Warren Harris has been with Tata Technologies and its predecessor for more than 25 years, beginning as an engineer and holding a number of technical management positions before becoming CEO and managing director. Tata Technologies is an India-based engineering services company that operates several global innovation centers worldwide, including one in Troy. DBusiness Daily News spoke with Harris about the future of product development and the company’s evolution.
1. DDN: Tata Technologies is an engineering services company, what does that entail?
WH: We are the engineering services and product development IT arm of the Tata Group and we are India’s largest industry house — there are over 107 companies that make up the group. The combined revenues are over $100 billion, but we focus exclusively on manufacturing and we deliver engineering services, and we help manufacturing companies select manufacturing technology on which new products are built. That means that we provide product development support to our customers. For example, we do design development support for new vehicles, aircraft, and industrial machines, and we help those same companies invest in technology with a view to create better products and optimize the product development process.
2. DDN: What are some of the company’s most notable projects or products?
WH: We recently helped a premiere European automotive OEM conceive, design, develop, and launch an all-new SUV, and we were involved in that project all the way from the starting studio to launching in Europe and more recently in China. We were responsible for everything you can see and touch on the vehicle, and in addition to all the design and engineering work, we were responsible for the integration of all the suppliers, the testing and validation, and helping the OEM to launch the vehicle in Europe and in China.
3. DDN: What projects have come from the innovation center in Troy?
WH: We have a number of innovation centers around the world and the innovation centers provide us with an opportunity to create an environment that’s conducive to allow our project teams to work seamlessly with our client teams. The type of projects that we’ve been involved with in Troy include a recent electric mobility prototype that we worked with on with a couple of OEMs, so the focus of that project was delivering an electric mobility vehicle at a disruptive price point. Not only did that prompt us to look at some innovative features for the design of the product, but we also looked at the whole way we intended to deliver the product to the market via the manufacturing process.
4. DDN: How has Tata’s expansion changed the company?
WH: The values we hold as a company are still entrepreneurial and inclusive as they were back in the 80s, but the influence of the Tata Group is more profound. The Tata Group is two thirds owned by a charitable trust, and so giving back to the communities in which we live and work is a key part of the expectation that the company has had. Our commitment to sustainability, protecting environmental resources, and giving back have certainly been reinforced since we became part of the Tata Group. We’re still as hard-nosed about success as we were, and this organization is still very much an organization that positions people as being its biggest and greatest asset, but the balance that we now have with regards to our commitment to shareholders versus our commitment to stakeholders is much improved from where it was some 30 years ago.
5. DDN: What is Tata’s role in the technology industry, in Michigan and globally?
WH: If you take a look at the way in which the automotive industry is evolving specifically, the disruption over the next five years is likely to be greater than the disruption in the last 50 years. Typically in the past, we’ve seen an industry that’s been defined and driven by the OEMs and a fairly managed and controlled supply chain. I think if you look at what’s happening now and what’s likely to accelerate in the future, the way in which products are built is going to be much more driven by an organization that’s going to support the disaggregation of a value chain. And those organizations themselves are going to have much more responsibility and influence in impacting the decisions the OEMs are making. So we’re gearing up capabilities in lots of different domain areas including connected car, self-driving vehicles, and the movement from a model that is based on ownership to one that is driven by sharing and monetizing the delivery of a vehicle in lots of different ways. We’re also challenging ourselves to manage different types of relationships, and we see ourselves evolving from a supplier very much into a partner in the future. There’s an awful lot going on, but one of the trends we’re looking to intersect with is the convergence of smart devices, the cloud, and data analytics. That’s providing opportunity to automate and inform decisions that in the past have been the exclusive preserve of people. I’m very excited about the impact that that is likely to have and the opportunities it has afforded for companies like ourselves.