Francisco Juarez – Almex
Every day, trillions of pounds of freight are hauled along air and sea routes, highways and railroads all around the world.
For its part, Mexico-based Almex performs numerous less than truckload (LTL) shipments every day, its wares reaching destinations throughout Mexico, and the U.S. and Canada via strategic partnerships.
Managing all this cargo is no small task—and that’s where Almex’s CIO and Business Process Director Francisco Juarez comes in. Leading a 25-person team, the IT strategist has implemented a transportation management system that has quickly become the core of the market-leading business.
It’s indicative of a wider—and necessary—trend across the industry, Juarez notes.
“Logistics is one of the industries that has become technology dependent,” he says. “The adoption of new technologies has been shaping, transforming and creating business models in this industry.”
Unifying logistics and technology
Established in 1961, Almex offers comprehensive freight services via dozens of branches throughout Mexico. As Juarez explains, the company specializes in logistics solutions and LTL services. That is: Cargoes that combine freight from various shippers—as opposed to loads dedicated to one shipper that are not filled to capacity, resulting in unused and wasted space—allow Almex to offer preferred rates.
A 17-year veteran of technology, Juarez joined Almex in the spring of 2018, and quickly embarked on a company-wide digital transformation.
His first order of business: assessing the IT landscape, including the use and adoption of technology, as well as the strengths and challenges of the existing IT team. Integral to the latter was “truly getting to know each member of the team,” Juarez explains, “especially what motivated them, their interests and their opinions about what changes should be implemented.”
In addition, Juarez mapped Almex’s entire business model. The goal, he says, was not only to ensure that all processes were well-documented, but also to identify opportunities for greater efficiencies and overall improvement.
Most notable among his subsequent projects is the company’s new transportation management system. As Juarez explains, this system is where the majority of activities related to freight are registered and controlled: cargo and delivery oversight and tracking; 24/7 monitoring and customer support; scanning; travel locking; barcoding; customer notification systems and so on.
Getting the system up, running and smoothly integrated into operations was no doubt a challenging process, Juarez says—one that impacted all departments within the 1,200-employee company. Facilitating the transition required an unwavering team commitment, he adds, as well as a strong, step-by-step migration plan that ensured operational continuity and minimal disruptions to Almex’s day-to-day business.
Technology adoption: the true challenge
And Juarez has many more items on his to-do list. These include a full cloud migration, sales enablement, a mobile app redesign and the transition to event-based architecture. All of these should be completed in 2021, he says, and will help build a foundation for new services and business lines, while strengthening Almex’s defenses against external threats.
Goals further afield include moving to more microservice and serverless architecture, and integrating AI and machine learning into services and applications.
Whatever the task at hand, Juarez strongly emphasizes the importance of change management. Specifically, he notes the many challenges in getting employees to adapt to—and ultimately embrace and use—new technologies. To help facilitate that cultural change, his team is developing materials and training tools that will not only get employees familiar with the technology, but help them recognize ways to change ingrained behaviors and habits.
“This is one of the most important components when implementing change inside organizations,” Juarez says. “Technology is useless without processes and people alignment; the adoption of the technology is key to the success of any IT initiative.”
Goals, success and transformation
A sci-fi buff and a kid who was naturally drawn to technology, Juarez quickly gravitated to engineering and computer science. A native of the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, he earned his computer systems engineering degree and his MBA from Tecnologico de Monterrey.
As he progressed in his education, he became intrigued by the strong impact that technology can have on a business. Before joining Almex in August 2018, he served in various IT management and project management capacities at Grupo Promax, Sintec and CEMEX. He was also a technology advisor to small and medium businesses.
“What I enjoy most about my work is that you get the opportunity to help and transform different processes in diverse functional areas of the business,” Juarez says, “while learning new things along the way.”
He was attracted to Almex because of the numerous business and technological challenges that presented themselves, he says, and he credits the company for trusting the IT department to develop an IT roadmap and execute a digital transformation.
“I really like that technology is a key component in the Almex strategy,” he says.
As for his personal strategy, he calls himself a leader who is participative, transformational and goal-oriented.
“I involve the team and encourage them to give their opinions about any decisions we need to make,” Juarez says. His goal is to achieve consensus, he adds, and he shares his vision with the team so that “they can get excited about the ways we can contribute to the success of the business.”
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