Integrator Roundtable: Building A Successful & Sustainable Future In Manufacturing

54 min video  /  44 minute read Download PDF


Chris Fischer

Integrator Program Manager

Inductive Automation

Donald Bailey​​​​

Senior Digital Transformation Engineer

Gray Solutions

Nigel Flynn

Client Manager


Julio Velasco

Technology Solutions Manager

Automation Group

Matt Heiden

Director of People Operations

Flexware Innovation

John Downey

Portfolio Operations Manager

SL Controls Ltd

In today’s challenging economy, sustainability is the bedrock necessary for success. As system integrators work to build solutions to keep their customers’ operations efficient and sustainable, they must also keep themselves sustainable by cultivating the right kind of leadership, employees, and company culture.

This integrator roundtable will be packed with practical, first-hand advice on sowing the seeds of tomorrow’s success in today’s economy. Some of the best integrators across a wide range of industries will share insights on achieving great leadership, actionable tips to finding incredible talent, and what it really takes to create a company culture that cultivates success. They’ll also discuss building sustainable systems, recent challenges in integration, and emerging technologies in industrial automation. Don’t miss it!

Learn about:

  • Tips on effective leadership & finding top talent
  • How to build an empowering company culture
  • Building solutions in a rapidly evolving tech landscape
  • New technologies in industrial automation


:0:00:04.4 Chris Fisher: Hello, and welcome to our integrator roundtable, "Building A Successful And Sustainable Future In Manufacturing." We're so glad you've all joined us today. I think this is gonna be a really great discussion on a subject that's so important to integrators. To introduce myself, I'm Chris Fisher, Integrator Program Manager here at Inductive Automation, and I'll be the moderator for today's roundtable discussion. As Integrator Program Manager, I work with the companies enrolled in our program just to ensure that we're providing the necessary resources and tools to succeed with Ignition. And joining us today is Nigel Flynn, who is a Client Manager at Actemium. Nigel, can you talk a little bit about your role as a client manager?

0:00:45.7 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm a Client Manager at Actemium in the MES and Digital Transformation Group, based out of Toronto in Canada. And Actemium is a global network of companies that are dedicated to industry, with a global footprint providing tailored solutions for our customers.

0:01:05.2 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Nigel. We also have with us today Donald Bailey, a Senior Digital Transformation Engineer at Gray Solutions. Donald, can you tell us a little bit about what you do there?

0:01:16.6 Donald Bailey: Sure, Chris. As Chris said, I'm Donald Bailey, Senior Digital Transformation Engineer at Gray Solutions. And at Gray Solutions, we provide our customers with solutions, basically from grassroots, through production, startup, commissioning, all the way to integrating their manufacturing data into the business. So we offer a full gambit of services for our customers. For me specifically, I'm in digital solutions and looking to give customers access to their data and transform it into actionable knowledge.

0:01:54.2 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Donald. Also joining us today is Julio Velasco, Technology Solutions Manager at Automation Group. Julio, can you share with us more details about what you do at Automation Group?

0:02:05.6 Julio Velasco: Yeah, I just arrived here in Mexico yesterday, so I'm doing a project that we're doing with Guadalajara. So I work... My position in Automation Group... Now, we're now part of E-Tech Group. I basically do design, engineering.

0:02:20.5 Chris Fisher: Looks like we might have lost you there, Julio. We'll circle back around. We've also got Matt Heiden joining us today. Matt is the Director of People Operations at FlexWare Innovation. Matt, can you give us a little bit more of an introduction to yourself and what you do there at FlexWare?

0:02:37.3 Matt Heiden: Yeah. First, thanks for Inductive Automation for putting this on. So here at FlexWare, I head up all of our recruiting and HR functions as a growing systems integrator. At FlexWare, we like to say as a systems integrator, "We do everything from the shop floor to the top floor" in manufacturing. So helping them with controls and automation to the SCADA level to MES and even up into the ERP layer, integrating all those different layers together. So excited to be part of the panel.

0:03:05.2 Chris Fisher: Happy to have you. Thanks, Matt. And last but not least, we've got John Downey, Portfolio Operations Manager at SL Controls Limited. John, can you tell us a little bit more about what you do there at SL Controls?

0:03:17.5 John Downey: Yeah, sure, Chris. Thanks for the opportunity, folks, today. So SL Controls is a systems integration company based out of Ireland and Florida in the US. We're part of a global group, NNIT, which specialize in life science technology. Particularly, our focus would be in the area of Digital Transformation. And in that, we're looking to, I suppose, project goals for our clients will be around increasing compliance aspects and efficiency for their operations. We would specialize in level 0 to level 2, 3. And then we would integrate with our NNIT partners in terms of level 3 and above. So offering a full stack solution for our clients.

0:04:10.4 Chris Fisher: Thanks, John. And thanks to all of our panelists today. I'm glad to have you all here with me. And we look forward to hearing your insights on how integrators can succeed in today's economy. So here's the agenda for today. First, we'll give some background information on Inductive Automation and Ignition. Then we'll start our roundtable discussion off by talking about building solutions that can keep up with a rapidly evolving tech landscape. Then we'll discuss important qualities in leader and integration business. Following that, we'll explore sustainability and manufacturing. From there, we'll discuss the importance of company culture. Then we'll talk about how to find top talent. And we'll continue by discussing the latest technologies to keep an eye out on over the next year and how Ignition factors into using new technologies.

0:05:00.3 Chris Fisher: And our last discussion topic will focus on advice for integrators who are just starting out. After our roundtable discussion, we'll have a Q&A in case anyone in the audience today has a question for one of our panelists or myself. And if you think of a question during the webinar, go ahead and type it into the questions area of the GoToWebinar control panel, and we'll answer as many of them as we can. If we can't get to your question today, though, I encourage you to reach out, and one of our knowledgeable account representatives will be able to answer it for you. Also, just to let you know, this webinar and the webinar slides will be made available within the next few days if you wanna go over any of it again or share it with someone who wasn't able to make it today.

0:05:40.2 Chris Fisher: So before we get into our discussion, I'd just like to introduce Inductive Automation in case you aren't familiar with our company. Here are a few facts about us. We make software for problem solvers, and we're focused on our software platform, Ignition. 61% of Fortune 100 companies use Ignition. We have a highly diversified customer base across many industries. There are Ignition installations in over 100 countries worldwide. We have over 4,000 integrators worldwide enrolled in our Integrator Program. And our company is profitable and independent, with no outside investors. And our focus is on providing the best platform for our customers.

0:06:20.8 Chris Fisher: And here's a little more information about Ignition. Ignition is a universal industrial application platform for HMI, SCADA, MES, and IIoT. It acts as a central hub for everything on the plant floor and beyond. And you can use it to create any kind of industrial application. It's web-based, web-managed, and web-deployed. It's cross-platform. It offers industrial strength, security, and stability. And since the topic at hand today is sustainability, I'll mention, too, that Ignition's unlimited licensing model is just one of the ways this platform supports sustainability efforts. Inductive Automation has an incredible Integrator Program that offers a ton of resources to help you do your job better and land more business.

0:07:07.1 Chris Fisher: We're committed to helping you become as successful as possible because your success is our success. It's free and easy to join the program, and there are no obligations whatsoever on your end. You'll get free, world-class tech support, so there are no annual fees or per-incidents support fees. As a member of the Integrator Program, you'll have access to exclusive marketing resources, including educational videos to help improve your Ignition sales. And as you progress in the program, the benefits only get better. At the credentialed and higher levels, you score a discount on Ignition software and certification tests.

0:07:44.5 Chris Fisher: And once you reach the premier level, you get valuable co-marketing opportunities where we'll help shine a spotlight on your business. All of our panelists today work for premier integrator companies. You can follow the link on the screen to join the program. All right, now I know our panelists have a lot of valuable insights to share today, so let's kick off this roundtable discussion with a question about building solutions for the future. These days, technology is advancing faster than ever. And in order to be sustainable, it's important to have control systems that can adapt to and incorporate these advancements. So question number one: how can integrators build solutions that keep up with a rapidly evolving technology landscape? Nigel, let's kick things off with you.

0:08:29.7 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, thanks, Chris. And it's a great question. And I think, for me, it really starts with how we can first best serve our customers. The focus on the customer first before the technology. Because technology is rapidly evolving, there's lots of exciting breakthroughs that are happening. But we still must focus and look at, well, what will benefit our customers? So at Actemium, we invest in technological research, but particularly the application of this technology to our customers' use cases. And to be successful at this, we need to make sure that we keep current with our customers and understand the challenges that they're going through, 'cause that's also ever-evolving, in order to supply the solutions that they need.

0:09:16.7 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Nigel. Julio, do we have you on the call?

0:09:19.1 Julio Velasco: Yeah, so I would say that it's important to stay focused with what the requirements are of any project for any customer and understand what their real needs are and the goal of any project. There is a lot of new options and new technology, and new tools and apps, and APIs. And it's really easy to get lost in all the noise. But like Nigel has mentioned before, we focus on solving problems and generating simple, long-term solutions. And sometimes simple is better. Simplicity, especially because the project is going to end up in the customer's hands and they're gonna have to support it and maintain it. It's important to focus on taking advantage of new technology, but also to make it as seamless and easy as possible, right? Keep it simple.

0:10:15.3 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Julio. How about you, Matt?

0:10:17.4 Matt Heiden: Yeah, I think very similar to what Nigel and Julio said first, you have to listen to the customer. You have to understand what their needs are, and then sometimes maybe it's asking them, "Hey, have you thought of this technology? Or that have you thought of Ignition as a possible solution?" But really, what I think also at the end of the day after you listen to your customer is, as an integrator, we're problem solvers. Our job is to go out and find different solutions for our customers, because that's what they're hiring us to do. So when we're hiring people, we have to look at them as problem solvers that want to continue to advance and look at new technology that's out there on the landscape. Not just doing it the way that it had been done in the past, but how can we push those boundaries a little bit to get them to advance and do that and solve the problems for our customers in new ways?

0:11:09.0 Chris Fisher: How about you, John?

0:11:11.1 John Downey: Yeah, I'd agree with what the guys have said already in terms of the customer focus, as would be the case with our own business at SL Controls. Probably there's two strands to that in terms of the customer needs. Firstly, would be immediate pain points. So often, in a new customer engagement, they're focused on the short term and the immediate challenge that they have. But as you work with the customer, you maintain and build an awareness of what their needs are emerging over the next, you know, 12-36 months in their technology landscape and how you can partner with them better to deliver those needs over that timeframe. And that comes with time in a client relationship.

0:11:55.8 John Downey: But by doing that, I suppose you can identify the right technologies for the right project, such as whether it's Ignition's flexibility to customize solutions and the range of connectivity that there is available. But also it allows time to prioritize our own R&D efforts on certain emerging technologies that we see that our customers are talking about, will be interested in implementing. Maybe not specifically with Ignition yet, but maybe on other systems that are going to need to integrate to projects like Ignition projects. So it's about that short and longer-term view with the customer.

0:12:41.7 Chris Fisher: Donald, your thoughts.

0:12:43.4 Donald Bailey: I'm gonna echo some of the things already said, but, you know, at Gray Solutions, we stay on top of new technology and what's out there, what's coming. But at the end of the day, as others have said, we like to deliver our solutions based on real customer challenges. There's a lot of flashy technology out there, a lot of things that are really interesting and cool to look at and watch. But sometimes, we might get caught up with that, trying to find a problem that uses a solution when what we should really focus on is what does the customer really need? And that's what we do at Gray Solutions. We design for, you know, the right user that's going to be using our technology, and keep in mind that simplicity and how is it gonna be maintained down the road to keep it viable and a good return on investment for our customer.

0:13:39.5 Chris Fisher: It sounds like that customer-first approach has proven successful for all of you. So for our next topic, I'd like to discuss the importance of leadership. Effective leadership is critical to guide your team long-term and achieve lasting success. What do you think are the most important qualities of a leader in the integration business? Julio, let's start with you.

0:13:58.9 Julio Velasco: I think this is kind of like a two-part question, right? So you have both leaders in the industry and then leaders within your company as mentors and project managers, and directors. Where people follow your lead, and you get to spend time training them and developing their technical and interpersonal skills. I think, as a leader in the industry, I think honesty and integrity is key when you're dealing with customers, and basically, do what you said you were gonna do, basically, right? So pretty simple; keep your word. And with internal as a leader I would in the company, I would say is be patient and always think about the success of others equals to your success. And always remember that you were once that inquisitive kid that was always asking questions and bothering people because of your excitement of learning something new or getting exposed to new technology. I think that that should be celebrated, I think, our curious minds and our willingness to grow within the industry.

0:15:11.8 Chris Fisher: How about you, Matt?

0:15:13.7 Matt Heiden: Yeah, as I kinda think about this question, I think of the people leadership and how that integrates into how you run an integration business. And one, I think you have to have a genuine care for people, and that's your own people as well as, like Julio said, your customers too. And it kinda goes back to a little bit what we were talking about in the first one, and that's being an active listener. As engineers and problem solvers, we often want to problem-solve on the spot there but you have to be an active listener and be able to hear them all the way through before kinda coming up with that solution.

0:15:44.4 Matt Heiden: So caring for people and being an active listener, as well as being willing to roll up your sleeves and help out. Here at FlexWare, all of our leaders have a servant-minded leadership that they're willing to go in and serve and do that and that starts at the top with our CEO, Scott. And that's kind of the model that has been portrayed along, and everybody kind of adopts to that and we look for those types of things. And then another thing: one of our core values, as we say, is never stop learning. So the ability to learn and grow because you're going to evolve your business you're going to evolve your team, so you need to be able to figure out how to solve those problems in different ways by learning new methodologies or new technologies, or whatever the case is. So being able to still problem-solve and learn just in different capacities.

0:16:30.6 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Matt. John.

0:16:32.5 John Downey: Yeah, I think in terms of the leadership within the arena of integration sector, I think maintaining a focus on our strategic priorities because there are multiple technologies, applications, use cases across a variety of sectors. It's very difficult in our experience to serve all of those in the same way and deliver the best service. So I think focusing on our strategic priorities, which at SL Controls is in the life science and regulated industries, and being able to support that with a technology roadmap that gives guidance to our teams in terms of what's emerging, what's... Where the needs are of our current customers in the future? Helping to plan for proofs of concept and understanding any sectoral considerations.

0:17:31.8 John Downey: For example, life science, the specific regulatory requirements there and how they would need to influence our business. But aligned to that and underpinning all of our business, I think of everybody on the call today is our people, and our team's professional development is a key aspect of how we want to grow as a business and how we can grow. So we've put policies in place to ensure that our teams are supported with CPD so that they can grow their skill sets in the areas that they're interested in and motivated in. And that helps to develop the solutions of the future for ourselves and our clients. And that positions our teams to challenge themselves no matter what their experience level, from graduate to multiple decades to challenge themselves on appropriate projects for our customers.

0:18:33.6 Chris Fisher: Donald.

0:18:33.9 Donald Bailey: So yeah, just to echo what a few others have said here, but go a little bit further. At Gray Solutions, we have a people-first approach. It really comes from the Gray Inc. and the Gray family of companies down through Gray Solutions. And with that, also comes trust. As a technical leader within Gray Solutions, one of my jobs is to provide direction and guidance, particularly to Ignition and how that technology is used within Gray Solutions. And part of that is growing that technical expertise, making sure we've got people coming up, and being able to do the various things that need to be done with the technology. And having that people-first mindset helps establish practices that encourage innovation. We put guardrails in place, but not necessarily the thou shall commandments.

0:19:34.6 Donald Bailey: And it kinda gives people a safe space to operate, to go out, to try new things, to implement things in a very quality-driven way. But in the end, we have to trust the people we train and the people we hire. And sometimes, as a leader, you have to keep an open mind, be willing to have the discussion, and sometimes, you just have to get out of the way and let people kind of try new things and see what sticks. And then take it from there and help grow in a positive manner. And we look for people who... We're a curious bunch, we're solutioneers, so we lead with curiosity. That's one of our mottos at Gray Solutions.

0:20:20.0 Chris Fisher: How about you, Nigel?

0:20:20.5 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, I think I would echo pretty much what everyone has said, but also focus on the key qualities that I think that we have here at Actemium, would be the responsibility and servitude that we definitely feel towards our customers, first and foremost. Their initiatives that they're involved, and we are involved with them on because we're a stakeholder in that. But also the responsibility that we feel towards our valued team, which we wouldn't be in this place without them. So I think everything starts there. And I believe that at the leadership level, we demonstrate those qualities, and it kinda sets the tone for the rest of the organization. But secondly, I would say one of the other key qualities would have to be the vision. An alignment within the team, within the company about the overall vision and direction where the company is going, because otherwise we lose sight of that and who we are. So I think that has helped us to continue to serve our customers and really focus on what success looks like for us with our customers.

0:21:32.2 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Nigel. So our next topic is about sustainability and manufacturing, which is getting more and more critical in our current economy. Sustainability, in a very simple sense, is the ability to maintain something into the future. For a business, this means having prolonged financial success and operations that don't deteriorate. Ultimately, being sustainable helps safeguard the success you worked so hard to achieve. So I'd like to discuss these questions related to sustainability. Why is sustainability and manufacturing important? How can integrators help with sustainability, and how can Ignition aid in sustainability efforts? You can address any or all of these questions in your answers. Let's start with John.

0:22:15.9 John Downey: Yeah. I think in terms of sustainability, it's a, I suppose, a term that's been used more and more in recent times, but at its heart and at our client's heart, sustainability has been part and parcel of solutions that they've been requesting for a number of years. Because sustainability is reduction of waste, whether that's raw materials waste, resource waste within utilities in our client organizations, And also, so we would have plenty of solutions targeting OEE and other resource tracking for our clients and reporting. So there's that aspect that it remains important. It's not new that it is important, and it's going to always be important for our customers. I suppose from our side, at SL Controls, what we do see is that the growing ask from an ESG perspective and from a regulatory perspective does share synergies with sustainability. And our ability to access data to integrate to systems and report out on data, whether it's in dashboard or other form, helps our clients to be able to stay on top of those goals.

0:23:44.6 Chris Fisher: Thanks, John. And Donald, how does Gray Solutions approach sustainability?

0:23:48.5 Donald Bailey: Sustainability is kind of one of those key topics, and it has many different aspects within, in what we do. Number one, sustainability practices in terms of environmental sustainability, and things like that show that we have a commitment not only to the environment too, but to helping our customers reduce waste in terms of energy, material, labor, whatever you wanna call it. As well as making sure that the technologies we put out there are sustainable by future generations of engineers and technologists down the road. In that aspect, we see Ignition as a key platform allowing us to not only make data available to our customers but make it so that we can add context to it and transform it into that actionable knowledge so they can see where they can make improvements and optimizations in their process. This helps unlock cost savings. We also look at this through terms of vision systems and robotics to help improve how the operators can actually do their jobs so that they can be more effective and more efficient in that case. Especially in this market where there seems to be a labor shortage. So if we can make the labor they currently have more effective, then that's a win for everyone.

0:25:15.7 Chris Fisher: And Nigel, your thoughts?

0:25:17.5 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, well, on the question of why sustainability and manufacturing is important, I guess I would say in recent years, what we've seen, at least at Actemium, is there are... Our customers are coming to us with corporate initiatives, and there's regulatory requirements around these kinds of initiatives. Maybe with regarding energy or some sort of operational performance sustainability. So I think really at the heart of it is it can often be a market competitiveness for our customers. Again, always looking at how to improve, how can integrators can help with this? I would say that, at a very practical level, is do what we do best, provide solutions to our customers. And where I... At least at Actemium, we feel Ignition comes in on that is, and why Ignition is so well placed for that is because of it being an all-in-one manufacturing platform and it being able to touch all aspects of manufacturing and its services that support the manufacturing, including utilities in that. So I think what we do at Actemium is really go to our customers with solutions showing how Ignition can be that one platform to provide that hub for data regarding sustainability, the analytics related to that to really drive these initiatives. So yeah.

0:26:50.3 Chris Fisher: Thanks Nigel. Julio, how about you?

0:26:53.1 Julio Velasco: I think Donald nailed it in talking about identifying the KPIs. And identifying how can we extract data from the process and meet compliance requirements, have profiles of specific runs and recipes to compare the data. So turning data into useful information is key. And then the responsibility of monitoring utilities and power usage and seeing that there are ways to increase efficiency and reduce waste and overall excessive water, gas, electricity, compressed air. So I think it was mentioned by our other panelists that we, as integrators, we have to always keep that in mind. How is our solution not only gonna fix the problem but also enhance the performance and the operation? At the end of the day, that's what technology's supposed to be doing. It's supposed to be making things easier, making things more efficient, and then, overall, reducing waste and increasing quality of the product. So those are, I think, key aspects that we should always think about anytime we get any kind of opportunity or request for quote proposal.

0:28:13.0 Chris Fisher: Okay. Let's move on now to talk a little bit about company culture. You need to make sure you have an empowering company culture to help everyone grow professionally and cultivate success for the future. The value of company culture really can't be overstated. So why, panelists, do you think company culture is important for integrators? And what are the most crucial elements to creating a strong culture? Matt, let's start with you.

0:28:38.2 Matt Heiden: Yeah. This one is very near and dear to me, as we hire people, as the way that our company has been built, and everything. So I think culture kinda sometimes gets this idea that it's about like, "Oh, we have a cool ping pong table or break room, or these "perks" that you get." And those are all well and good and add or augment to your culture, but those are not about your culture. You know, any company can kinda add those things in. But culture really comes down to being genuine to yourself. And that's usually the person that started the company or the integration company and the values that they embody. And so for FlexWare, what we've boiled those down to in our four core values are: be healthy, never stop learning, say it like it is, and own it.

0:29:23.0 Matt Heiden: And we do not compromise on these values. So when we're going to look for people that we're gonna hire into the organization, we are looking for those core values as we're getting to know them, and we don't compromise on that. You can be the best technical person out there, but if you're missing one of our core values, or at least we feel that way, we just believe there's probably a better place out there for you than at FlexWare. So you really have to stick to those core values when you're building your culture. 'Cause if you compromise on those, you're not gonna be able to have the culture that is genuine to who you are. One of the famous quotes that I've heard that I think kind of encompass culture, it doesn't relate directly to it, but I'm a big Notre Dame football fan. So this comes from Lou Holtz; when he was asked one time to describe the mystique of Notre Dame, he said, "If you've ever been there, no explanation is necessary. If you've never been there, no explanation will suffice." And I think that kinda sums up culture. You don't really know what it is until you experience it. And to build that is sometimes a hard thing. But the biggest thing I think you can do is be genuine to who you are and don't compromise on those values.

0:30:32.8 Chris Fisher: Thanks Matt. And John, how does company culture play into SL controls?

0:30:38.0 John Downey: I think it is a huge part to play, Chris, in terms of both for our clients and prospective clients and employees and prospective employees. It's important to have an identity and to have a connection with that culture facing outwards, and also for the team working within SL Controls that they're experiencing that culture. So from our side, we have an identity that's based on values that both clients and employees can identify with, that garners trust and respect both internally and externally. And for SL Controls, our values about having a positive, supportive environment to promote career progression, to recognize the work-life balance that's at play, and also do all of that while encouraging innovation and excellence in our product delivery. So I think for any company, whether we're the panelists talking today or anybody, it is a huge part, and it's that culture that somebody will experience and recognize that that's a fit for them. And in today's marketplace for skill talent, it's something that we have to promote and make sure that we're getting our message out there so that prospective employees can identify with our values.

0:32:07.9 Chris Fisher: Thanks, John. Donald, how about you?

0:32:10.5 Donald Bailey: So, yeah, company culture absolutely sets the tone for what you do, how you do it, and your desire to come to work every day. At Gray Solutions, our core values really can be summed up in trust, safety, and people first collaboration always. We want to be trusted advisors, delivering outcome-based solutions with deep collaboration and lasting partnerships with our customers. But at the same time, we want to provide fulfilling team experiences. And all of this starts at the top of our company with our CEO, Walker, and how we have transparency and continued dialogue at all levels to make sure that we're all aligned and going in the same direction as a company. As well as looking out for each other and finding opportunities to where people can find that enjoyment and do some of the things that they enjoy doing.

0:33:06.3 Donald Bailey: You know, explore new technologies and learn new things as well. So to me, being at Gray Solutions, that people-first attitude is absolutely key. You know, they call us solutioneers, and we are solutioneers. We're not just employees. We're empowered to let curiosity lead. We look for people who have that same desire and curiosity to see what's out there in the world. And it's a reminder, it's not just clever wording to call us solutioneers. It's a reminder that we need to understand the challenges our customers face and look to implement the best solutions for them, not just push some new cool technology that's kind of flashy. Again, at Gray Solutions, our people is our strength, without them, we don't have anything. And so we look for like-minded people who can push that envelope, deliver innovation, and let curiosity lead.

0:34:06.2 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Donald. Nigel, how about you?

0:34:08.9 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, well, I think I'd first echo everything that the panelists have said. I think there's so much commonality between us there. But I think one thing in particular that I would focus on is, again, that, like Matt had said, that people first. And that really includes our customers as our key focus, but our team, which again, we would be nothing without 'em. So we want our team to enjoy coming to work, we want our customers to enjoy working with us, and that's a key part of what we do here at Actemium. At the heart of the company, is our people. And then, when it comes to what are the critical elements of creating the culture that we have here at Actemium, I would say, first and foremost, it's the purpose that everyone has and their contribution to the overall company. I think we really try to instill and really outline from an early stage of an employee's time at Actemium. They're key contributors, they're stakeholder in our business, in our success with our customers. And I think that really then drives better partnerships with our customers and longer-sustained relationships.

0:35:27.0 Chris Fisher: And Julio, your thoughts on company culture?

0:35:29.7 Julio Velasco: Yeah, I completely agree with the rest of the panelists, especially Donald. I think that creating the environment for... Stimulating environment for growth and getting input from engineers is crucial. Otherwise, they're gonna leave because they're gonna reach like a ceiling, like a stop, right? And they're gonna look elsewhere. But that's basically what we would try to instill is an environment where we ask them, what kind of industry are you interested in? What would you like to be doing five years from now? And of course it's gonna change throughout their career, but we have direct reports, engineering managers, and team leaders that are capable of maintaining direct communication with every engineer in every department to keep close tab on what they like and what they like to do. And even for team events and team building exercises. So that's what we kind of focus on—just communication.

0:36:32.0 Chris Fisher: Thanks Julio. A lot of intangibles to consider on the topic of company culture. Of course, having a strong company culture doesn't mean much without the right employees. Due to the widespread labor shortage in the US, a lot of people are struggling these days to find skilled workers that are a good fit for their company. So what steps can integrators take to attract talented people? And where are the best places to find that new, skilled talent? John, your thoughts?

0:37:01.8 John Downey: Yeah, I think, you know, I'd shared the opinion on the skills availability. It is a challenge, not only in the US, we see it in Europe as well. However, I think the key aspect of solving that challenge is having a good understanding of the type of talent and the profile of person, a candidate, that you're looking for in any search. And that it's always targeted, that it's not a too broad a search in that respect. But one of the things in terms of where is the best place maybe to find skilled or new talent, we found in 20 plus years of existence, as SL Controls and now as part of NNIT, that approximately 30% of our organization currently would've joined the company over the years as graduates.

0:38:04.9 John Downey: So partnerships with universities, technical schools would be very important to identify graduates and newly qualified people. And also, you know, the remainder of our people are based on... Have come to the business based on years of experience, whether it's anything from a few to several years to decades. And they bring experience from possibly different sectors. Client side, solution provider side. So everybody brings something different. And I think there is no one best place. You've got to have a different strategy to attract talent across the different experience levels and for the different skill sets, I think. We've been identifying engineers, architects, and developers based on their drive to learn new skills, their cultural fit, and their will to evolve their experience from whatever it is, from wherever it's been, with our business and our customers.

0:39:13.9 Chris Fisher: Thanks, John. How about you, Nigel?

0:39:17.2 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, it's a great topic, and it's something that is definitely a focus of ours here at Actemium. When it comes to the question about how do we attract talented people, the only thing I could really say I think is we try and demonstrate who we are. You know, our culture, our vision. And in that really striking accord, I think with whoever the particular resource or candidate might be, to really show and be transparent about who Actemium is and that it's a good fit for them. And I think another part that we've seen in the past is just our recruiting really has gone on from strength to strength, and that has included our own employees. Obviously, their experiences within the company may be from the very beginning out of as a graduate and how they've kind of gone up through the ranks within the company.

0:40:10.9 Nigel Flynn: So I think that's all... Those stories are often key in really attracting new talent and what it's like to work for Actemium. When it comes to then what places, we're like, where are the best places to find skilled talent? I think I have to say I agree with John in that there's really no one best place. But starting with our graduates, I think we identified quite early on in our... And even in our Toronto office, we have a co-op program that we have with a... And a partnership with universities to bring on candidates and to really grow them into integrators. And we've done that down through the years, and in Leadership Hub, some of those people are still working with us. So, yeah.

0:40:58.4 Nigel Flynn: And then for maybe our more senior employees and just other talent that we find. I think one of the big parts and the big advantages for us as being Actemium is because we are a global company of 400 business units worldwide, we have a global outreach, and we find people that maybe wanna move locations. They're maybe working in Europe, and they wanna move to North American office. And we've had quite a lot of that, including myself moving to another country and finding Actemium. So I think those are the big parts and how we find and retain skilled.

0:41:40.5 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Nigel. Matt, how about you?

0:41:42.8 Matt Heiden: Yeah, this one is definitely, I would say, near and dear to my heart. Again, kinda like the culture, this is what I grew up kinda doing here at Flexware. So if I go on, please shut me off or just mute me. So I think the first step in what integrators can do to attract people is you have to have a good process of vetting your candidates, making sure that they're gonna fit the technical solutions or technical problems, or the problem-solving skills that you need in order to serve your customers. And then, how do they fit into your culture? You have to be able to vet for that as well. And so having that process in place is kinda the starting point. 'Cause if you don't have that in place and then you end up turning over a lot of people, you know, there's all kinds of estimates out there. And the one I kinda see most common is it costs you about 50-60% of the person's salary if you have to backfill them or replace them.

0:42:34.6 Matt Heiden: So it can be very costly if you don't have that process in place. So those would be some first steps, is to make sure you have a good vetting process. And then beyond that, where the best place is to find talent, again, like the other panels have said, I don't think there's one place. There's some things, some keys that kinda happen. We kinda... At Flexware, we look at recruiting as a little bit of a marketing and selling aspect. So we're always wanting to have conversations with potential candidates. There have been times where we have talked to a candidate and then we haven't hired them until three or four years later, but we've stayed in touch with them over that time because I take the mentality that recruiting is all about timing.

0:43:12.4 Matt Heiden: It's when the candidate's ready. It's when the employer is ready, and you have to have those constant conversations just to understand where people are at in their careers and when it lines up. But similar to what some of the other panelists have said, I mean, universities and getting those young college grads is always a good starting point. Having, if you know a good university that is a good pipeline for where you are, get to know those professors and the career employment offices, and stuff like that. And so you can kinda get the inside track from those on some of the top talent that is coming out of their universities. Some of the other things is, I forget who mentioned it, but the employee referrals that is a huge part of what we do. In fact, 20% of our flex dogs come from candidate referrals. So you have to have a good referral program. And we do pay that out if somebody refers somebody. So tap into those people that are already at your business because they're the... I always say good people know good people.

0:44:12.5 Matt Heiden: So they're gonna know the right ones and wanna refer 'em. Beyond that, this is one data point that I'm trying to get from us, is how many of our people that we actually have come from our applications. Right now, I'm estimating it's about 10–15% of our hires are from applications. So that means that if 20% come from our referrals and 10 or 15% come from applications, then where are the other 65% coming from? And that really comes down to you have to reach out to people. You can't wait for people to apply to your positions. So about 65% of our hires are, we are actively reaching out to people. We are engaging conversations. So we're going out there into the different communities and getting involved in them and chats and reaching out to people, cold calling them seeing if they're interested in Flexware. So you have to be willing to kinda take that mentality to go out and find the people and have all those conversations to see if they're a fit for your organization.

0:45:14.4 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Matt. I'd like to shift gears a little now to look ahead to the future of technology. There's a lot of exciting advancements in industrial automation technologies happening right now. So panelists, what do you consider to be the top emerging technologies to keep an eye on over the next year? Donald, let's kick it off with you this time.

0:45:33.9 Donald Bailey: I think some of the emerging technology that we're going to see is gonna come in the form of AI and potentially some robotics in there as well. You know, currently, predictive AI and machine learning, we're already adding value with those technologies to some extent, particularly in the area of vision systems and quality control from that standpoint. I think generative AI will be a growing field. I look forward to seeing how that emerges and comes about, and can be leveraged on the manufacturing side. I think what we have to be careful of with some of these technologies is how AI and machine learning really work in real-time systems. Oftentimes, inputs are not clean, maybe data's not even available sometimes. Generative AI may help with this.

0:46:25.9 Donald Bailey: But we need to make sure that as we study these emerging technologies and put them into place, we put those guardrails on so that we can maintain the determinism that's required down in the manufacturing. Now, take a step away from that, and I think at the higher levels, in the MES layers and the other data integration, as we move a little bit away from that real-time to near-real-time world, the opportunities we have with some of this technology is really only kept by our ability to actually contextualize data, understand what it is, and implement the right model to get us the solution.

0:47:08.8 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Donald. How about you, Nigel?

0:47:12.5 Nigel Flynn: Yeah, I'd definitely echo what Donald was saying. When it comes to AI, I think that's an interesting one. Specifically, generative AI, and for us at Actemium, especially in the MES and Digital Transformation group, I think we're quite interested to see how it could affect manufacturing operations in the MES landscape and of activities. But it's actually interesting. I was reading an article the other day about trends in general that are over the next year in manufacturing and what to look for when it comes to technology. And one of the ones that were mentioned was actually flattening the stack, the technology stack. And I don't know if that particular publisher had been keeping an eye on Inductive Automation's Ignition over the last couple of years, but that's exactly what Ignition has been doing. And so when I think about how Ignition can factor into these kind of emerging technologies, I think we've been seeing that already where it is simplifying the technology stack for our customers so that we can do what we do best, focus on the customer and the solutions, not the technologies. But it is the technology that's aiding it. So, and I think that's been instrumental, and I'm looking forward to see how we can grow from there with that idea of flattening the stack.

0:48:39.1 Chris Fisher: Thanks, Nigel. Julio, do we have you on the call still?

0:48:42.2 Julio Velasco: So I think it was a really good answer. I also believe that AI algorithms are gonna make their way through the the OT layer. The operations technology layer. And form... I could see different type of algorithms for reporting, for identifying irregularities in the process, even for real time adjustments to set points or parameters. But we have to be very, very careful and thoughtful of about the consequences of doing this. We're seeing more and more smart devices throughout facilities now too, and their ability to upload diagnostic data directly to the cloud. Not only diagnostic data but process information to data lakes by leveraging IIoT and MQTT technology. So I think it's gonna explode even more. It's gonna be everything. Everybody's gonna be logging, every device is gonna be considered a smart device. And in the near future, every potential device that has information that it could share, from a photo eye to a robot, you know, so that's... It's exciting to be part of this kind of new industrial revolution, and it's great to be part of it. The Industry 4.0 and then how Ignition kind of is a gateway for moving communication from one place to another. It's a great tool to incorporate into this whole infrastructure.

0:50:12.9 Chris Fisher: Thanks Julio. Folks, we're just about of time here, but if you've never tried Ignition, you can download a free trial today on our website, It's quick to download, takes about three minutes to install, and you can use it in that trial mode for as long as you want. So you can jump in and explore the platform, where you can build sustainable solutions for your customers. We have a ton of valuable resources to help you learn how to use Ignition, including Inductive University. Inductive University is a free online training website with hundreds of training videos, so you can learn Ignition step-by-step at your own pace. And there's also a comprehensive online user manual that you can refer to at any time. For those of you outside of North America, we want you to know that we have a network of international Ignition distributors who provide business development opportunities and sales and technical support in your language and time zone.

0:51:05.3 Chris Fisher: If you wanna learn about the distributor in your region, please visit their website listed on the screen here, or you can contact our international distribution manager, Yegor Karnaukhov. If you'd like to speak with one of our account representatives at our headquarters in California, please call 800-266-7798. To reach our new office in Australia, please call the number at the bottom of the screen. Okay, so we are just about of time. It looks like we've got maybe one question here in the chat. Here's the question for our panelists: "India has a huge skilled manpower available, and companies like ours train them on Ignition. The opportunity for outsourcing to India could be a good strategy. What are your thoughts?" Panelists, anybody wanna chime in on this?

0:51:52.6 John Downey: Yeah. I can, Chris. So I suppose that's true, and I think any geography that's as well populated as India offers great talent opportunity for integrators or service providers such as theirselves. And I suppose, as part of a global organization, we already have a presence in multiple continents. So, you know, that's something that we continue to look at, and members of teams from multiple nationalities. So adding value to our customers at SL Controls. So, I don't think that any one of us can be closed off to the idea of a certain geography or a certain territory in terms of attracting talent. Or, in the future, being able to have local support for deployed solutions as well, especially as we implement global solutions for some of our key clients. You know, some of those come with requirements for local support. So yeah, it's definitely on the horizon, I think, for everybody if they're not doing it already.

0:53:01.0 Matt Heiden: Yeah, I would probably just echo what John said. I mean, we can't be closed off to all possibilities as the world kinda becomes smaller in a sense with global solutions and in different manufacturers having different solutions all over the globe. You have to have people kinda local that maybe know that area, just like he was saying that, you know, to deploy the solutions as well as help develop them along the way. So we always have to be open to those ideas and figure out a way to possibly make those work.

0:53:31.7 Chris Fisher: Well, folks, thank you again for your time today. We'll be back on June 27th with another webinar, but until then, stay connected with us on social media and subscribe to our weekly news feed email. You can also stay up-to-date through our blog, articles, case studies, and more. There's plenty of helpful content for you to explore on our website, so be sure to check it out. Thank you so much for joining us at our round table today. Have a fantastic rest of your day, everyone. Bye-bye.

Posted on May 10, 2024