The Business Value of Digital Transformation

Inductive Conversations

34 minute episode Apple Podcasts  |  Spotify  |  Google Play  |  PodBean  |  TuneIn

Remus Pop from Riveron chats with Don Pearson about the meaning of Digital Transformation, Industry 4.0, and IIoT and the business value of the technologies developed for these initiatives. They further discuss the challenges and obstacles of implementation, how companies are handling global disruptions, and the outlook of our industry and the agents of change leading the charge.

“You start to drive that culture change by teaching all levels of the organization that there is a better way, a more efficient way to take advantage of this technology.”

“There's nothing that moves the needle more than solving a problem in an organization where they've been struggling to get past over in the last few months or the last year.”

“One of the big trends I think that we're gonna see … is private 5G, private LTE. I see that … helping that connectivity piece, and I think driving more and more processing and information to that edge component.”

Remus is a Director specializing in Digital Factory, Industry 4.0, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). His experience includes leveraging technology to transform manufacturing systems for Industry 4.0, building out information technology infrastructures to support the Digital Factory initiatives, and defining strategies for connecting shop floor equipment. He has extensive experience working in the automotive manufacturing sector for Tier 1 suppliers. He also has experience in other industries including alternative energy manufacturing and material handling management.


Don: Remus, I'm really glad you're able to join me today and really look forward to this discussion. I know we've had some discussions offline, sort of informal, which came up with the idea of, "Well, let's just do a podcast and let's share it with others." So can you start by maybe giving a little bit more information about yourself, what you do, your company, the organization, anything you wanted to share, just to get us started with a little understanding of you? 

Remus: Sure. Sure thing, Don. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the podcast. I've been an avid fan of what you guys are doing at Inductive Automation for a very long time and been developing solutions both as an end user and now as an integrator for the last six or seven years, so I'm really excited to be on and chatting and talking shop. So yeah, I work for a company called Riveron, we are a pretty standard typical consulting firm around the business process in IT world. And just recently within the last two years back in April of 2020, we decided to start a group focused on Intelligent Manufacturing Solutions and Industry 4.0. So I came over from kinda being that end user role where I was the Operations Technology Manager at Dana Inc, where we were using Ignition pretty heavily as a tool for our manufacturing sites. But now I kinda take that role into being an advisor and a consultant for other companies. So from a technical aspect, I lead our Intelligent Manufacturing Solutions Group, and we focus on helping manufacturing clients big and small, across multiple different industries, jump into the boat to get down the road with Industry 4.0. Teaching them how it can affect the business and how we can gain valuable insights and how we can take advantage of this technology wave that's kinda crashing over everything that's happening in manufacturing right now.

Don: Now, you mentioned Industry 4.0, and I wanna sort of back up and ask you to briefly at least discuss at the outset here, concepts, Digital Transformation, Industrial Internet of Things, Industry 4.0, overlapping, synonymous. Could you sort of tease that apart a little bit for our listeners and give us a little foundation starting point here, Remus? 

Remus: Yeah, absolutely. Yes. It's a great question because if you do any minute of searching online or just browsing through LinkedIn, gosh, I know I see a lot of posts about Digital Transformation this and IIoT that, Industry 4.0 that. And there's some pretty good resources out there, but the way I kind of approach it in my mindset is, for me, Digital Transformation is the umbrella term, right? There are Digital Transformation that's happening across a lot of different industries, a lot of different segments, not so much just manufacturing. But for me, Digital Transformation is just kind of that umbrella term that captures underneath it some of the foundation of IIoT and Industry 4.0. And for me, IIoT is the tangible, is the sensoring, the hardware, the factory floor getting connected, putting things on the network, getting things connected, we see a lot with private LTE lately. So, building that infrastructure, getting that baseline, tangible foundation built so that we can get to the data that makes our manufacturing processes so valuable. And then the Industry 4.0, for me, I kinda think of it as more of a mindset than so much of a technology. And really, for me, it kinda boils down to what at its core is just the automated exchange of data, right? 

Remus: So as we connect more things to this ecosystem of IIoT and under the umbrella of Digital Transformation, as we get more and more things online, we now have the ability for these different interconnected devices and software packages to talk to each other. For example, when a machine faults, normally you'd have to wait for a supervisor to notice and he picks up the phone and calls maintenance and says, "Hey, my machine is broken." And that guy comes over and fixes it, and then he calls the guy back, and you have this whole “sneakernet” level of thing going on. And now, we don't have to wait for that process anymore, the machine faults, we tell the maintenance system automatically right away that, "Hey, we have a machine fault." We call an API, it sends a text message to the maintenance tech and he's on his way before anyone even notices that that machine went into a breakdown state. So for me, it's kinda, Digital Transformation is the umbrella term, IIoT is that tangible physical application of hardware on the shop floor, and then Industry 4.0 is just that mindset of understanding that we now have at our fingertips all of these interconnected systems and how do we deliver information to the people that can act upon it the fastest. So, sometimes it's an operator, sometimes it's a supervisor or maintenance guy, really just understanding that is kinda where I see that balance lie.

Don: I think that's a pretty good job of teasing it apart. I know for years, when one started talking about the Industrial Internet of Things, certainly from Inductive Automation and Ignition's viewpoint, you can't have Big Data analytics if you don't have Big Data. And data connects to things, and certainly that has been one thing that's been a big, important foundation for Ignition platform, is allow you to connect to the things, 'cause the things are what give you the starting point. All those RTUs, all those PLCs, those millions of sensors that allow you to do what you're talking about in the business side of it. So, there's been a lot of technical, and after we won't get back into tech a little bit more in terms of technological advances, make it possible for that Industry 4.0 automated exchange of data you were talking about. Alright, can you talk a little bit about the business value, 'cause the idea is to get business value out of this, not just have a lot of good technological advances? So, talk to us about that side of the coin.

Remus: Yeah, that's a great point, because I think one of the gaps that I see in a lot of the literature and videos and all the different things out there are focused on the technology. I wish that I could get paid by just the technology alone, but ultimately what we're trying to do is deliver a business solution. And the common adage that everybody knows is that if you take a piece of software and look for a problem, you're gonna have a pretty tough time getting to anything meaningful. So, I think what really separates our group here at Riveron from a lot of our competitors, that we focus on the business side first. Coming from that end user mindset, we really have the experience of, how does this technology apply to the business? How can we take the data that we're gaining and not just throwing up an OEE dashboard, but actually using that to improve the business process, right? And a lot of what we do is, yes, deploying technology, of course, but it's also teaching our client and our customers how to take advantage of that new data. What does OEE mean in terms of making better business decisions? It's great to know that number, but if you don't act upon that data, it's really meaningful.

Remus: I talk to clients pretty regularly, and one of the things I say in my pitches, if they ever ask me the question which pretty often they do is, "If we deploy something like Ignition for OEE, what's our ROI?" And I always answer to the question, "Well, that's entirely up to you. If you don't do anything with the data that we give you, your ROI is gonna be pretty low, but one of the things we will do is help you understand how to take advantage of that data, how to take the Big Data stuff that we were just talking about and apply it to becoming a better business.”

Don: Well, when you think about that, that's so critical, because it's that triangle you've often talked about about the technology and the people and the processes. But yes, the technology has to be there to empower the processes but at the end of the day, people are making decisions, so you're trying to connect the dots to better decision making. As you look at that and the challenges you face, 'cause I know you guys focus on that a lot with your customers, and I like your example, what's my ROI on OEE? Well, that sorta depends on you. So can you kinda share maybe a couple of examples just from your own experience of how that's come together and push towards a business process with increased value? 

Remus: Yeah, absolutely. It actually happened during a pilot with one of our clients where we were working in an environment with an ultrasonic welding cell. This ultrasonic welding cell, they had a lot of different stations. It was a facility that was using this process repetitively throughout the building, they maybe had 15 or 16 of these ultrasonic welders, and they were going through roughly one a month at a replacement cost of about $30,000, so these things were not cheap to replace and they couldn't quite pinpoint what was happening, but they had some idea. So what we did is kinda start to gather the data, and then based off of what the data showed us, it became pretty clear that a leading indicator of when one of these things was gonna fail was that the cycle time of it was increasing. So using Ignition, we connected to the PLC there, pulled in all the data and we could very quickly show that, "Here's your line of cycle time and it's increasing ever so much, and then here's the point of the fail."

Remus: So very clearly without having to get into too much technology, really all we did is display the data and taught the business how to understand it. We then put a quick alert in there that said, "Okay, when our cycle time reaches X seconds, shoot a text message to the maintenance guy, he's gotta go over there and clean the tips of that welder." And next thing you know, they haven't gone through one of these welders since we put that in place. So, just real quick wins is what we go after, and this is kind of the idea, right? They had that problem, they knew they were burning through these welders a lot, and now we have the ability to connect to that data, get that information into a place where we can visualize it very quickly, and in this case, people part of this was maintenance. Maintenance didn't have a good indicator of what they needed to do to get to that welder to stop it from going into a state where they couldn't repair it. People... Person was an operator, we gotta deliver some information to that person. And sometimes it's the leadership positions, right? So, a lot of the aspects of Industry 4.0, is kinda what I touched on earlier, is just understanding who needs the information to act upon at the fastest, and it's different information at different levels of the organization.

Don: Yeah, I have a follow-up question on that because you're talking about seeing an indicator and you could make a decision on, there's gonna be some value from this, if it's a cycle time or something. So when you look at an organization, maybe you can just dig in a little deeper and say, what are some of those real-world indicators that you see when you go into an organization that say to you, "We could make some real gains with a business approach here, there'd really be some value coming out the other end?"

Remus: Yeah, we target different levels of the organization for almost an interview series where we ask the operator, the operator will tell us what they see on a daily basis, and then we'll ask the maintenance team, "What are you guys struggling with?" And then we kinda go through different levels of the organization to understand where the pain points are and then kinda present that to say, "Hey, this is what we've seen in discussing with your different levels of team members here, from the sponsorship level that brought us in to talk about this, what do you guys see as the problems?" And we kinda collaborate on all that data and identify some low-hanging fruit problems. Our goal, usually when we're going to a client is to identify a quick win, something that we know we can show very, very rapidly to get that level of trust in the organization, so that we can deploy this technology a little bit more expansive. And one of the things we do is, like I said, is just focusing on the problem, let's find that business problem, sometimes it's quality, maybe we're having problems with customer returns, maybe it's demand, maybe we just can't build enough product but we know our machines can do more. Maybe, like I said earlier, downtime. Maybe the machines are faulting all the time. So, really it's kinda examining the different levels of the organization, looking at the business problem and what can we put in place to alleviate that issue? 

Don: Well, as you look at any new initiative though, inside an organization, I think your interview approach makes total sense, 'cause you wanna get to all those stakeholders, get their view of it, and then you get a multi-view of the organization so you can zero in on your game plan. You help transform and bring that business value, but there are gotta be challenges, I understand. We often say that people is the biggest problem to any kinda change 'cause its mindset as much as anything else to change a process or deploy a technology to improve. So, when you look at an organization, Remus, what are some of the challenges that you see that organizations face when it comes to really being willing to commit the time and the money, the executive sponsorship to a digital transformation journey? 

Remus: It's a tough one, right? 'Cause that's kinda why I said earlier that I look at Industry 4.0, it's kind of a mindset and a culture shift, and a lot of what we focus on initially in our engagements is kinda education, right? Because the downside... Or I guess, we'll start with the really good thing about Industry 4.0 is that what's happening right now in the Industry 4.0 is this boom of all of these new technology companies getting involved, and seeing posts on LinkedIn and videos and companies, everybody's popping up with the next big thing. And I think the downside of Industry 4.0 in this boom that's happening is that, there's all of these companies getting into this space...

Don: Yeah, that way.

Remus: And kinda saturating the market with all this. And rightfully so, some really good technology, but what we try to do at first is kinda educate their customers that there is substance behind the buzz, right? Their Industry 4.0 is real, it is happening in a lot of different clients. And we try to show them real world examples from either previous customers or some of the World Economic Forum studies or any of the McKinsey white papers that have gone through, and kinda showed on average industries that have taken advantage of this technology, have seen gains. It's not smoking mirrors, there is real-world application of this Industry 4.0 technology, and we kinda start to show them there. And then like I said, we really tried to get to a low-cost, low-resistance pilot. Our mindset is, if we can get them a quick win on something that they know they have an issue on, then that usually gets us pretty quick buy-in, 'cause there's nothing that moves the needle more than solving a problem in an organization where they've been struggling to get past over in the last few months or the last year.

Remus: So that's really our focus is, give us a problem, don't give us a machine that sits in the corner over there that only runs two days a week, and nobody really cares about it. 'Cause even if you get 20% more out of that thing, it doesn't really matter. So our focus is to kinda go after a high-value asset, one that's causing you a lot of headache and get that quick win, 'cause like I said, there's nothing better to move that needle than showing that there is proof in the pudding, right? 

Don: Oh, absolutely, absolutely, and I think the pilot approach and low cost, low resistance. So, let's talk a little bit about high cost, high resistance for a second. I'm gonna throw a twist, I'm gonna throw on ending and give you a little bit of challenges. Okay, you got the pilot, you've got an entrance point, but you need to impact the culture, impact the structure and the processes of a company that may have been doing stuff the way they're doing it for a really long time with a lot of people, some people have careers invested in certain investments in technology and processes who are gonna be resistive. So when you look at it on a broader scope, from pilot to grow inside, can you make a couple of comments on the challenges that exist as regards culture and structure and process change and sort of that people resistance to change challenge? 

Remus: Yeah, I think a big portion of our project and the way we engage with our customers is focused on the deployment model. So really understanding that it's not just about technology, which we've been talking about for the last 15-20 minutes here, but really that it's about culture, it's about strategy, it's about understanding how to use this data. And one of the things we do is we outline at a high level, and it varies per customer, but really it's kind of identifying what the deployment model is gonna look like for Customer X, and is it a bi-weekly meeting with the cross-functional team in the plant to teach the plant how to use the new dashboards and the new reporting tools and the new data. And then after the bi-weekly, it's a once-a-month with that cross-functional team and leadership where you bring in your plant manager and teach him about the initiatives that are going on. And then take that up from the plant leadership into a steering committee at a corporate level, now you have buy-in from IT and operations and HR. HR is a big point that often gets overlooked in a lot of these Industry 4.0 projects, because not a lot of people cross-reference technology and HR, right? But one of the things we impact more than anything like we've been talking about is the people.

Remus: So we have to have HR involved and make sure that they know that there's a new technology burden that's hitting your operators, your workforce, and in some cases, it's not necessarily a burden in a bad way, but it's a new technology that they now have to understand. So there's a big proponent of that or a component of that in HR, so we wanna make sure that we tackle that, but really from our side and structuring the idea that it's a cross-organizational effort, it's not just IT, it's not just engineering, it's not just manufacturing, it really spans the whole organization, that's where we push for that steering committee on our customer side, so that they have that. You know, even if they meet once a quarter as long as they have that initiative going so that people are in the know, they can ask questions, they can bring up their concerns, all that stuff kinda gets aired out on the table, and that's how you start to drive that culture change by teaching all levels of the organization that there is a better way, a more efficient way to take advantage of this technology.

Don: Yeah, that totally makes sense. And you know, one of the reasons I was really pleased that you were willing to accept our invitation to be a guest on our podcast was actually because of the approach we were on and your team have taken to Digital Transformation, and it got my attention, because it seems to work. A lot of organizations have trouble, what's the first step, what's the second step, how do I get on the journey? How do I increase buy-in over time? You're not gonna just walk in and instantaneously change organizations that have been successful for decades, many decades in some cases, with something that says, let's do it differently, it'll be better. So, I'm curious, beyond the pilot stage, as you build the relationship within an organization, can you give maybe an example or two of organizations who have overcome a lot of these challenges, have sort of got a little roadmap going and have been able to achieve significant goal. Obviously it's a journey, it's not just the one destination, but significant goals, if you will, in Digital Transformation.

Remus: Yeah, I look back to my time at Dana before we started our consultant gig, and really that experience at Dana is really what led us to see that there is value in helping organizations understanding this process. So really what we did at Dana, it was definitely a struggle. We started pretty much with one site, we knew we had an issue, we had a customer requirement to meet, right? And that was really, really what we were going after was, hey, our customer came to us and said, you have to do X. And X was provide data for every product that you ship us. It wasn't just, okay, now to ship them the product, we now also have to provide digital birth certificate, if you will, of that physical product, otherwise you might as well not ship it. So one of the things that we were doing was looking at, okay, how do we take technology and meet this business need and through that process, we really started to understand that beyond just what the customer is requiring, we now have access to an entire wealth of information that we didn't have easy access to before, right? You look back at the evolution of what turned in the industry, for we've been collecting data in MES systems for 20 years.

Remus: That's not new that we're pulling data off the shop floor, but now what's different is you can combine that data, not just at engineering and manufacturing level, but at a business level, combine your OEE numbers with your production planning, so when you're looking at forecasting your production for the next month, you could do it off of actual real life OEE numbers, so now you know that you might have bought that machine to make 100 widgets an hour, but does it really make a 100 widgets an hour? Maybe it makes 70. As you build a production plan, you can take all of this information into account, and one of the biggest struggles we had there was just really kind of what we've been talking about is the cultures. Getting buy-in, and I know I'll probably strike a lot of cords when I say this, but IT, right? IT is often a very, very big struggle, in a lot of these projects, but the buzzword of IT/OT convergence, this whole crossover of IT technology in the manufacturing and manufacturing technologies now in that IT business world, one of the biggest struggles that we you see on a daily basis with more than just one customer is in that IT space.

Remus: But really for us, is that the whole journey started at Dana in really understanding. We selected Ignition as our platform to move forward and the more we grew with it, and after I left, the project is still going. I think when I left, we were at 20-something plants connected and fully digitized. And now I don't know the number exactly, but I'm sure that's much greater than where it was when we left because we put in processes and kind of what we were talking about that steering committee, and all these things were put in place to keep everything moving forward and keep our eye on the prize. And that really taught us that valuable lesson that it's not just about the technology, it's about the culture, it's about the people behind the scenes, and really getting that buy-in. So that if you do lose somebody on your team or that was driving a lot of that, not to say it doesn't matter, 'cause every talent lost is definitely one you don't want to lose, but it obviously is a testament to that. Culture is the right way to approach is because everything kept moving forward even after a couple of the key members left the team.

Don: No, and that makes sense. It's interesting 'cause Steve Hechtman, our founder, obviously, his initial concept as an integrator was, "We gotta marry IT technologies to SCADA technologies, you know?"

Remus: Yeah.

Don: Do that. 'Cause he was out there trying to put things together and he says, "Mike, if I could just get bidirectional data going back and forth between PLCs and SQL databases, if I could just do that, I could be so valuable to my customer."

Remus: Yeah.

Don: Honestly our foundation of the Inductive Automation Ignition platform was, handle those pain points and make data accessible, and this whole IT/OT convergence, of course, has become a buzzword, as you say over time, but that was the content that started our company in the darn first place, man.

Remus: Here's my chance to tell my how-I-found-Ignition story. So I worked for a company called A123 Systems, which was a lithium-ion battery manufacturer, and we were in the process of bankruptcy and we were bought by another company based out of China. So when the bankruptcy happened, we lost a lot of our developers that were built, that had custom-built an MES system for us at our site in Michigan. So we had a site in Michigan, we were building batteries, we had a full-blown custom home-grown MES system that's collecting data and doing traceability and tracking traceability and all these different things, and it was integrated into our shop floor equipment. And then during the bankruptcy, I think it was two or three of our developers that had built that system, left. Obviously the uncertainty of a bankruptcy will do that to people. And I decided to stick around and kinda volunteered for the position of, "Hey, we now have a sister site in China, we have to bring them up to speed within a MES system, similar to what we have here in Michigan, because our customers have come to expect this and we now have to deliver it from our sister site."

Remus: So my thought process, "Well, we just lost our developer, so I literally googled off-the-shelf MES system, and one of the things it came up with was Ignition. I downloaded it, I plugged into a couple of PLCs right away, and I was blown away with how effective modern technology, 'cause at the time, there wasn't really much in the space. And I was able to download this thing in two minutes, full-blown version of the product, put it on a server on a VM that we had running there and start connecting to (a) PLC. And to me that was just like, I was in shock and the timing just so happened to work out that there was a training a week or two later. So I talked to Vanessa, who is my sales rep still to this day, and I flew out a week later. I did the core training, and then in between, the core training was ICC. Yeah, I was in Folsom for about 18 days, 'cause I got there for the training, I stayed for four or five days in between and did some touristy stuff in the middle there, and then right after ICC was the Sepasoft training, so I stayed and did the MES module training. So I was in the office there for pretty much three weeks straight and the rest is history. I've taken Ignition with me everywhere I've gone since.

Don: That's actually amazing, Remus. I did not know that you had such a drink from the firehose, three weeks training out there in Folsom. Yeah, well, it seems to have paid off. So that's great. It's a great story. Alright, let me shift off, totally shift. With the global supply being in its current state, just a couple of comments, it's off-topic here a little bit. But I wanna ask, how have organizations adapted to disruptions? You must have an opinion or two on global supply chain impact? 

Remus: I think one of the most interesting things we see is obviously the government is very interested in bolstering our infrastructure and our supply chain here in the States. There's the big infrastructure bill that just came down that's gonna pump a lot of money into our manufacturing. I saw, just I think it was yesterday or the day before, I read an article with the head of Siemens had just met with the White House to put together an infrastructure and manufacturing plan to see how we could bolster all that stuff. So I really think the idea of technology being something that can be impactful to mitigate some of these world-changing events has really come to the forefront. So I know the really showing factor behind that too, is look at what Amazon and Microsoft are doing in this space as well. They're both investing billions of dollars into technologies specifically focused on manufacturing companies. Azure just released Azure Manufacturing which is a subset of Azure directed specifically tailored for manufacturing companies. And AWS, I know was doing a lot of things in that space as well with a lot of projects to help manufacturers, low cost, low resistance, kind of what we were talking about, get the data.

Remus: So I think that's been a pretty telling sign that there's a shift in the market, there's definitely a shift. And a lot of it, I think, has been expedited with what happened obviously with COVID. Nobody can ignore that. It's radically changed our entire work life, everything balanced over the last two years. Even I know you guys feel it, I know we do, so I think just seeing all that impact and being part of this industry, I can see that the side effect of that is that more and more companies are now starting to realize that there's real value to be gained by taking advantage of what we call the Industry 4.0, what others called Digital Transformation, what others call IIoT. It's really starting to come together now and everybody's really, really getting interested in what's happening. And we see that from clients to the mom and pop shop down the street that's been supplying the local manufacturing area for a long time, to mega 350-site manufacturing companies. So we see it spanning across all industries, all segments, it's really exciting.

Don: It is totally exciting. You actually sort of preempted my next question, but you may wanna add a couple of comments to it. In regards to those kind of trends, the trend inside an AWS or a Microsoft, an Amazon to basically get AWS and Azure moving strongly in the direction of manufacturing, obviously, building out infrastructure in this country, with the infrastructure bill is certainly gonna drive some trends in that area, any other trends you could comment on in terms of using technology to improve business value of an organization? Any other kind of just quick thoughts you might have on technology trends that are gonna drive that in addition to obviously all these organizational commitment trends? 

Remus: Yeah, I think a big technology piece that we see a lot right now is obviously focused on the connectivity of equipment. It's still one of the most significant challenges that we've run across outside of cultural... One of the hardest things that we do on a daily basis is understanding how to get data out of equipment, right? Some equipment's really easy. Some equipment, it's very, very difficult. So one of the big trends that we see is obviously the application of a private 5G and a private LTE. You no longer need to build a full Wi-Fi, you don't have to run cable to every machine in your building. That can get really expensive and could take a very long time. So one of the big trends I think that we're gonna see take over quite a bit here is private 5G, private LTE. I see that one kinda helping that connectivity piece, and I think driving more and more processing and information to that edge component. I know you guys have hosted Arlen Nipper from Cirrus Link quite a bit and somebody I look to quite a bit for information as well, but his whole idea and concept of connecting devices and machines to infrastructure, not applications.

Remus: And I think that's a growing trend. Obviously, it's been growing for a while now, but I think it's really starting to take off now, as more and more companies are getting interested in this and we have such a wide diversity of equipment in our facilities. It's not always a greenfield site with brand new Rockwell PLCs that have MQTT drivers built in, a lot of times it's a CNC machine that was built in 1970 before the age of Ethernet. Or it's a lathe that's cutting metal that's been there for 50 years. It still runs like a champ, and they don't wanna replace it, but you know, we wanna try to get some data. So a big trend we see is that exactly, although there's a lot of companies getting into that space, edge processing and edge censoring and how do we low-resistance and low-intrusiveness get the data out of the equipment. We don't always have the ability to change machine process code and get into the PLCs and actually write logic, we have to kind of rely on the ability to intercept that data and make it meaningful. So I think there's a couple of big trends too, and I think obviously with Microsoft and Amazon getting involved pretty heavily, that's gonna drive a lot of cloud technology getting applied, DevOps is a big one, and I think there's an opportunity for some pretty big leaps forward, for sure.

Don: You know when you mentioned the CNC machine, it was from 1970s. The brownfield world that we live in and will live in for some time, one of the things that happened to me that was a total eye-opener was Kevin McClusky and I were at a SPS Drive show in Nuremberg a couple years ago, and we went out to a customer site, Saint-Gobain Abrasives factory in Western Germany. And it was very, very interesting 'cause I'd never seen anything like that. But I mean, the equipment these guys are using, I don't know, some of them might have been 100-years-old. I have no idea what they were doing. But they've got all these bins with all these powders of all the different substances and minerals that go into making abrasives from the smallest little knife sharpening wheel to the largest thing that handles airplane wings. And I'm looking at all this, I'm going, my God. And then he goes into an oven at 2500-3000 degrees. I'm going, this is some old stuff, heavy duty equipment, and you think about that's the kind of organization that is the brownfield world that is part of Digital Transformation when you think about it.

Remus: I think our record right now, I think it is a machine that was built in 1946. I'll have to double check if it was '46 or '47, but that's our record as oldest piece of equipment connected right now. And we didn't get a lot of data out of it, but we were able to build some utilization dashboards off of it just by understanding vibration and temperature and current. So just by looking with some cheap sensors, low-intrusive, didn't have to do much but basically get some data out of it. Like I said, it's not gonna be to the level that you'll pull off of a modern piece of equipment, but a lot of times it's enough.

Don: Sure, sure. So as we come to sort of a close, my proverbial question, share your short-term, mid-term outlook of the future, Remus. How do you see it unfolding over the next few years? 

Remus: Oh man. It's bright, for sure. I think our space is one that's gonna gather or garner a lot of attention over the next coming years. Not only from with what happened with the pandemic and the need for remote work and remote monitoring of different systems within the facility, but just the culture change as well. I think the pandemic definitely drove, and I know a lot of people will echo this, some pretty quick advancements in manufacturing technology. And I think if my LinkedIn message board is any notification of how many people are interested in this topic, I think the future is very bright. And I know, again, kinda the whole idea of LinkedIn, there's not a day that goes by that there's not a recruiter that pings me about a new role for someone to lead Industry 4.0 at another company. So that's a good sign that this area is picking up and with Ignition, Inductive Automation, you guys have been at the forefront for a very long time and taking advantage of that fully, and been able to deliver some really, really awesome solutions, both as being the customer and now being an integrator.

Remus: And I make a joke quite regularly when I talk to somebody that hasn't heard of Ignition before or anything like that, I say often that if you guys ever go public, I'm gonna dump my life savings on that stock, so I think that's a pretty, pretty telling indicator of how I feel about the product here and I'm really happy that you invited me to be a part of this 'cause it's a really great tool. And I'm not just saying that because I'm on your podcast, honestly, it's something that I use every single day, and we apply it to manufacturers across all different industries, all different segments, all different sizes, so if that's an indicator of the things to come, I'm super excited.

Don: Remus, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with this today. And maybe you just did, but any final thing you wanna add before we start to wrap up here? 

Remus: No, I'm really looking forward, I'm hoping we can do ICC in person this year, that'd be something I've missed the last couple of years, for sure. I see some other conferences are starting to kinda get back in person here. I'm really hoping that we can do that with ICC and everything kinda stays at bay, but no, I just really enjoyed the conversation, Don, as always. I'm always here to chat and if anybody wants to look me up on LinkedIn, I'm fairly active, but not super active. I'm not some of the more influencer-type people on there, but I'm always open to a conversation. And if you wanna talk shop, obviously, that's something I'm really passionate about and I love to discuss it. So I'm happy to be here.

Don: Well, I totally appreciate your time. And to your point on ICC, clearly, we would love to have in person. Probably the goal is if we can do in person and hybrid, 'cause we like the virtual reach to the world, but we'd offset it time-wise a little bit. We're watching the environment real closely, we know we gotta make a decision within the next month or so about no go or go on a hybrid conference. But I can tell you, from our distributors around the world, from our integrators, from partners like you guys, we have a lot of pressure on us to get an in-person event going again. And internally on our team, we love getting together with our community and have really missed it the last couple of years. So all things being equal, let's just keep the division bright on this year's September ICC and hope we can make it work. Thanks so much, appreciate your time. With that, we're wrapped up on our conversation today.

Remus: Awesome.

Don Pearson: Have a good afternoon.

Remus: Thank you very much. Good afternoon.

Posted on April 1, 2022