Overall, Dickson’s IT agenda for DS Smith mirrors that of most EMEA CIOs, who rank data analytics (30%), application modernization (30%), and cloud (30%) as three of the top five technology initiatives that are driving the most IT investment this year, according to Foundry’s State of the CIO survey.
As for No. 2, machine learning/AI (31%), the packaging company has three use cases in proof of concept. Dickson also has a generative AI agenda under way and is confident that once the company has its data stored universally, and has developed machine learning models, it can then move on to building large language models (LLMs) on AWS that will yield even more productive business outcomes.
Here, Dickson sees data generated from its industrial machines being very productive. “We’re planning to have that fully hosted with us. We’re not giving that data to anybody else, and we’ll be training the generative AI models with our own data sets,” she says.
Chief among those more productive business outcomes will be achieving DS Smith’s sustainability goals, Dickson says.
To that end, the company is taking aggressive steps to replace “problem plastics” used in packaging and has developed a 14-day circular process of modeling, designing, manufacturing, and shipping boxes to customers, she says, adding that, as part of its “circular economy” objectives, DS Smith is using video imaging technology to identify plastics in recycled bales and aims to have all its packaging recycled or reused by 2030.
By 2030, the company also aims to send zero waste to the landfill, to decarbonize its operations and value chain, and to limit its global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees in accordance with the Paris Agreement. It also expects to reduce its reliance on natural gas by 25%, which will represent 50,000 tons of CO2 savings annually.
In fact, DS Smith’s commitment to ESG is a key reason the CIO took the job.
“We’ve really got sustainability at the core of what we do,” Dickson says, adding the company announced this fall the launch of its R8 R&D center for developing sustainable packaging. “We’re a very purpose-based company.”