Thomas Wilson and Ben Lester from Factory Technologies sit down with us to discuss their experience with Inductive Automation and Ignition. They cover aspects of how Factory Technologies went from starting with legacy products all the way to using the latest software. They elaborate on the importance of Inductive University and training to staying on the cutting edge, and how being able to say yes to projects is refreshing for them and their customers. Lastly, they discuss how everything that Inductive Automation offers allowed Factory Technologies to build a better business.
“Five years ago, six years ago … about 30% of our projects were in Ignition. Due to the support, the programs, and price points and availability of Ignition … at least 80% of our projects are in Ignition now.” — Thomas Wilson
“The clients that end up getting Ignition definitely have that path to continue their own development, both on the controller side and on the business development side, 'cause they start to see that they can leverage all this information and use it to drive decisions.” — Ben Lester
“Ignition has done a really good job providing a lot of resources for us to be able to recruit people, plug them into some online training, in-class training, and then implement them and put them on a part of our team.” — Thomas Wilson
Ben Lester is the Senior Technical Lead at Factory Technologies where he has been for over 6 years. In that time, the company has grown from an 8-person team in a small trailer to an Ignition Premier Integrator in California’s Central Valley. His degree is in mechanical engineering, but programming and problem-solving have always been his forte. He really enjoys going to facilities and making operators', mechanics' and electricians' lives easier through project work or service calls. In the automation industry, he is most excited about Robotics and Motion but creating tailored and cost-effective MES & OEE solutions has been a lot of fun too. Combining many different tool kits to build solutions has been a big part of his success in the industry and that’s something that Ignition does really well — even when it comes to projects at home like controlling an Arduino to automate his all-electric home-brewing setup
Thomas Wilson is a Sales Manager at Factory Technologies, a full systems integration team that delivers innovative solutions to complex problems in the food and beverage industry. He enjoys meeting with clients and listening to their needs. Ignition has been a big part of providing their clients with the data, control, and price they have been looking for. Thomas first learned of Ignition from Jason Hunt when he came onboard with Factory Technologies. Today, Factory Technologies runs its business with Ignition and always offers it to its clients as a strong, viable option. Not only is Ignition a robust SCADA platform, but it has also proven to be one of the easiest to support.
Kent: Hello, everyone. Welcome to Inductive Conversations. I'm your host, Kent Melville, Sales Engineering Manager here at Inductive Automation, and I'm joined by two people from Factory Technologies, one of our Premier Integrators: Thomas Wilson, who's a Sales Manager, and Ben Lester, who is a Senior Technical Lead. And so guys, thanks so much for joining me today. Can you go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourselves and the company you work for?
Thomas: Hi, yeah. First of all, thank you for having us. We're honored to be a part of this show. My name is Thomas. I'm the Sales Manager, like you stated, with Factory Technologies. I have been in the industry for only about a couple decades now, and most of my job is to listen to our clients and then help communicate those needs that they have to our team and try to provide a great solution for all.
Kent: Awesome. Thank you so much. Ben, over to you.
Ben: My name is Ben Lester. I'm Senior Technical Lead, and what that means is that all the weird kind of problems we come across end up in my lap, and I get to have fun figuring out the solutions.
Kent: Very nice. And so, both you guys at Factory Technologies, tell us a little bit about what Factory Technologies is and what they do and kinda the background of your company.
Thomas: Yeah, no, thanks. So Factory Technologies is definitely a unique systems integrator located in Modesto, California. It was founded in 2014, and we specialize in the food and beverage industry. We have about 26 people here, and what I like to say about that is we're mostly engineering-driven, and we like to provide solutions for our client that are more complex problems and they need some... a real solution to be able to solve those.
Kent: Awesome. And Ben, how's your experience been with Factory Technologies?
Ben: Great. Yeah, it's been a lot of fun being able to be parts of different problems, coming up with designs, and all the way to implementation and support. Being where we're located is really helpful too. Food and beverage is plentiful out here, and there's a big demand for our type of services, so it's great.
Kent: Yeah, awesome. And so Factory Technologies is local to us here in California. In fact, just yesterday, I was driving through the Central Valley on my way to Southern California and back, so maybe I passed you guys. But how long have you guys been in business and what industries do you guys focus on down here?
Thomas: Well, like we stated, our side of the team was pretty much established in 2014, made up of several people who have been in the industry for a long time who finally just decided to get together and say, "Hey, there's definitely a real niche in the market to provide senior-level solutions to some of the problems out here." Obviously, we're in the breadbasket of the world, so the largest part of our industry is food and beverage. We primarily focus a lot and specialize in the wine industry.
Kent: Awesome. Obviously, as you're delivering solutions to customers, you interact with a lot of different technologies, a lot of different softwares. How did you guys find Ignition, and what made you start using this for a lot of new projects?
Ben: So I learned that Factory Technologies came across Ignition because we had the PLC component of a big project, and our late, great director of engineering saw the potential in Ignition and the fact that it was more than just a traditional SCADA system, a lot more than just a point-and-click, showing tags, and displaying data. And after that, he took it like he normally takes different problems and created a whole project with it. It ended up becoming what we use for our project management system, and our time sheet system as well. So we have an internal Ignition system that he had created that was really his learning experience.
Ben: For me, my first job out of college was actually at a company that made their own proprietary Java-based SCADA software. I was in Atlanta after having graduated Georgia Tech, and so I worked with that company for quite a while before moving out to California and joining Factory Technologies. My second week at Factory Technologies, our company owner was actually signed up for an Ignition Core class, and luckily for me, something came up and he couldn't make it. I was able to take his seat and I got the Core class and then the advanced class immediately after, and thanks to my previous experience with a Java-based SCADA system, I just felt right at home. It made it really easy to pick everything up, and, really, there's been no turning back.
Kent: That was great to hear. And yeah, that was back in the days when you could actually come to our office to our training classes, unlike the world today where everything has to be online, it seems like. Yeah, we're glad you were able to come out, and obviously, that's been able to be really impactful for you, but also for the whole of Factory Technologies. Prior to finding Inductive Automation, what softwares were you guys primarily using in the industry?
Ben: We had worked with all of the industry staples, so we had done a lot of work with FactoryTalk SE, Wonderware ArchestrA, InTouch, and iFIX, all of the normal stuff out in the food/beverage industry.
Kent: As an integrator, I understand the business. You go out and when you're pitching to customers, you can make recommendations on what you'd like to see them use for projects, but at the end of the day, you give the customer what they want, right? So does Factory Technologies, at this point... You guys provide all kinds of solutions, I'm sure, in different software packages. How much of your business do you think you get to do in Ignition these days?
Thomas: So that's interesting. Our industry and our business is subject to evolving just like any other industry is. I would say five years ago, six years ago, we probably did about 30% of our projects were in Ignition. Due to the support, the programs, and price points and availability of Ignition, there's at least 80% of our projects are in Ignition now. And naturally, if that's going to be the demand on the project side of the way our teams are built out, 80% of our teams are heavier in Ignition than they are other softwares.
Kent: That's incredible. That's great to hear. And how has that impacted your work with customers, as far as reliability of your systems and being able to support the systems long-term? Have you seen any changes with that as you've introduced Ignition at scale here?
Ben: So... the clients that end up getting Ignition definitely have that path to continue their own development, both on the controller side and on the business development side, 'cause they start to see that they can leverage all this information and use it to drive decisions. I have noticed that customers that start to bring that in, yeah, it just seems like everybody is a lot more forward-thinking because they're trying to see what they can accomplish next using this software.
Kent: Yeah, absolutely, and that's something that we've seen everywhere, and we try to make the barrier of entry really low so that people can get in there, get their hands dirty and build useful things. But as easy as it can be to build something basic with Ignition, to add some of your own screens, to add some custom functionality, we also work really hard here at Inductive Automation to make sure that the Ignition software is deep as well, and so that you can go and create really complex solutions and create some things that are really meaningful that maybe would have been more difficult to do in the past. And so what has Ignition done for Factory Technologies in terms of your ability to provide new and innovative solutions to your customers?
Ben: Yeah, I feel like I have a great example for this. So I have one client. We had already implemented a Core OEE code into several machine centers, and they were collecting the downtime data from that code, but they didn't really have a good way to visualize it. And with a pretty concentrated 20 to 30 hours developing inside Perspective, I was able to create a fantastic MES display that was giving them the type of downtime courses in just a really easy-to-digest fashion. And when I look back at that experience, I can look at what that project ended up being and recognize that four or five years ago, so not even that long, that could have been a $200,000 project. That's just how far things have come.
Kent: Absolutely, that takes me back 'cause I sometimes take it for granted now of how quickly we can build things, 'cause you're right, it used to be you get a project and you're like, "Alright, this is at a whole another level of scale, and in order to do something, we need to put together a whole sales pitch for this and get approval because this is gonna require a significant amount of budget and all these things," and now be like, "Yeah, we can throw that in. That's pretty quick. That's pretty easy. I can build that in a week for you." And so yeah, it's a game changer. Obviously, we are talking about how easy and simple all of these things are, how you can deliver all these great solutions. I know it's not always these butterflies and rainbows, as [Co-Director of Sales Engineering] Kevin McClusky likes to say, not everything is perfect and easy out there. People are trying to tackle new and crazy expectations. Business is changing over time. And just curious, from your perspective, what are some of the biggest challenges that Factory Technologies currently faces in today's market?
Thomas: That's a great question, Ken. I think the biggest challenge is the same for most companies in our segment, and that's the ability to recruit people who are able to deliver what clients are asking for and deliver in a way that fit to their budget as well. Right now, Ignition has done a really good job providing a lot of resources for us to be able to recruit people, plug them into some online training, in-class training, and then implement them and put them on a part of our team that's able to start going through checklist and actually start producing relatively quick.
Ben: The biggest challenge that I had thought of was also in terms of hiring and training, and yeah, Inductive University helps out with that a lot because you can take someone that's a freshman of college or a senior engineer with a little bit of downtime, and after they're done with the classes, they can help us out with these big projects.
Kent: In a perfect world, hiring people would immediately allow you to expand your capacity as a team. But we know that in reality, hiring people is an investment. There's training that has to take place. So even if people are very qualified, there's onboarding that needs to happen. And certainly we've experienced that at Inductive Automation as well as we hire new people, and we found that at first when you hire people, it actually lowers productivity because you've got to allocate some of your senior-level resources to getting these people up to speed, and we really thought there's gotta be some ways that we can make this simpler internally for us to get people up to speed on how Ignition works, but then at the same time, can we leverage these tools to be useful for people outside of our company in the Ignition community so that they could onboard people quickly as well, and then it could be more of a self-directed study, so to speak, so that you can have your senior-level people still delivering, still solving solutions for customers, still have a billable time, all those kind of things.
Kent: And so that led to Inductive University, it led to some expansion of our online user manual, led to the support that we provide for our integrators where we want them to be able to call into support and talk to our team and that that can be free for integrators. We wanna make sure that you guys are getting your people up to speed and they can talk to somebody here easily. I'm glad that you guys mentioned that, that that's been impactful and useful for you guys because it's something that was a very conscious effort that was done by our company. Random question for you guys. One, a newer initiative that we have is we've been trying to highlight the Ignition Exchange, which is a free online repository, pre-built resources in Ignition. And so if anybody has a good idea of something to build on Ignition, whether that is an employee of Inductive Automation or an integrator or an end user, they can take that, package it up, put it up on the Exchange, and then anybody else can download that and use that free of charge for whatever project they want. Have you guys been able to leverage anything on the Exchange?
Ben: Yeah, I have definitely. It greatly improved my Perspective learning experience, being able to use some of those components as an example, but also the L5K Parser that was put up there, I was able to use that specifically for our demo project that we made for the wine symposium in order to very quickly set up in an emulated environment for showcasing an existing project that we already had. I already had the Perspective project developed for the graphics on a wastewater solution, and obviously I had the PLC code from that project as well, so I just threw it through the L5K Parser that generated all my tags for me, and that's what allowed me to set up the simulation of the system, and then everybody got to see it as if it was actually running with all the animations and everything without any big red boxes.
Kent: That's awesome. Great story. Yeah, Travis Cox put a lot of work into that Parser there. He was trying to do a very similar project, and rather than just building something for one project, he's like, "I could build this to be useful for a bunch of people." So great to hear.
Ben: Yeah, I saw it when it was posted very early on before Ignition or Inductive had started to kind of showcase in different places, and I had to dig into it to kinda check why a couple of things weren't working for me, and that helped me understand some of the program that he had done in the background as well, so it was really helpful.
Kent: Great to hear. So we've been talking about we gotta get people up to speed, and that is a huge effort of getting our staff ready to go to solve solutions for customers. And another aspect of this is not just learning the tools that you're using, but also learning the trends that are going on in the industry, figuring out based on these buzzwords that people are hearing about and that they want to take advantage of. How do I translate that into real solutions that I can deliver to customers? And so I was curious if you guys have been experiencing that yourselves as you are talking to existing customers or potential customers, if they have these ideas of where the industry is going, and what you guys have been doing to deliver practical solutions for these kinds of things.
Ben: Yes, so this Digital Transformation and Industry 4.0 concept, definitely important in all of our projects these days. I've kind of summarized it in the past as first having the devices in place to collect the data that's valuable for the plant, and then having the ability to easily leverage that data. And so facilities that can actually accomplish that end up having a huge advantage.
Kent: And so how do they do that? How do they accomplish that?
Ben: In our case was this green space that we had mentioned, where Ignition was in there from the beginning, and when you have the centralized system all ready to go, you're already starting with the idea of historizing your data, and then you're able to create the useful visualizations based entirely on the customer's needs. So in our case, it was just making sure that the downtime was present and the case counts were ready to go right out the gate.
Thomas: Yeah, so once again, it seems to be motivated by a need, whether it's a client need or an industry need, and you guys see it from your integrator needs, that having the data available, having it handy at the right time. So for example, a client, they can't predict what their volume is going to be whatever their product may be, but as long as they're able to leverage their data, then they can gain segment in that space. We have an example in the wine industry right here in California, where a client had just started using Ignition and just started leveraging their data, and they had a very unique window of about a couple of months to take advantage and see if they could actually produce more product to fulfill orders. We were able to use the data from Ignition, and not only say, "Well, this is your demand, this is the other equipment you're going to need to be able to meet that demand." So they put in a couple more lines and still today they have a really top-shelf space in retail segments for that.
Ben: Yeah, so they had already started this green space development, and then once they had started production early on, because they had all that data available, they were immediately able to justify installing a couple of new lines. That type of rapid development takes a lot of pieces to be in the right place for that to actually happen.
Kent: It's interesting, I find that as I talk with customers, sometimes they balk at the solutions at first. The things that allow you to do Digital Transformation are not always brand new technologies, brand new techniques, it's more of the, "Alright, you've got this line, you're collecting data. If we can standardize your structure here, we can standardize how that data works, then you can roll this out to multiple facilities, bring that all up to a centralized system, and now that it's all standardized, we can start making intelligent decisions based on this data and maybe push into the cloud, maybe do machine learning and all these kinds of things," but it starts with the basics of just doing the things that were already possible, but doing them well and doing them deliberately, and I think a lot of times people miss that step. They start top-down.
Kent: They wanna do all these creative, innovative things, but they don't have that solid foundation to build on, and without that, those projects inevitably fail. And so it's good to hear that you guys are working with customers to establish those foundations, build on what they're already using, so that they can be successful for these current initiatives, but also for whatever the next trend is, that foundation is already gonna make that so much easier when they get to that step. Yeah, any comments on that before we move on?
Ben: Took the words right out of my mouth about the fact that it's really the important foundation that you build upon in order to accomplish something like that. Also in terms of it's not always the latest and greatest type of technologies that can make the biggest impact. MQTT is a great example of that, because even though it is actually quite an old technology, we're all getting to use it in our current space to accomplish a lot more than we were before.
Kent: Yeah, that's a great example. Like you said, MQTT is 20 years old. Really within the last few years here, it's become mainstream, and so it's interesting to watch what things catch on right away, which things take a while to develop. Ignition kind of fits that as well, and the Inductive Automation is not a new company, we've been around since 2003... and initially we had a different version of Ignition. We had Factory PMI and Factory SQL that were our initial legacy products here, and we were in the same California area, worked with wineries and other local companies here to start solving some solutions for them. And obviously, the rest is history. We've come on to today where we have the Ignition platform being used throughout the world by some very large companies. Rumor has it that you guys were able to recently work with a customer who was using a legacy version of Ignition, was using Factory PMI. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the experience of going in there and helping them update that system to a more modern version.
Ben: So this was about four years ago, and at the time it was a flagship customer of Ignition. It's fun to see some of the papers that your project was featured in and us being able to work on it on the tail end. It was kind of similar to a conversion from Ignition 7.9 to eight point whatever you might wanna be running, but the biggest differences were with Factory SQL, that was how they were handling kind of the tag database. That's all wrapped up into one package now. And then this particular project also included converting from MySQL to Microsoft SQL, and so you're always gonna have some fun rewriting some queries along the way. I think actually Factory SQL was designed for MySQL. You can correct me if I'm wrong there. That's kind of what I had gathered while working on that.
Ben: The projects would import and with components relatively in the right place. And then I'd get to correct the queries and basically what kind of made everything come together is writing some regular expressions to convert the Factory SQL's exports and being able to bring that in as a tag export into Ignition, so we didn't have to rewrite a bunch of... Or recreate all of their tag structure from back then. And then after that it was just kind of cleaning up the look and feel of everything, making it look a bit more modern, but also trying to incorporate a high-performance Perspective, because back then nobody, very few people were trying to direct operators’ attention the way that we're doing it now. Really being able to look at that early project was kind of like a way of looking at the roots of where Ignition came from, and it helped me develop successful Ignition projects moving forward, being able to think about it in that way.
Kent: I think that ties into the foundation concept that we were talking about before, that we at Inductive Automation spent a lot of time, in the beginning, kind of establishing what the foundation for our codebase was. And we said Java, being cross-platform at that time. It was a big deal, but it's amazing how you're still able to upgrade something that was originally designed in the early 2000s and bring that up to a modern solution today and have that backwards compatibility and that's tricky. That's been something that's been hard for us to maintain as a software company of how do we make sure that the things that we're building are taking advantage of new technologies, new features, new demands within the market, but still allowing people to keep doing what they've been doing successfully for decades, and how do we balance that? Supporting what is tried-and-true while still not getting left behind as far as technologies and... A big shift for us was at some point, we realized Vision, which came from Factory PMI is incredible as far as what it allows you to build quickly and easily for customers and still continues to. We don't have any immediate plans to get rid of Vision, people are successfully using it, doing new projects with it today, and latest release date, on the 14th, as of today when we're recording this, we released some new features for Vision.
Kent: It's still being actively developed, but we decided that while we're maintaining that backwards compatibility for Vision, we wanted to introduce a new way to do visualization. We wanted to introduce the Perspective Module, so that we could take advantage of some web technologies. New ways to deploy this in a browser in an app. Take advantage of app data for accelerometers, cameras, all these kind of things, and that was a big shift for Inductive Automation to allow customers to tackle new challenges and... I was curious to hear from you guys if you've been able to utilize that Perspective Module and what that's been able to do for your customers?
Ben: So we had started developing in Perspective pretty shortly after it was first released. And anybody who hasn't experienced it, it was a little rocky at the beginning. It was very difficult to transition. We were spoiled by how easy it is to develop in Vision, especially with the piping tool that we have now that makes building out standard graphics very easy, and the visibility of those graphics is very clear. Once you get more comfortable with HTML5 and writing the scripts to populate all of the properties, you can still accomplish pretty complicated things easily. And so, it's pretty nice. But we have done a couple of projects in Perspective. One of the great things about it is that if you are having to deal with several clients, you don't have to rely on the hardware of the client anymore. It's a much lighter profile, right? Getting to enjoy some of the new aspects of Perspective is that part of our wine symposium, for example, we were able to showcase that, yep, we can just load this Perspective page right up on an iPad or an Android phone and use the phone or tablet's camera in order to do a barcode scan and that's immediately recognized in the food and beverage industry, right? 'Cause any manager will be able to see how we wouldn’t have to rely specifically on the scanners that a forklift driver might have. And you have other options that are immediately able to be implemented.
Thomas: Kent, real quick, I first wanna thank everybody there on your team for all the hard work they've done. Myself, personally in the last five years, you guys have made my job so much easier. And I'll give you a couple of examples. Our clients come to me and they say, “Thomas, what we want is to be able to have better graphics for HMIs, we wanna have better access for our data, and we don't wanna spend $400,000 to do it either.” Instead of me constantly going around and speaking to each of our clients and interviewing them and saying, “Hey, what are your biggest struggles?” Now, they actually reach out to me and they say, “Hey, can you create a dashboard for one of my managers who just look at this information?” And I quickly now can go, “Yep, that's just gonna be the small block hours. We'll give you some polish to review and then you let us know if you need some user interface changes and it's painless.” Today's version, at five years ago, that was a much more in-depth conversation. So thank you for everyone on your team for doing that for me.
Kent: I'll certainly pass that along. It's good to hear. So much of the automation industry is these one-on-one conversations where you go and you talk to somebody and you hear their needs, and then you go and you work on a solution to meet those needs, and you certainly need a lot of tools in your tool-belt to be able to have those conversations effectively. And so, we're glad to hear that Ignition has been one of those tools that's made it easier to have those conversations, and to help get customers what they need when they need it. And you guys have talked about this Sacramento wine symposium. Events are few and far between these days, it seems like, with COVID. I'm glad you guys got to participate in one. Can you tell us a little bit more about this symposium? And is this something that you guys... Was this your first time? Is this something you've been able to do many times? And you've talked a little bit about a demo that you did there, but tell us a little bit more about the technologies that went into that demo and how you're able to reach a broader audience through an event like this?
Thomas: Yeah, so I'll definitely let Ben kinda tell you more about his development on the product, but the wine symposium is definitely one of the largest events to go to, in the wine industry, probably in the world. Definitely today. The attendance counts are lower but it was very nice to have, see face-to-face conversations with our clients. You can see them directly. They can walk up and you can have a really easy one-on-one discussion about what their needs are and how to provide solutions for them. There is a big need in the market for lots of different technology that's still ever-evolving. Ben has done a really good job. Probably for the last four years, this need's been asked about and talked about. And Ben did a great job providing a solution for that.
Kent: Well, Ben, we're excited. Tell us about the demo that you did put together.
Ben: Yeah, so remote pump cards are always a big concern for wineries, and what we wanted to do was leverage cellular technology rather than wireless, so that way the plant wouldn't have to set up a large wireless mesh. It can be pretty costly quickly and doesn't always guarantee good coverage with how insulated all the tanks are, absorbing a bunch of signal strength. So that guided us down the MQTT route, and I was able to work with IFM. And over... There at IFM, Jennifer and Mandeep were a huge help. We were able to use their PLC/HMI combo display, and it actually runs code assist in the background. So I was able to set that up as an MQTT client and also as a display. So the idea would be that you have a good visualization still on your remote pump card, and you can talk MQTT back to your Ignition server.
Ben: So over on the Ignition server, which we had set up on failover redundant Stratus server, which was fun to lug around the symposium, but over there we had Ignition running the MQTT Engine. So after setting up the MQTT broker on that server as well, everybody was talking to each other and would scan a white wine or red wine bar code with that camera that I'd mentioned earlier, we could send a start signal and it would display the pump running over on the other side, and that's something that we're very excited to try to incorporate in facilities moving forward. I think there's a great base there with all of that work and the components too.
Kent: Yeah, that sounds incredible. It always ends up being a combination solution of you need the right hardware and the right software, leveraging the right technologies, and it's not necessarily best to just say, "Yeah, I get my hardware, my software, my networking equipment, my technologies, all of that from a single vendor to make it all work together." But instead you can leverage a bunch of different vendors on standardized protocol, standard technologies, so that it can still all be seamless without being proprietary, you know what I mean? So great to hear you're leveraging these other tools out there. And I've always been a big fan of those high availability options from Stratus, of having the Ethernet cable that's constantly syncing state between these things. So you could lose a whole server and the other one just immediately resumes, and that's pretty cool to see that in play. Hopefully, it was worth the wait to drag those around as you went through the symposium.
Ben: It was funny because we had it prepared in case anybody asked the right questions, and so it was just sitting there under our booth chugging along, but I was glad to have it there as a talking point.
Kent: Certainly. MQTT, you mentioned it briefly as an example of a technology that had a long runway for take off. It took a while to be adopted, but now, such a big player in the industry, and I'm glad to hear that you're able to take advantage of that for things like this demo and that it's not just an Inductive Automation-driven technology, but rather, like you said, code assist and other players in industry can just support Sparkplug out of the box and can just play nicely together automatically. What has having that kind of open source technology done for your business?
Ben: MQTT as a whole hasn't been tremendously important for our business yet, but now that I have the experience working with it, it definitely has a place that it fits in that tool box. I definitely understand why it's so useful in the oil and gas industry where you have these remote sites that rely on what could be spotty communication to understand where it was really that take-off place it started from, it makes a lot of sense. But for us, we work mostly in more consistent environments, so we'll be helping clients design fiber runs to ensure that type of data transmission is going to be acceptable, and then planning out the network backbones to support larger communications between PLCs and centralized systems. So because of that, we haven't had to rely on it too much, but now that I have that as an option, I'm definitely eager to use it when we need to.
Kent: Yeah. And I find it interesting that for so long, people did have MQTT pigeon-holed into, "I'm only in oil and gas. If I'm not oil and gas, then MQTT isn't useful for me." And we're seeing that shift as people are realizing that, yeah, maybe I'm on a really reliable network, maybe bandwidth isn't my number one concern, maybe still I have cellular, maybe it's still helpful, but it's not my decision maker. But then as they see the interoperability piece of it, as you're talking about, "Alright, I've now spent all this effort to come up with this standardized edge solution essentially for customers, leveraging the IFM stuff, leveraging the Stratus stuff," all these other things you can say, this could be a package that you could just say, "I'm gonna go throw this in at a customer site or at various pieces of their site, and that can still all forward up in an open source way, in a standardized way, into a centralized system." And it can be plug-and-play. And so maybe that ability to deploy quickly and easily could be the next step for MQTT that it can get out of this mindset people have of it's only for remote, obscure sites for just sending data up over a radio network or a satellite network. Now it can come mainstream and be used in more industries.
Kent: Yeah, excited to see where it goes for you and your customers as you expand your view and your customer's view of MQTT in general, and so at this point, obviously shared my enthusiasm and excitement for where the industry is going for the things that you guys are doing and the things that you're delivering to your customers. I wanted to kinda open it up to you guys for some final thoughts here of your views of the industry, where you think things are headed, and just any last things you'd like to share with our audience today? So Ben, we're gonna go ahead and start with you and then Thomas, we'll finish with your final thoughts. So Ben, take it away.
Ben: I think I'd like to close with just saying that I'm really thankful to even be a guest here today. It's an honor because I have tried to focus only on the problem-solving aspect as I've grown as an engineer, and I just... That's what I like doing. I don't really focus on career aspirations or trying to end up on a podcast like this one, so to have ended up here, it's pretty cool and I'm very thankful. It's also nice that we're located out here in Northern California, it almost feels like Factory Technologies is able to grow along with Inductive Automation because we are so close to each other and been able to work on similar systems like we talked about and... Yeah, I'm just looking forward to doing more of that, to improving the solutions that we put out there into the world and solving more interesting problems. And that's what really keeps me going.
Kent: Well, absolutely. Well, we're so glad that you were here today to share your expertise, and I think that's one of the nice things about podcasts, is that it's an opportunity for people who are maybe not a face of a company to come in and share their expertise. And I think that that's what a lot of people wanna hear, they wanna hear about the people that are in the trenches every day dealing with these things, how are you solving problems, how are you figuring this all out. And so I'm really glad you're here today, Ben and now, Thomas, final words from you.
Thomas: Just like Ben said, it's an honor to be here, obviously. And on a platform that I think most people appreciate these days, so thank you guys for being a part of this. I know what it takes in the background to be able to put something like this together, so thank you. As we discussed earlier, the Industry 4.0 in technology, it's gonna be interesting to see who decide, makes the choice to leverage data and the choice to keep things is an open platform as we have today, especially as the current climate has caused part shortages, so having an availability to use multiple forces for hardware and continue to see this grow. As far as our team, I think we're blessed to be located in the same geographical location as your team, so it's definitely allowed us all to grow together, so thank you for having us and allowing us to be a part of this today.
Kent: Absolutely. Well, thank you guys so much. Absolutely love having Factory Technologies close by. We're so grateful for the collaboration we've been able to have over the years and for the hopefully much more collaboration going forward. So great having you guys in our integrator program and seeing the solutions that you guys are delivering to customers and so happy to be able to share those with the rest of the Ignition community through this podcast, and so with that, we will close this podcast today, but thank you and we look forward to much more work in the future.
Ben: Thank you.
Thomas: Alright. See you down the road.