How Bekaert leverages digital to go beyond steel | HCLTech

How Bekaert leverages digital to go beyond steel

Gunter Van Craen, CDIO of Bekaert, discusses driving digital transformation through technology
7 minutes read
Mousume Roy
Mousume Roy
APAC Reporter, HCLTech
7 minutes read
How Bekaert leverages digital to go beyond steel

Today, the world is on the precipice of the fifth industrial revolution or Industry NeXT — the era of human and machine collaboration. Digital transformation is charting the course in the field of material science by remodeling the world’s base materials. With technological advancements taking centerstage, companies like Bekaert are establishing innovative approaches that leverage digital technologies to enhance efficiency, quality and sustainability in the traditional world of material science and steel industry.  

In a recent interview, HCLTech Trends and Insights spoke to Gunter Van Craen, the Chief Digital and Information Officer (CDIO) of Bekaert. Bekaert is a global market and technology leader in material science of steel wire transformation and coating technologies. Having driven digitalization in Bekaert for over three years, Van Craen shared his insights on how the technology is key to evolve global communities seeking new solutions. 

Bekaert's approach to technology and innovation 

Companies across industries are striving to harness the power of technology to drive innovation, enhance efficiency and create new value propositions. Bekaert is no exception. Under Van Craen's leadership, the company has embarked on a transformative digital journey that is reshaping its core processes, products and customer experiences. 

Van Craen emphasized that Bekaert's approach to technology is firmly rooted in delivering business value. He stated: "We start with identifying where we can make the biggest impact from a business perspective and then work our way back into technology." This pragmatic approach means that they are not merely chasing tech trends but aligning technology with specific business needs. 

Distinguishing between mere hype and transformative trends is challenging as technology changes every month. Van Craen acknowledges this reality, noting that new technology trends seem to emerge every six months. The critical task for his organization is to discern which technologies have the potential to positively disrupt the industry.  

“We continuously scan new technologies and assess the potential impact on our industry. We've embraced IoT and AI, utilizing them to optimize operations and transform product portfolios into smart, connected offerings,” added Van Craen. 

For instance, Bekaert leverages IoT to connect its machines, generating valuable data that fuels AI and machine learning models. This data-driven approach allows them to optimize operations. At the same time the IoT platform also opens the potential to provide innovative services like predictive maintenance.

Cybersecurity and maintaining trust in the digital era

Digitalization and advancements in technologies like next-generation security controls, artificial intelligence (AI), automation and rapid adoption of IoT have created a highly complex environment for organizations. Van Craen emphasized that while organizations pursue digital transformation, it's equally important to strengthen cybersecurity measures.  

To safeguard operations and sensitive data, Bekaert has strengthened its cybersecurity capabilities in collaboration with partners like HCLTech and other multiple partners. This includes deploying technical safeguards, improving incident response procedures and enhancing employee awareness. 

He underlined the importance of “balancing technical capabilities with human awareness,” acknowledging that employees are often the weakest link in cybersecurity. However, he stressed that by taking a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, adopting flexible solutions and enabling cybersecurity awareness and training, organizations can prevent, detect and rectify security incidents. 

Bekaert's focus on sustainability

While talking about Bekaert’s commitment to sustainability that is evident in its products and services, Van Craen explained: “How we create products and what products we create is important to us.” 

The organization is exploring how its expertise can be harnessed to develop products that help reduce environmental impact. For instance, when it comes to providing concrete reinforcement, Bekaert’s product, Dramix® helps reduce the CO2 emissions of construction projects by up to 35%.

Van Craen highlighted several key initiatives that are part of the company’s sustainability strategy “Creating a better tomorrow”. We launched a global program called ‘You Know Watt’ to gradually reduce the company’s energy consumption and use energy more efficiently in the plants. This initiative not only aligns with sustainability goals but also brings economic benefits, demonstrating that sustainability and profitability can coexist,” he said. 

In addition to environmental sustainability, the organization also focuses on diversity and inclusion and community relations. The company is actively involved in integrated reporting, a critical step in transparently conveying its sustainability efforts in financial statements, reinforcing commitment to sustainable practices. 

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Talent acquisition in the tech frontier 

Recognizing the global nature of talent, Bekaert recruits worldwide. They are also dedicated to building a more diverse tech workforce. “We aim to showcase the appeal of joining a company which is driving digital transformation, innovation and sustainability. By leveraging online channels and fostering a domino effect through employee referrals, we have been successfully expanding our talent pool,” he continues. 

“Partnerships with firms like HCLTech are integral to our talent strategy. By fostering a sense of identity and belonging within the Bekaert family, we enable the team members who are employed by our partners, to better understand and align with the company's goals, ensuring a seamless collaboration,” added Van Craen. 

In a world marked by growing sustainability concerns, Van Craen’s insights shed light on how Bekaert is navigating the intersection of innovation, sustainability and technology to stay ahead in a dynamic industry. Bekaert continues to set an example for companies seeking to harness technology for a better, more sustainable future. 

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