-employee recognition, enhancing newcomers experience and boosting cooperation/collaboration. With a specific focus on creativity and innovation, wider objectives include directly benefiting business results, creating insight-rich outcomes and ensuring that R&D get the daily basics right. Underpinning this will be an ecosystem of connected laboratories, this is the core network that makes up R&D at ArcelorMittal.

I caught Kris between his business trips and discussed how he formed a plan upon entering the business. Four areas of importance and expectation emerged.

1. Clarity on the wider business’ priorities

This clarity from his senior stakeholders was expected and essential. It led him to cluster main digital transformation priorities into four areas: processes (“how we operate”), efficiency, scientific network (including external partners) and crucially, people. He remarked that many other areas could have been selected but these were recognised “as the driving force for us to change”.

“What makes the best R&D on the planet? It’s how operative, how creative and how innovative you are…. In fact, this can be applied to any organisation (type).”


2. Methodologies

Kris explained that in assessing the enterprise and planning a transformation, “digital maturity is the place to start”. Such methodologies give frameworks which help with making comparisons (benchmarking), setting priorities and starting decision making. Moreover, they’re impartial.

His interest in this has led him to conduct independent research with the University of Oviedo (located close to multiple ArcelorMittal Spain sites) with a focus on Industry 4.0 and digital organisational transformation. Citing the continuing pertinence of The Stages of Growth Model for IT Systems developed by Richard L. Nolan, he has also reviewed several approaches including System Integration Maturity Model Industry 4.0 (SIMMI 4.0), Impuls and Acatech. Kris predicts that some will become more dominant as approaches consolidate.

3. People

To learn about the organisation and start to test his vision he arranged a number of “town hall” type meetings on a lab by lab basis. Open to everyone, he told his audiences, “’This is what we want to do” and listened to the feedback and suggestions and looked to include the most common ones in the digitalization scope.  He quickly added, “But the truth is, you cannot run before you walk. So, you then go away and do your homework and in fact, what you discover is much more complicated than what you thought at first. Especially in complex organisations which grew acquisitively and in which component parts might have previously been competitors.”


4. Data

To aid his decision making, Kris reviewed internal and external sources, “Sales evidence, patent details… everything.” However, as in any large company with multi-year history and legacy, there are gaps and opportunities to address. Kris remarked, “You document them (step by step) and try and close them… in the meantime you make a judgement with your best intentions.”

Mindful of this ambiguity, he covers his blind spots, “Don’t just rely on yourself. Try to reach out to many different sources. I’m not a particular genius in digital data integration and platforms on a technical level. I had a vision but I’m not a developer”. Another lesson was the importance of ‘communication and education’. “It is imperative. You’re never going to get buy in if people don’t know what they’re doing”. For example, “Data analysts need to have domain knowledge. Data analysis for the sake of analysing data is nothing. They need to work alongside the specialist in order to get the insightful information”.

Kris moved on to explain that stress management and resilience are, “Top priorities because things don’t go right all of the time (in any transformation role).” In his view, failures and making mistakes are foundations for growth, experience and future success. “I welcome the fail thing. If what you try, doesn’t bring value forget about it. Failure is the foundation of success. Learn from it and learn fast.”

Getting a firm handle professionally and personally has led to Kris launching initiatives relating to employee experience, managing knowledge, consolidating data optimising resources and facilitating a unified business with multiple global locations.  These are the forces that enable the wider transformation goals of building an ecosystem of connected labs and directly improving business outcomes for years to come. Finally he added, “It is a never ending journey and it is constantly reviewed to ensure its relevance to the business, it harnesses market forces and it meets customer demands.”


How can prospective and existing clients find out more?

By calling the team at Collingwood on 00 44 1829 732374.