Clarissa Appana unpacks Lafarge’s digital innovation journey

Clarissa told CFO Day attendees that Lafarge is on track with digital innovation, but is not moving fast enough.

Lafarge's former CFO Clarissa Appana revealed to attendees at CFO Day held at the magnificent Marble restaurant in Rosebank on 11 May, that the company was making strides in keeping up with digital innovation.

Speaking on the topic of whether the company was up to the pace of change, Clarissa admitted that it was getting there.

“The pace of digital innovation and the speed of execution are some of the key challenges we are facing. One of the solutions we are trying to implement at Lafarge is to break down these bigger projects to get them within a shorter turnaround time.”

“The way we would approach this is to lower the threshold, breaking it into many projects and somehow lower the approval levels,” she said.

Clarissa shared that the company had moved to a contactless, paperless way of work on its construction sites. This was because they had found in the past that a lot of paperwork was missing and they had trouble tracking delivery notes.

Clarissa said that the company was also seeing a lot of hold-ups in terms of the delivery of its products. The company is trying to get transporters on board to buy into the real-time online tracking of trucks, loads and the raw materials coming in.

Speaking about what bugs her as the ex-CFO, Clarissa said:

“What keeps me up at night has got to be the safety and wellbeing of our employees. It is of primary importance to the organisation and personally. We’ve had some fatalities at one of our other plants in Africa and we had to airlift and bring those guys into South Africa to get high-end medical treatment, to ensure the best care for all our employees, wherever they are. When this occurred a full investigation was launched, to understand and to ensure we try our utmost for no further recurrences, and how we may operate safer. These are occurrences that we see and we investigate why they are happening.”

Clarissa told guests that the company had some great digital innovations and lots of great ideas. “We are not moving fast enough in terms of innovation, but we are getting there. The culture we want to see is that it’s not just easy to succeed all the time. It’s okay to fail because you can have some lessons from that. We want to ensure that we are creating this environment that feels safe for people,” she said.