Interview with Information Technology Director Josef Summer

Josef Summer, IT-Director at Hirschmann Automotive since 1997

What major projects are you working on at the moment?

One of our current focuses is the “smart factory,” where we are working alongside the Digitalization Team to take our production and logistics processes into a digital future. At the same time, we are also dealing with the challenge of making sure the architecture for these systems is fit for this new future. By setting up a new IoT (Internet of Things) platform, we are getting ready to process the flood of data that comes with digitalization.

More and more applications are being moved to the cloud or being designed as cloud-based solutions from the beginning. Look at SAP’s IBP integrated business planning software, their platform-oriented purchasing solution SAP Ariba, Office 365 or the SAP Enable Now training platform, for instance. We’re also busy taking the first steps toward switching to SAP S/4HANA, the next generation of SAP, and implementing the new security requirements the automotive industry will be setting for us in the future. We are working with the specialist divisions to introduce new CAD systems at all our plants and connect them directly with SAP. And, of course, constantly developing our communications systems is an ever-present challenge, and one we need to rise to throughout the company.


What tangible effect is the digital transformation having on Hirschmann Automotive?

In my view, we are still at the beginning of the digital transformation, but our staff are already experiencing tangible and obvious effects, because traditional processes are being questioned and changed. The change is most pronounced where we have developed whole new production concepts – our new plant in Vsetín is a great example. Intelligently linking the production facility together with logistics, planning, maintenance, and all the other departments means people can experience the smart factory of the future for themselves.


What role is IT playing in this transformation, and what do you see as the biggest challenges facing your department at the moment?

The biggest challenge comes from the sheer speed of change. Especially now, we can’t afford to make the mistake of bowing to time pressure by digitalizing processes that aren’t mature yet. As the IT Department, we are helping the specialist divisions to redesign their processes as best we can, by showing them what’s possible from a technical point of view and finding all sorts of ways of illustrating individual challenges using standardized systems.


What makes a good IT specialist?

Apart from having the right specialist qualifications, you need to be fascinated by new things and have what it takes to handle constant change. You need determination, a solution-orientated approach, the ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and, above all, a very optimistic attitude.


Tell us about the man behind the IT Director.

I’ll try to give you a brief summary. He’s someone who can look back on a happy childhood in the 70s and a turbulent youth during the 80s. In the 90s I met my wife and started a wonderful family with her. And in the end I found the right job at the right time, in a great company where I have been able to learn something new every day since the day I started.

The mountains are my biggest passion. They are a complete contrast to the digital world and they always keep me grounded. A lot of my best brainwaves come when I’m climbing mountains. I keep setting myself new goals as a mountaineer, too. Last year I got close to cracking the 6,000-meter mark in Nepal. My next target is to go to the Himalayas and reach a summit around the 7,000-meter mark.

Apart from that, I enjoy reading a good book in my spare time, occasionally with a glass of wine and a Tuscan cigar.


What is it about your job that makes you happy?

John F. Kennedy is supposed to have said: “A smart man has to be smart enough to hire people even smarter than he is.” At Hirschmann Automotive I work together with so many smart people. I am constantly tackling new and exciting challenges alongside them and get the chance to encourage their creativity and their professional development. That’s what makes me happy.


Hirschmann Automotive GmbH
Oberer Paspelsweg 6-8
6830 Rankweil, Austria
Phone: +43 (0)5522 307-0

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