Chief Strategy Officer
President of Industrial Technology
CTO and Managing Partner
Ignition Team Lead
Elizabeth Hill Reed
After navigating many unforeseen challenges in 2020 and 2021, how should system integrators move forward in 2022? The answer will be different for every integrator, which is why we’ve gathered a group of experienced integration professionals who work in a variety of areas and industries to talk about what lies ahead.
Start off the new year with us as we explore many of the issues encountered at the intersection of automation and innovation. Together, we’ll uncover insights to help you focus and thrive in a rapidly changing world.
- Experts’ perspectives on digital transformation
- New opportunities for integrators
- Industrial technologies to watch
- Important lessons from last year
Don: Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our webinar, Integrators Explore the Road Ahead: Opportunities and Challenges in 2022 and Beyond. My name is Don Pearson, I'm Chief Strategy Officer with Inductive Automation, and I'll be moderating today's webinar. Just a little bit of a look at the agenda first, before we get started here. To start things off, I'm gonna just kinda quickly introduce our Ignition software and today's guest panelists. In our discussion, we're gonna talk about lessons learned in 2021, and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2022. We're also gonna share our viewpoints on Digital Transformation and the industrial technologies to watch for this coming year. Then, we'll wrap up with some closing thoughts. And we'll answer, of course, your questions as we always do. It's kind of challenging to take one slide and describe Ignition in under a minute, because really, it can really be used in so many different ways, but probably the best way to sum it up is that it's the unlimited platform for SCADA and so much more.
Don: It not only does everything you'd expect a world-class data solution to do, but it also lets you connect, design, and deploy without limits. Ignition provides one central hub for everything on the plant floor, lets you easily create any kind of industrial application, like your HMI, your MES, IoT, and a whole lot more than that. You can instantly web deploy clients to desktops, industrial displays and mobile devices, and with Ignition's unlimited licensing, you can have all the clients, tags and connections you need for one affordable price. As our CEO likes to say, it's easy, fun, and affordable. And it's got the industrial strength, security, and stability that today's world actually demands. So, that's why Ignition is actually... It's trusted by thousands of companies across the world, over 54% of Fortune 100. And I think about 40% of Fortune 500. So basically, if you wanna know more about Ignition, if you're sort of new to it today, you can learn more and try it for free at inductiveautomation.com. So, please feel free to do that and go there. But to our guests today, they're all experienced integrators who are a part of the global Ignition community. I'll just introduce them, and then ask them to introduce themselves.
Don: Ryan Cahalane is the President of Industrial Technology at Feyen Zylstra, or FZ. Jeremiah Hannley, Chief Technology Officer at Streamline Control. Jan Madsen, Founder of Enuda AB. Reese Tyson, Ignition Team Lead at Flexware Innovation. And Elizabeth Hill Reed, Project Engineer at DMC Inc. So, just, I'll start by thanking all of you for being here. We really appreciate you taking the time to share with the community today, but I think I'd like to give you each an opportunity to introduce yourself much better than I did, and really tell us just a little bit about your company, and what it focuses on, and that'll get us going here. So, let's start, I'll just go across the screen starting with you, Ryan.
Ryan: Alright. So, Ryan Cahalane. I've been in this space in one way or another for... Since I guess '94, which apparently is old. I've been an in-customer. I've worked at places like Goodyear, Colfax. I've been a Systems Integrator, I've been a... Deloitte, a Management Consultant with Deloitte, ran the product division, software division at Rockwell. And did some time at General Electric, et cetera. So, I think I bring maybe a diversity of view and perspective that hopefully is useful to folks listening. And our company is... We're about a $120 million service provider, solution provider. We do everything digital, really everything with electrons. Mostly industrial applications, although we do in our electrical solutions arm, do some work at hospitals and more of the traditional electrician type fields. And we scale every... All the way from making the wires, running cable, running power all the way up to consulting, helping with Digital Transformation, doing lots and lots of SCADA work, et cetera. So, I'm glad to be here.
Don: Thanks, Ryan. Jeremiah.
Jeremiah: Thanks, Don, and thanks everyone for joining today. About me, I spent the last 15 years working with OT systems in and around energy and utilities on SCADA, industrial control system communications, architecture, solution-ing, data acquisition, IT-OT convergence, to name a few. I’m CTO of Streamline Control, and we are Premier integrators out of Calgary, Alberta. Our team helps our clients solve business problems and challenges with great OT solutions. We help create, develop, migrate, support, and train in areas such as industrial communications, edge computing, MQTT solution-ing, SCADA, IIoT and operational data. Our team not only brings great technology expertise to the table, but is committed to delivering transformative results.
Don: Thanks, Jeremiah. Alright, Jan, over to you.
Jan: Thank you very much, Don, and thank you for having us. My name is Jan Madsen. I am the founder of Enuda, which is a Premier Ignition integrator located in Sweden. We serve clients in the northern part of Europe, basically in the Scandinavian area. And we have specialized in delivering Ignition-based products in a fast and affordable way. That is the thing we do, Ignition every single day. So, we serve clients in both traditional manufacturing and in utility, water and wastewater, and energy, all over the Scandinavian area. And happy to be here, and welcome to everybody.
Don: Thanks, Jan. We appreciate you being here. Alright, Reese.
Reese: Hey, everybody. My name is Reese Tyson. I'm a Ignition Team Lead at Flexware Innovation. I guess Flexware is a... We're a systems integrator based out of Indianapolis, but we have three locations across the US and we've been doing manufacturing automation for... We actually just celebrated our 25th anniversary last year, so 25 years, and have experience in just about every industry out there. We have services that range from the shop floor to the top floor and across many different industries. I guess my goal as an Ignition Team Lead is to make sure we're delivering world-class Ignition solutions to our clients, so whether that's SCADA systems in a water/wastewater environment, OEE in a manufacturing environment, or interfacing with ERP systems at the top level. We have created innovative and custom projects in many different environments, so that's me and Flexware. Thanks again, Don, for having us.
Don: You're welcome, Reese. And actually, Reese comes to us as a little bit of a celebrity, he was the star performer in the Build-a-Thon at the Ignition Community Conference last year, so Reese, your face is familiar to many and your reputation precedes you, so...
Reese: It was a great time.
Don: All kidding aside, much appreciated being here. Elizabeth Hill Reed.
Elizabeth: Thanks, Don. My name is Elizabeth Reed, I'm a Senior Project Engineer at DMC, which is an engineering consulting company with offices across the United States. DMC has a variety of different specialties, including high-speed data capture with test measurement, custom application development, embedded board design and programming, and, obviously, factory automation. I'm a member of our factory automation group, and that group handles the full stack of factory automation, including SCADA, MES and PLC programming, as well as cyber security audits and full turnkey solutions. And just a fun fact about myself: I was actually the first engineer at DMC to learn Ignition, and since then I've worked on Ignition projects in a variety of industries, including automotive, pharmaceutical, food and bev, and general manufacturing.
Don: The fun fact, I have to ask you a question about that. So when did you first start learning Ignition, Elizabeth?
Don: My gosh, you are a veteran, you go back many iterations. So I know that DMC has gone a long way since then, but you were the actual original, so thanks for sharing the fun fact, I didn't know that. Just a little bit of a look at the road ahead. I think you can see from our introduction of our panelists, they bring a real variety of viewpoints to the table. I'm sure it's not too hard to get agreement that the last couple of years have presented a lot of challenges that none of us could've seen were coming our way, so as we begin this new year, it does seem like it would be a good time to assess where we've been recently and where we are going. While none of us can actually predict exactly what this year is gonna look like, I believe that we can sort of share some insights that's gonna help us focus on what's important and to really help thrive in this rapidly changing world that we are all facing.
Don: Just a quick look back at 2021. Let's just start by just a quick discussion of last year. As we said, 2021 was a challenging time, there were disruptions to supply chain, cybersecurity attacks that affected many industries, but I think along the way, there were also some high points as well, for example, the move that people made to remote work arrangements and the increased interest in Digital Transformation really have provided opportunities for integrators also. If I just take a look at it from the viewpoint of us here at Inductive Automation, we released updates to 8.1 approximately once a month. We transitioned to a remote-first company ourselves, and we grew by hiring more employees around the US. We actually held our most-attended conference with the largest international participation also ever, and we expanded our outreach to students. I think we're somewhere north of 50 universities now, where we provide software for them so they can help engineers of the next generation get training in Ignition. And recent graduates through our University Engagement Program have really come on board with us in some cases too. We have a Technical Pathways Program now for people inside our company so they can progress in their careers, and we know that this growth is due in large part to really the hard work of integrators.
Don: I mean, if I just go back to the roots of Steve Hechtman as an integrator, when he started out, he basically actually just wrote letters and sent them out to integrators that he knew and had some relationship with, when he was still integrating to see if they liked the idea, and basically made the decision to go full into Inductive Automation, develop the Ignition platform, and deciding he was not gonna compete with integrators, he was gonna support them. So we transferred his customers over to some integrators we had in the Valley and went 100% all in. As he said at the time, "You can't be in or out of software. If you're gonna be a software company, you gotta be all in." And supporting integrators has always been a pretty big leg of that strategy. So the first question I'd like to discuss is, I mentioned a couple of things about 2021, but, what's an important lesson or a success or a story from last year that you could share with our audience today? So just to ask each one that question, wherever you wanna go with it, I think Ryan, I will start with you.
Ryan: Alright, well, I'm happy to say that one of my favorite success stories of last year was we made it to Premier status, and that was just a real full-team effort, fantastic achievement, and is opening all kinds of doors for us. So I would encourage anyone that is listening that isn't a Premier integrator to get on that journey. For me, probably the biggest single lesson was resilience and continuity. We’ve done, we went through a lot of the challenges, but it's so easy to just do what you're doing or follow demand or otherwise, and like many integrators, you have one or two experts that you lean on for a particular discipline or application. And you can't, in this day and age, probably going forward with climate change and other stuff, there is... Whether you believe it from a political standpoint or otherwise, the need for a continuity plan, a resilience plan, the need to encourage customers to think through in everything they're doing. And at any given moment, you may not be able to access the site, you may not be able to get the right people in motion, and just prepare yourself.
Ryan: I would also say that this is a unique time. We're a mission-driven company, our fundamental mission is to make a positive impact on the life of people, and I think that in this time of change and in this extreme demand for our collective skill sets, there's an opportunity to be selective, and those don't come too often as far as whatever got you here, they may or may not be the customers and the types of work, and otherwise, that you want to go forward with. That from a lesson-learned standpoint, is incredibly important to live into your values and live into the mission. And in our case, it's working with good companies. Ethical, sustainable, well-governed companies. Companies that I think matter both to me, but also the next generation. So those are some of the things that really stood out in 2021.
Don: Thanks, Ryan. Jeremiah, your thoughts.
Jeremiah: Yeah, I think one easy one to focus on is organizations forced to work remotely. Internally, that's what Streamline did. A lot of non-essential staff or our clients adopted that model too. It became kinda clear right away that people need access to these OT environments securely and remotely, and maybe a support engineer had access to reports or information from a control room, but now they need it at home. And I think it put a lot of pressure on organizations to start to realize they need to put more into these systems from an IT-OT convergence perspective. Our success story last year that I'm quite proud of is we helped transform a traditional midstream SCADA system into a full-stack Ignition solution, deployed edge nodes and remote field locations, contextualized data sources with Sparkplug, pumped this data to two redundant control centers in two different locations. And then when that was all said and done, we pushed it all into the enterprise and then used Ignition with Perspective to build mobile and HTML5-friendly displays. It was a great project, it really showcased Ignition, and it was made possible by a great group of people. Don.
Don: That's great. Thanks, Jeremiah. Alright, Jan, over to you.
Jan: Thank you very much. I think 2021 was a very good year for Enuda. We had a fantastic year. We are and we were even way back, a remote-only company, so working from home or working remotely has been in our DNA from day one, so that was not really something that hit us hard. But one very important lesson that we learned last year and have discussed a lot internally is that any solution is never really done. It continues to develop in different directions as new business needs arise with the clients, and we've learned the hard way that we have to stop talking about the delivery and instead accept that it's only a delivery, one of many. And somewhere along the road, we realized that there's a term for this, it's the thinker, Kevin Kelly, who actually coined this, becoming... So, things are just becoming, the solution is becoming, it's never ending as such, it's just becoming. So it's an ever-ongoing evolvement and upgrades and changes and adaptations and things you add to things. And the best example we have of this is actually the Ignition platform in and of itself. A couple of years ago, releases were coming, sometimes some spaced out through the year, but now they're just on a release train. Every month, there's a new release. So we see that, continuous upgrades and things changing all the time, so we have to get used to that. It's software, it's changing. It's never really done.
Don: Jan, I think that's actually an extremely good point. I like that, Mr. Kelly's term, 'Becoming,' and I will say... Just comment that it was the feedback from the integration community that really pushed Carl and Colby, and Carl was the head of our software development, to say people have things they need, we have a feedback loop, an ideas portal that people give us feedback, what they need. And waiting longer periods of time for releases doesn't allow us to be as responsive to those needs. So, the idea of the release train came out with version 8 and 8.1, and we started to really see the response you're giving us is the kind that we wanted, is that things that become essential, that get sort of voted up as high priorities, they get into the software faster, get into your hands faster. And you're right, as he's commented many times, software is never done. It's always becoming, as your author says. So, thanks for your comments on that. Alright, Reese. Let's go over to you.
Reese: Sure, yeah, a huge success story for us at Flexware, that would probably have to be the growth that we experienced in the past year. So not only really as Flexware as a whole, but on the Ignition team itself, we almost doubled in size and as more and more where it came in and clients continued to realize the power that Ignition has and all the different opportunities that it can provide, everybody just came knocking on the door. So we were able to almost double in size last year, support all the work coming in. And from what I've been hearing, Ryan you mentioned earlier, but just so much growth and that's a common theme I feel like throughout a lot of different integrators. So that was definitely a huge success story of course you alluded to it earlier, Don, the Build-a-Thon was a huge highlight for us last year as well. It was a personal honor to stand up in front of the Ignition community and represent Flexware, definitely one of the highlights for us last year as well.
Don: That's great, thanks, Reese. Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: So obviously a big success story for DMC this past year, it was the Firebrand Award we received for our Ignition work, with Gingko on a COVID testing line. But I think another huge success was completing our largest Ignition project to date, and we were able to accomplish this by increasing our team size to include team members from across the country and use tools that allow for efficient development across the distributed team. And how we did that is we really took advantage of Ignition's text-based background, which allowed us to utilize tools like Git to enforce codes reuse and proper merge workflows. This promoted consistent engineering standards across a large team of developers, which made the code easier to maintain and scale, and this also came in handy when ramping up newer engineers into Ignition because it's set up a workflow where engineers got feedback more frequently on their code, and this allowed us to both complete the project on time, while also expanding the number of Ignition developers at DMC, and honestly, I do not think that engineers would have been able to ramp up as quickly into other technologies, and that's definitely partly due to all the great training that is available for Ignition and just all the web resources like the forum posts that are available online, that paired with the proper source control workflow, I think was a really good success story.
Don: Thanks, Elizabeth. You guys are doing a great job of really taking advantage of something that's really important to us back to the beginnings, when Steve came up with the idea himself that we really need to build this university, we really need to have access to knowledge transfer globally, if we're gonna be a digital company, we gotta make knowledge available globally, and you guys have taken advantage of that, and I think it really, it does take time to results and shorten a little bit, because the tools are there to get the knowledge and put them in to the effect. So thanks to all for that sort of look back. Now, let's take a look at challenges and opportunities as we look ahead, as we sit here in January of 2022, let's focus on the year ahead, let me kind of reverse the order a little bit here and start with you, Elizabeth, on just thoughts for 2022 and challenges and opportunities.
Elizabeth: Yeah, absolutely. So obviously, COVID is still very much in front of mind for a lot of people, this has been something that we've all had to adapt to the past couple of years, and it's looking like we're gonna have to continue adapting, especially in an industry that typically involves a lot of travel, we're gonna have to continue revising our travel expectations and just be fluid with the situation, and to go along with that, I do think we'll see an increase in industry-wide burnout with companies needing to optimize and increase automation for labor shortages. There's also been an increased demand for factory automation services, I think many of us have seen this this past year, and I think it's just important to recognize that that trend is gonna continue and just be on the lookout for industry-wide burnout. On the flip side, for opportunities, I think there's definitely an opportunity for more enterprise and cloud SCADA solutions. As labor shortages increased the demand for automation, more companies will start to have multiple plants with SCADA systems, and I think this will lead to an increased interest in the ability to view data across plants, and obviously from a programmer's point of view, it's also nice to have that central EAM server where you can host your resources and maintain all of your plant-wide SCADA systems.
Don: That's great, I think you're right. I think we're gonna see a tremendous amount of movement in that area, we're already noticing it happening and sort of building toward the enterprise approach and data shared across large enterprises and dashboards to bring data from everywhere to where it needs to be, is clearly happening on a higher, a more rapid rate now, Ryan, over to you. Actually, I said I was gonna go on reverse order and I just didn't. So I just grabbed your name Ryan, so go ahead.
Ryan: It's okay if you want me to pass and come back to me.
Don: No, go ahead and go for it.
Ryan: Alright, I think the biggest single challenge is the talent shortage, and that's exacerbating demand from our customers. I think I heard some, Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” guy, he made some reference. It probably wasn't specific to manufacturing, but where before you had five people, now you have two. And I'm not sure whether the numbers are right or otherwise, but just think about that in terms of skilled trades, in terms of engineers, in terms of operators, and I'm seeing that the war for talent and the talent that does Ignition kind of work is heating up, and you have entirely new players with entirely different funding models competing for the same resources, and so we had a guy on my team, a great guy, a great job on projects, loved the environment and Amazon drove a truckload of money that I won't even begin to describe. The truckload the money they drove up to him, and he couldn't help but take it. Now, I think that that also affords an opportunity that as we all learned to compete with players like that, players that are frankly completely coming from different worlds.
Ryan: Those who are nimble are going to benefit. And I think that if you're good at the talent war, that is going to be a critical asset, you are likely to take share from others. I would also say that for me personally, that's kind of interesting to go from 1994 and controls engineer weren't exactly the most popular person at the dance and now all of a sudden they are. And I think naturally, we are a collaborative group, and the cut-throat competition of the 90s and so on, I think it's just a great environment for us to share and bring our collective knowledge to more customers faster and see the small and mid-size manufacturers finally benefit from all those digital technology that has kind of been wrapped up and locked away by the Proctors and Gambles and Cokes and Goodyears, and whoever else, small and mid-size companies just didn’t have access to that kind of talent. And so I think that's where real opportunity is: serving a customer base that is underserved and getting to cooperate with people to do good.
Don: Actually, Ryan, I think you make an extremely good point there, and the technology is there for us to democratize the data, but the business model has to follow suit also, I think to open the door through a more collaborative approach and bring these opportunities to manufacturers, so maybe couldn't afford to play the game before because the business model was maybe more top-down, more large deployments and a higher price tag to play the game to enhance their industrial automation strategy. So I couldn't agree with you more. I think there's a great opportunity for an ecosystem of collaborators, 'cause no one of us has all the answers, so we need our common skill, the overlapping skills and the overlapping technologies that we bring to the party to really serve those customers and some more broader of swath of customers too so thanks for your comments on that. Reese, how about your thoughts?
Reese: Yeah, well, I'm gonna piggy-back off of our success story of last year and talk a little bit about growth. I think this bundles in both challenges and opportunities this year. Growth is a great thing, but for me as a team lead, I'm also worried about healthy growth and what that looks like, so as we grow, it's a continual balancing act of making sure team members are not only excelling and having everything they need to create the best solution possible, but also not overwhelming them or spreading them too thin, so I really think the key to that is one, communication and two, having a plan for the growth that the team can understand the bigger picture and where we're heading. And one of the things that we've done here that has worked really well is create a space for that honest and transparent communication between team leads and team members.
Reese: This happens every two weeks, it's just a quick 20-15 minute pulse check, but it's a great avenue to keep in communication with how folks are doing, make sure everyone is cared for as growth occurs. I know we're all guilty of getting into the throes of clients and engagements and pass and sometimes forget to have these meaningful conversations, so it's a simple idea to help put some structure and intentionality around the health of our employees. And then as I mentioned, having a plan for the team to understand where the ship's heading, and as leaders we definitely need to have a team goal for our members to rally around, and not only have a goal, I guess, but as growth occurs, helping new members understand that goal, so we're all marching at the same beat, and again, another example of something we've tried and I feel like worked pretty well, actually just a few weeks back, we did what we call the team retrospect, and we coined the term the Ignition Team Summit.
Reese: And it was just a time to kind of do what we’re really doing right now on this webinar, but looking back of what went well and what didn't, and then project onto this new year and see what we can capitalize on and maybe what we can avoid, and it was a great time to spark conversations on many different experiences around the team, creating a common goal to shoot for in the new year that everybody could get on board with. So I think those are a few things that we've worked through in this past year, and really opportunities of a lot of different possibilities of what we came up with in that retrospective and the upcoming year, so yeah.
Don: That's great, thanks, Reese. Jeremiah.
Jeremiah: I think I kinda share the sentiment of growth, with my panel peers, is a challenge. Scaling without compromising quality, I think is important for us all. I'm shifting to a client or an end-user perspective. I think there's a lot of moving pieces in the space and a lot of competing and antiquated technologies at play. I see unifying these different OT systems being a challenge, and you start to expand out into the enterprise or across different industrial facilities or processes. I also see Ignition with its Perspective components competing very confidently against other HTML5 solutions in the enterprise. One client recently was asking us to come in and look at the work they were doing with Ignition that was in play. They had Edge, MQTT, local Ignition instances at a central location.
Jeremiah: And I think what was so great about Ignition is you can download, start working through the solutions right away. The conversation was kind of structured around how do we scale this and how do we scale this in a way that makes sense and do so in a cost-effective way. More importantly, what are the pain points to scaling this, it's purely driven from the enterprise directives around data collection, standardization, visualization, dashboarding. It's fun and challenging to solve these problems because they're often unique to each end user's environment. On the other side of the coin, I think, every operational technology center or business unit is a potential to unlock more data and insights. Ignition's great for solving these problems with edge nodes or Ignition Edge, and Cirrus Link modules to pump data out of these data assets.
Jeremiah: I also see a tremendous opportunity to take that concept and apply it holistically to the enterprise into a converged IT and OT system. That's simple, scalable and secure for end users, Don.
Don: Great. Thanks, Jeremiah. Okay Jan, why don't you wrap this up on this look ahead to 2022 challenges and opportunities?
Jan: Thank you. Yeah. Well, I think the... I talked about Kevin Kelly before and his ideas on becoming resulting in everything in a constant change. So one of the results that are coming out of that, that I see as a challenge is that the clients are getting more impatient. So they tend to think in shorter terms, both when it comes to time and when it comes to money. So they have,they have a shorter patience on return of investment and when they want something to work. So that's a challenge simply to get something working in front of the, of the client as fast as possible. And it brings down the cost and it certainly brings down the risk for the client, but at the same time that also constitutes some opportunities for all of us, because, with Ignition as a platform, we can productize as far as it goes, we can standardize systems and deliveries and build something like simple models. We call them 80% ready out of the box, something like that. You can... We don't build specific products per se but you can build something that resembles products and bring that fast in front of the client to simply get something working fast and affordable. And then I can't help it coming from Sweden that, I think one huge opportunity here, ahead of us. And as we are talking about the shortness of staff, hey, where's all the young women in all of this?
Jan: Simply looking at this panel, uh, Elizabeth, you're the only one here and coming from one of the most egalitarian and gender-equal countries on planet Earth, we need more women in this, so there's a huge potential for all of us to bring more younger, smart, well-educated women into this space.
Jan: There are too many guys like us guys, basically sitting on the panel here tonight, my type of guy. So we should just retire and get ourselves out of here and let the younger women take over. That was just my thoughts on that.
Don: That's great, Jan. I think it is time for talk about the silver tsunami, the silver-haired old men that need to retire and make way for that next generation.
Don: So that's one thing that our COO Wendy Hechtman is constantly talking about and harping on is the evolution of more professional women into this space, is I think a critical component. So thanks for your thoughts. All right. So let's, I think it would be good to take a little bit of a look at the topic of Digital Transformation.
Don: Now let's focus on this subject just for a bit, it's a pretty broad term that can certainly mean different things to different people, but everyone seems to agree that it is happening and really that the COVID pandemic has really accelerated this transformation. From our perspective here at Inductive, we've been in the business of Digital Transformation for years.
Don: I mean, when Steve started out he was trying to marry IT technologies and OT technologies, SCADA with IT from the very first product. So just speaking at kind of a high level, we do see Digital Transformation as a process of change, involves people as well as machines, and that requires real innovation, real cooperation across an entire organization. And so actually we built Ignition to facilitate the process, but it's people that get involved in that make the process really actually work. So as we look at that from a high level view of Digital Transformation, I'm kind of interested in what your views are.
Don: How do you see it at the level of your customers that you're working with? So can you talk maybe a little bit about what the term Digital Transformation means to you or about what the current state is, from your view, with manufacturers? What role can Ignition play and your organizations play in helping customers digitally transform?
Don: So with that, I think I will start with you on that, Jan.
Jan: Yeah, Don, first of all, I think with Ignition, we have a wonderful and absolutely amazing platform for this. And I totally agree that everything revolving around Ignition is Digital Transformation saying that we would say that, the Digital Transformation is a lot about human beings.
Jan: It's a lot about change management. And the overall purpose of Digital Transformation is, and should always be, to change some human behavior in the organization. Change some routines and some behaviors that are maybe not the best and simply make people help people to make better decisions. That's what we call it every single day. So, yeah, there's a lot of engineering and a lot of technologies involved in this, but at the end of the day, it's about that: helping people to make better decisions. I think that's the core of Digital Transformation.
Don: Thank you, Jan. Reese, your thoughts.
Reese: Well, I would say that you're spot-on when you say it's such a broad term, that means really so many different things to a lot of different people, we're working with a manufacturer that still uses paper to keep track of the good and bad parts with tally marks on their paper and they have that long paper show going on... But we converted that over to a digital dashboard last week, and they're super excited about all the possibilities that that can mean for the company, and then we're looking at another client we're working with... They're using Ignition to pull tens of thousands of tags from over 300 sites across the US using the MQTT modules, and really what I've found is with working with people from such a wide range of digitalization is that it's really anything that can help the end user make a better decision, just exactly like what Jan said. To me, one of the best parts about my job is showing that manager, showing that VP or whoever that might be, how his line’s running from an Ignition dashboard and watching that smile just creep across their face.
Reese: But that type of digitalization, no matter how involved the system is, is just to allow our customers make better decisions, and I think Ignition can play a huge role in that process, just because it allows us to reach data all the way down to the plant floor, store that data and store in a central location, visualize that data and ultimately analyze it across enterprise systems, so the Ignition has so many different capabilities with the different modules, and it makes it easy to say, "Yeah, we can do that because of the variety of tools that you guys have to offer."
Don: Thanks, Reese. Elizabeth, your thoughts on the topic.
Elizabeth: I think that the industry is embracing this concept and the tools are finally starting to catch up to the overall vision of Digital Transformation. I think that there's still a ways to go for a lot of people, but I think that technology improvements and the increase of accessibility of SCADA solutions has made the vision of Digital Transformation much more attainable than it was five or 10 years ago, and I think a big thing for Digital Transformation, is oftentime clients are very shocked by how easy it is to implement some of the Digital Transformation concepts have become. And I think we need to continue to push customers to do things like proof of concepts, or really just see a demo for what their system could be. I personally think that the SQL Bridge Module is the most powerful tool, and that customers have been using bad tools for so long that they just don't realize how simple it can be to capture data and do things like eliminate that manual report that they've been filling out for 15 years. So I think we're taking steps in the right direction and hopefully we see this trend continue.
Don: Thanks, Elizabeth. I know when you say the SQL Bridge Module is an amazing tool, that's near and dear to the heart of our CEO and Founder, Steve Hechtman and the original start, the very first wasn't a module back then, the very first legacy product was created by Colby Clegg when he was just finishing college, and it was called Factory SQL, and it was really became the SQL Bridge Module as the Ignition platform developed. But Steve would call it the Swiss army knife for an integrator. All the things you can do with just SQL... The SQL Bridge now, but it was Factory SQL then. So I think the connection of OT and IT and the two-way communication between PLCs and SQL databases was sort of a foundational beginnings to what became the Ignition platform. Alright, let's go to you, Ryan. Your thoughts.
Ryan: So I'm probably the wrong person to ask this because I can't stand the term Digital Transformation.
Don: Oh, good. Use another one, Ryan, pick whatever you want.
Ryan: It drives me up a wall. Yeah, I do actually think transformation has occurred primarily in the smart connected products arena, and maybe there in terms of entirely doing business, one could probably more appropriately use its term, I think in the operation space on a broad basis, this is evolution and it's in a lot of ways the same old problem that we've been solving forever. The tools are just easier, more time is spent on creating value and less on figuring what protocol it is and how you get the thing talking to the other thing. The pace of digital is accelerating and I think the connectivity emergence is amplifying that. I remember what Exxon Mobil, who was driving their open automation initiative, and it's really how to encourage what was going on in IT, the rapid pace of innovation and some sort of democratization of innovation and bringing that into the fold without compromising the security robustness of the traditional DCS world and not have to wait for major migrations.
Ryan: And to me that's... It's a combination of that rapidly accelerating innovation happening at all levels. And then back to bringing it to the masses that finally, the beneficiaries of this are the companies that often have been overlooked over the last 20 years. And I think whatever we said as far as what role Ignition can play, they're a fantastic platform, and it's an enabler, it's an accelerant, it allows customers to do it themselves, and for integrators to play a more consultative role to fill their gaps. And I think bring our unique application expertise to bear and to focus much more on value. So that's my two cents.
Don: Thanks, Ryan. Jeremiah.
Jeremiah: Yeah, a colleague of mine, and who's quite passionate about this topic from a personal and business perspective, he likes to say Digital Transformation, it's a lot like world peace. It's a great idea, but when you start to put people, technologies together, they don't necessarily get along and that great unifying vision can get blurred and abstracted away, and I think overly complicated. I think that kind of represents for many organizations its current state, a complicated spaghetti diagram of workflow and unnecessary software components that equates to a slightly better yesterday and then an organization left to manage all these moving pieces. I think Digital Transformation, it has to be tangible, and it has to be even bite-sized. With the right vision and experience, I think there's a bright future on the horizon in the space, and OT is definitely a critical piece. Identifying and solving business problems before offering a technology solution or play is critical. After all of that, then of course, when you do start to apply technology, Ignition coupled with Cirrus Link’s modules, as an example, can really help organizations ideate and develop solutions quickly.
Don: Thanks, Jeremiah. Absolutely, so let's turn our attention a little bit, and I'm gonna throw in a question that comes along with it here, or maybe a speed, a little speed round here on technologies to watch. When you really think about it, the Digital Transformation is talking also about some specific technologies. At Inductive, obviously, we're naturally paying lots of attention to rising usage of the cloud, the edge, IIoT and modern SCADA. I have a question here from one of our audience that says, "How will 5G technologies influence and affect manufacturing in 2022? What are the challenges, risks and reward to this kind of a rollout?” So if you wanna comment on that as I go around the horn here you can do that. We also see artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, these are playing a bigger role on the plant floor, and no doubt there's gonna be a continuing rise in demand for security and supply chain solutions. So kind of looking at that, maybe we can just kinda have a quick round of thoughts on technologies to watch. And, Reese, why don't you go ahead and start us off on that one.
Reese: Sure, yeah, I think one of the big technologies to look for, and maybe not necessarily this year but definitely in the coming years is digital twin technology. So digital twin is having a virtual environment that is a twin of the physical environment, and as we pull that data into our actual physical environment, that data can then be replicated in this twin environment as industry begins to accept the idea of that Digital Transformation, that kind of becomes a norm, it's going to make that data really available in these digital twins. And if digital twins are done correctly, it unlocks the power in many different avenues. So, there's a couple of different things that we've had customers interested in is the visualization aspect of that, so real-time metrics overlaid in AR, AR dashboards, as you're walking through the plant you can see what type of chemical is flowing through a pump or whatnot. And then even really the next step further, like a training simulation, for example, imagine you're in a wastewater plant and you're able to simulate what a pump failure will do, and you can kind of come up with a game plan of how to react to that, all in a digital environment without affecting actual production.
Reese: And then really we have that data there, so if we capture the correct process data points, we can simulate systems and run even analysis on parallel operations and tweaking this or tweaking that to see how well we can get our conveyor belts to run or whatever that might be. I say that all, to also say that I think there's also some caution to some of these terms and ideas, Industry 4.0 type of methodology, as an end user, you need to focus on really what you can do and improve, and as time marches on, I think we start to see, put these pieces together and the picture will become more clear as do some of the different benefits, but focusing on the here and now and taking the old... I guess the old, "How do you eat an elephant?" "One bite at a time." That kind of comparison is exactly the way to approach topics like this, all these different buzz words out there.
Don: Thanks, Reese. Elizabeth.
Elizabeth: So I think that if anything to watch for this year is the Sepasoft OEE Edge and OEE Lite Modules that are coming out. And I think for the last several years, I've noticed an increase in interest in MES-related functionality combined into a SCADA layer, and I think that has led to MES being more accessible and just more people aware of MES concepts. I think that trend over the last couple of years plus the new OEE modules will lead to a surge in MES-related functionality bundled together with various Ignition SCADA layers.
Don: Thanks, Elizabeth. Ryan.
Ryan: One of the key technologies that I think is exciting is the application of vision and essentially multi-sensing, that you can strap a backup camera to the side of a machine or put your iPhone up there and you can sense vibration, you can see the movement of the people. You can understand the data flow of equipment … I think just the accessibility and the use of data in multiple ways coupled with just a massively increased capability along vision dimensions, or you think about the investment it used to take us to run the pipe and wire out to put a photo on, [inaudible] together, got a part count or identify it all up or whatever, and now I can just kind of sense it and I can also sense what's happening from a production standpoint. I can sense the safety concerns or people getting too close to an area, so I get so much more value for my dollar [inaudible] … but I think that's transformative...
Ryan: And then I think it's also just the overall arc of the ease of use of these technologies, not necessarily in one given area, but that they're far more accessible. And for me, it's kind of interesting because you've got, yeah... You think about the skilled trades where kind of operating within the box of what you were doing. I think a whole new evolution of the next generation of skilled trades where they all of a sudden have their toolkit, it broadens completely. And I think ultimately that is going to help answer some of the talent-availability challenges that the industry is facing. You know, and I think it's also, what's an electrician or an electrical engineer in a world where there are no wires and that kind of changes everything. And it forces an army of individuals to have to rethink and reexamine the way to solve problems. So I think it's just a really exciting time.
Don: Yeah, no, absolutely. Jeremiah, your thoughts.
Jeremiah: Yeah, just really quickly here. I'm excited about edge and edge computing. I think the cost of edge computers have definitely come down. I think Ignition Edge is really critical in this piece. It kind of solves a lot of SCADA problems I've experienced in the past, and it's really important in how we build out smart plants, IIoT solutions and ultimately modern SCADA systems. Don.
Don: Thanks, Jeremiah. Jan.
Jan: Yeah, just like Jeremiah, I'll do it short here. And I think the short answer is it depends on who you are, on your business, on your strategy, what you're aiming for, which clients you serve, where you try to create value. For us in Enuda, it's very clear, it's Ignition, it's the platform, it's all the opportunities coming out of that. So we're just very anxious to see the release train for the rest of 2022 and see what's coming out from you guys and what we can build on that.
Don: Thank you, Jan. I think what I'd like to do since we do have just a little bit of time left here is on the closing thoughts area. I'm gonna wrap in a couple of questions first off, everyone doesn't have to answer, but can someone maybe make a comment to the question I said from John, which is how will 5G technologies influence and effect manufacturing in 2022. Maybe anyone can jump in and give us a quick thought on an answer to that question. So I will throw in my two cents worth since no one's jumping forward. And that is I think what we're talking about with Digital Transformation and what we're talking about with the democratization of data and the evolution of what's going on in that area. We're gonna see a tremendous... Just the volumes of data and the volume of connectivity and the machine learning and augmented reality and predictive analytics, all that stuff is going to connect out to the 5G technology empowerment. Also when you start going from center to cloud.
Don: I think 5G will start having an influence just because of the capabilities of the bandwidth and the speed of moving volumes of data around. There's a second question here that I'd like someone to comment on, and that is for some of the regular humans implementing machine learning to the plant floor at the control level, it's been very difficult, "nearly impossible." Do you think this could change this year or are we still a few years ahead of that becoming a little bit simpler for regular humans as he says? So, anybody have a comment on that?
Reese: I can throw in my two cents there. I think that it really depends on the application. I know we've done some different and really what machine learning means to the end user. We've done some machine learning type applications for plant floor operations or rather that's like motor analysis. We've also done things like regression analysis on inventory-tracking type of thing. I think those possibilities are out there and Ignition actually has a built-in machine learning... Apache machine learning library. But then I know there's also content out there about pairing it with some other machine learning cloud applications. We can connect to like flash servers for example, and kind of pull in information from those cloud computing services for more intense in-depth, you know neural-net type of applications and pull that information back into Ignition. So again, I think it all depends on what they're looking for at the plant level, but definitely different possibilities out there to hit those different types of needs.
Don: Thanks. Appreciate that. You know, this is a... A lot of the attendees here are integrators of all different levels inside our organization and maybe some new ones. So I just wanna open the mic for a second here. If anyone has any closing thoughts or a message you'd like to share with other integrators in attendance here. I think I really just wanna say before we wrap up also the appreciation for the time everyone put in to share your thoughts, but any closing comment from anyone they would like to share with the integrator community overall, you are welcome to do it now.
Ryan: Okay. I was just gonna say it, you know, first of all, it takes a village and you know, if there's anything that any of us can do to help continue to share, continue the conversation and or collaborate on solutions or whatever, this is just a fantastic time to be in the business. And I would absolutely encourage anyone listening to make the investment and shoot for Premier because it does make a difference.
Don: Thanks. Next. who else?
Jeremiah: Yep. Yeah, I was just gonna echo that sentiment. I think there's never a better time to be a SCADA developer or integrator, an end user or casual user of these types of systems, just because of what type of problems and challenges that you can solve with Ignition.
Don: Thanks. Anybody, any final thought?
Jan: Yeah. Let me just say from Enuda here we... Concerning the machine learning question Don. We're looking into that right now and anybody with any interest in this, they are more than welcome to reach out to me and we'll do our very best to help. We don't have all the answers, but we have a lot of questions, I can guarantee you that. So yeah, reach out. I agree, reach out and we'll help.
Don: Thanks, Jan. Much appreciated all of you and as a nice little segue. I just want to throw a little bit of a 30-second wrap-up here on the Integrator Program. Because if you're an integrator watching today, who's not registered and inducted at all on a regular program, I invite you to learn more about it. Also on the far right there, you heard Ryan talking about it. I mean an accomplishment year, Premier, this really is a community and we really are and doing anything we possibly can to support the collaboration because we just believe we're stronger together and we're more effective for our mutual shared customers. When you do join the Integrator Program, you become registered integrator, you'll gain, you know, really I think, a partner that has, I think, Ignition and our team at IA has pretty strong roots in the integration business and we are very committed to your success and that's not gonna change.
Don: Also just to comment internationally because those of you outside North America, we wanna let you know that we do have a network of international distributors who provide business-development opportunities, sales and technical support in your language and time zone, it's growing continuously. So if you wanna learn about the distributor in your region, you can visit our website or contact the international distribution manager, who's Annie Wise. If you have questions for us, this is all the contact information you also have on this slide. I'll leave it on as I wrap up here. Reese, Jan, Elizabeth, Jeremiah, and Ryan's contact information, they said they're willing to collaborate. So if there are questions for them, please don't hesitate to reach out. And then I guess just to wrap up, I just wanna say one more “thank you.” This is one of the greatest things we have at Inductive Automation that I completely enjoy since I came here is the working-together relationships with our integrators and how this team has gotten just better and better and better.
Don: Some of the successes you guys talked about, the ways you're taking advantage of opportunities, the growth you're experiencing. It's, I think, a really exciting time for all of us. And I'll just say from the Inductive team, we love our involvement in this world, working with integrators and plan to do more and have a great year in 2022. We're at the end of our webinar. Thanks again to everyone for attending. We are concluded and have a great day.