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Steeling up with IT

Added 4th Dec 2012

When KVSS Rajeswara Rao, DGM (IT) at RINL VSP, joined the IT department in 1995, he could have only imagined the expanse of the infrastructure he heads today. “Very few people have the opportunity to manage an infrastructure they help build for twenty years. This plant is a baby I’ve grown along with,” he says proudly. He speaks to CIO on how the profile of IT has changed in the steel industry in the past twenty odd years he has been around. 

Q: Visakhapatnam Steel Plant celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. Looking back, what do you think has changed since then?

A: Every new deployment was a step closer to the gigantic network that supports VSP today. I had worked in the plant’s construction wing for the first two years. I later joined the IT wing. The wing was still taking shape then. I have fond memories on operating on a minicomputer – PDP-11 system- to handle payroll, stores accounting, and project monitoring. IT, back then, was considered a ‘payslip generation portal’. But by the time VSP got commissioned, it became one of the first few Indian companies (along with TCS) to procure IBM mainframe. We then laid out a roadmap to move beyond the mold and unleashed more than 15 packages. We have realized these over a period of time and changed business’ perspective of us.

Q: Tell us about the VSP’s pioneering technological developments.

A: When India was still wondering what a gigabit network was, we had configured one within our campus in 1999 and completely implemented it by 2003. Gigabit Ethernet was then upgraded to 10G backbone network and reached nooks and corner of the steel plant. Today, the plant’s deep-set network boasts of around 3500 nodes which shall reach 5000 by 2015.

We were also the proud host of India’s first online application way back in 1994, which cost us about 27 crores. I also remember facing the Y2K problem six years later, when my colleagues had to visit the US to understand the problem. We then migrated to a client - server environment from mainframe. And all of this steadfast pace towards newer technologies by an in-house team of just 95.

Q: Does being in the steel industry require being IT-aware internally?

A: Yes, indeed. RINL, though, has always been ahead in implementing IT solutions at all levels. I have seen this commitment to excel and improve only grow over the years. Over the past two decades, the instability in the dollar’s value, shortage of skilled manpower, and expensive raw materials have forced a majority of steel corporations to focus on optimized manufacturing. And that’s where IT comes in a big way.

We are the first steel company in India to have installed a production planning and control package (also known as a level 3 system) in 1997. This basically means that we have designed a production planning system for processes—from steel melting to rolling mills, completely in-house. Three years ago, we were also the first manufacturing company in India to be certified by a CMMI Level 3. Though we do not deal with external business, our stress on quality is unmatchable.

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