IoT Strategy: Firing Bullets Instead of Cannonballs


You’ve been tasked with defining an IoT and automation strategy for your company. It’s a major initiative that will likely span the next decade or more. Where do you start? What’s the right path forward?

Craig Salvalaggio, Chief Operating Officer at Applied Manufacturing Technologies, was in your shoes 18 years ago. In this episode, he offers advice on how to get started with an IoT strategy and the pitfalls to avoid along the way.

We discuss:

- What automation looked like 20 years ago

- Tips for getting started with an IoT strategy

- How building a team can inform internal culture transformation

- How partnerships enable growth

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Some of the technology back in the early two thousand very, you know, industrial robot. You know you would have never thought that in two thousand and twenty one we'd be accepting that a robot and a human could be working in the same collaborative application space. You are listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey, brought to you by vary. In each episode we have sharp, unfiltered conversations with executives about their IOT journeys, the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned and what they wish they'd known when they started. Welcome back to over the Air IOT connected devices and the journey. My name is Ryan prossers, CEO very, and we're joined today by Craig Salvolagio, coo of applied manufacturing technologies, amt, to discuss how non IOT companies can can drive user adoption of their IOT products correct. Thanks for being on the show. Hey, Ryan, happy to be here. So when, as I've learned about AMT, you know in some of our conversations I would definitely describe you guys as an Iot company, but I know it's been a journey. You've been there for almost twenty years. What can you tell us. Well, first of all, give us a little bit of your background, but also, you know, tell us a little bit about amt and world from an airplane, you know, the connected device journey that you've been a part of over there. Yeah, yeah, Ryan, be happy to explain AMT, my career and how we fit in the space. So, yeah, ampt is an engineering solutions provider and we develop and design full turnkey robotic systems and also provide engineering services to the industrial automation market and I've been a pleasure to be here for last eighteen years. Founder led organization, Mike Jacobs. Our our founder, had a vision for creating an engineering company that would allow people to start their careers and develop full turnkey solutions for the market. And you know, a lot of our applications, a lot of our technology focuses are not robotics and connected machines. And so, you know, myself really got started in the industry late S. robots are being heavily adopted by the automotive companies. You know, they're putting them an automotive body shops are getting into power train and you know, the application set really wasn't as defined as was today. You know, so really kind of the early stages of adoption of robotic technology. You know, then really kind of got involved in different areas of the company to help us expand outside of automotive and see other applications come to life. As the technology mature, became easier to use, it was more readily accepted by the end user manufacturing market. Well, from their started some consulting activities within our amtea where we really kind of led customers on a journey of where do you start with automation? So if you're looking to automate you have a lot of manual processes. You look in at your ry calculations, you're looking at throughput, you're looking at safety. You know, where do you start? So we help companies really roadmap and landscape. You know, what does automation look like in their factories? And once you got through the conceptual automation and our line numbers, you know, the quick next step was how are these machines and what data are we collecting? What value are we providing from the data and then how is that fedback into the machines to make them smarter? So helping companies with her IOT strategy. Craig, what what did it look like? So you guys are at the front of the space. You're doing some really cool things. I think people that know amt think of you as, you know, leaders in automation. But what did it look like twenty, eighteen years ago when you were first getting in? You know, the space generally was like in its infancy at that point. You know, give us a candid snapshot of amt Eighteen years...

...ago. Yeah, it's it was definitely different, you know. You know robots had vision systems, but you had to write sophisticated code to make those vision systems do things. So, for example, you know, you know, automotive really pioneered standards in the industry related to, you know, how machines were built, how software was written and those kind of things are very valuable as you get into markets and organizations that don't have those or less mature with their automation strategy. But eighteen years it was it was old school automotive, you know it was. It was a different demand, it was a different application and industrial robots were going into factories and, you know, companies were trying to mature technology. It was acceptable that, you know, it took long to configure devices and devices didn't talk to one another and ease of use wasn't really a thing, where today that's a driving factor. You know, how quickly can you get something set up? How quickly can you get the data? You know, how can you connect to the machine? In the early days, you know, you were writing specific drivers. Everything was custom and as the applications matured and as new industries adopted the technology, you know, companies really kind of got along and said, you know, in order for us to be unique, in order for us to put in more automation. You know, how can we look at the technology and say, can we make things easier? Can we write software that better? Can we write interfaces that are intuitive to the end user, which is typically an operator has to keep that machine running all day long? And you know, you come back from where we started and where we're at today, where we got you know, user interfaces of three screens are last you know, factories that were monitoring and collecting data of the machines that we could monitor the assets and understand, you know, some predictive analytics on when the asset might fail and then, just overall, you know, how is your machine running? And you know some of the technology back in the early two thousands was very you know, industrial robot you know, you would have never thought that in two thousand and twenty one we'd be accepting that a robot and a human could be working in the same collaborative application space. If, if Craig from two thousand and twenty one could get in a time machine and go all the way back to two thousand and three and deliver a piece of advice, what's something that? Like? What about the world in twenty one as you see it? I'm talking about like through the Lens of automation, Amt Iot, what's a piece of advice that Craig from two thousand and three would have said? Okay, future Craig has been drinking. There's no way that's true. I am I am not going to do anything with that information. That doesn't that just doesn't make sense. Like, what about the world you're operating in today? Is it that human robot interface piece? Is that the prevalence of cloud, you know, the main frame? Yeah, like, what piece of information would be so hard to stomach through the lens of two thousand and three Craig that he would be likely to discount it away? Yep, I think there's there's two threads there. You know, one is the the human elaboration with robotic technology. So you know, understanding that the robots would be used in such a way that they could be placed on a mobile manipulator and Amr autonomous mobile robot, or could be used in leverage, in conjunction, you know, with human workers. It was always you know, how do you get the robot in a cage, that it was protected, the human was protected, including safe stop and hard stops and distances. You would have never thought that safety would be controlled by control reliable safety circuits and that humans would be working together in the same collaborative space. The second piece is I would have never believed that, you know, we could be sitting in your living room, on your on your IPAD and be able to actually collect data and look at your factory and understand if the equipment was meeting its required up time or a we calculations something to understand if you are a plant manager and user manufacturer...

...and you were responsible for the equipment in that facility. We've always collected data, you know, back in the historical automotive days, but the accessibility of it and the real time nature of it is really kind of game changing. So one of the things that's unique about your background and caused us to be, you know, pretty excited about having you on the show is the tenure that you've had an amt and you've taken. You've been a part of a, you know, major journey. Arnie there it's cool. It's unusual. And if someone in our audience was saying, okay, his his eighteen years look like my next eighteen years, I'm an executive at a company that's been tasked with driving and automation strategy with, you know, figuring out our IOT strategy. You know, put yourself in the position you're a couple of beers and you're catching up with this old friend. That is the situation they find themselves in there saying, Craig, what does my next eighteen years look like? where? Where does this story even start for me? Like, taking the experience that you've gained, what are some of the questions you would ask them to that, you know, to get you and them thinking about what? What are the the correct path forward, you know, like what are the things they need to be thinking about? Opportunities and threats and things like that. No, that's a that's a great question. You know, one of the things that's benefited me, you know, beyond education and the network that I have really is is learning from other people. You know, that's the biggest thing that I've gained out of my career is learning from other leaders that like to share and really kind of like to be well educated and well read. I think, you know, by reading and understanding different authors and different topics. You know, being well read means you're investing in yourself and you're investing in your future. So the biggest piece of advice is, you know, really be asking, you know, how are you investing in your cell? The second is really you know, what's your vision? Do you have a vision, and I mean a large vision, if you go back to Jim Collin, big Harry and they just whole set really large goals. You know, anticipate, if everything went right, you know what is completely possible. And the other piece to that is, you know, everybody's really has a sales aspect to their role and I think you know, companies grow and they would sure as a leader of that organization, you really got to understand how do you keep that single founders mentality and you're really think like an owner and, you know, be frontline, obsessed with the customer and get that day to day feedback. When companies get too far removed from the voice of the customer, they start to solve problems that don't really exist. And you want to operate speed in velocity, meaning you have a known trajectory. It's a vector and has two components of it, a direction and speed, and resist that bureaucracy. And you know, the last thing I'll talk about is is really, you know, team building, you know, surrounding yourself with the team members that are going to take you forward. We're a highly engineered company, very technical audience, but there's a peace. I took resently from Petland Sioni's work, which he talks about the working genius model, and it's the idea of building teams that are well rounded. And they talk about ensuring that somebody on the team is got wonder or invention, meaning you know you're ideating, you're looking at new ideas and saying what is possible, what if we did this? You know, what if anything was right, and then you compliment that with someone who's more of an evaluator. They discern and they galvanized, meaning they kind of analyze the topic to see if it's right for the company or the group. And then the third piece, the really...

...strong piece of that, is implementation, meaning to someone have enablement and tenacity to get things done for you can accomplish the work. And although we have highly technical teams, it's good to understand the working behaviors some of those folks and make sure that you're surrounding yourself with team members that can look at the big picture evaluate if you're doing the right thing. And that's a little bit about when we went through our Iot strategy, I can tell it. Talk a little bit more about that. Is We went through those phases over about a ten year period as far as what was possible in what we take it to and you had to you had to fail a little bit to really learn and pick things up and get to the next step to say what do we really want to do here? So let's let's there's a lot there. Let's pick on two pieces of it. One is the you know, you mentioned the this idea of like vector. Okay, so direction and speed and so within that let's foot. I just want to like follow up on the direction piece which feels a lot like what we call product market fit. You know, picking the correct direction is like what, okay, what you know, unmet customer need are you trying to solve? Aka, like we're going to take the company in this direct and XYZ direction of solving that problem or problems, as you guys were on your journey. You know, I'm putting myself in the position of that. That friend two beers in. So I say, Craig, great, got it. The vector matters a lot. I have follow up questions on the team piece, more on that in a moment, but on the vector piece. How do I know what to build? You know, how do I know if I'm building the right thing? Can you talk about you guys as journey and how? I mean here you are, eighteen years later, you guys have built this, this amazing company. How did you know along the way that you were building the right things? And also, I cannot allow you to escape without pointing at at least one example of building the wrong thing, you know. So what's a thing where you went down the wrong path? You've got the scar tissue to show for it. And what could your friend, you know, learn from that process as well? No, that's a that's a great question in you know, as it relates to connected machines and you know the connected factory started six, seven years ago, looking at really what was iote and you know, I went to a many conferences and nobody really could tell me what it was. You know, they give you an architectural diagram, they can tell you you're doing some asset monitoring, but it wasn't really clear, nor was it clear to the folks that you're describing it to. You got to look at some of the technology maturity of some companies. Not Everybody's comfortable talking about Ip addresses and understanding where things are at. And we talked about data security or plant security and connected machines and being vulnerable and data Ip and all that stuff. You know, it could be technically confusing. So part of all we learned in the journey is education. In the way we did that is through firing bullets versus cannonballs, so meaning making some small objectives before putting a lot of gunpowder into some bigger pieces. And we set up a technology council and we investigate a different platforms that were out there, Siemens, Alan Bradley others, and really kind of, you know, fan a kind of a product out their field that was in its research stage. Yes, so we sit kind of set out of a journey to really kind of understand the different technologies and their maturity that were out there. And you know, really, if I can tell you, the three platforms that we picked six, seven years ago currently don't exist. They've been cannibalized by their own internal product investments and we didn't understand the market enough to understand where that fit. Where we were we're creating a product for the market where we trying to apply the pieces that were out there, that already existed. We're trying to get all the way to the end of the goal before we really understood what technology was really available. And at the end of the day, we said let's take let's do something that's different, let's make something that's unique, that allows ampt to look uniquely...

...different from other system integrators just deploying capital equipment, putting into the market and moving on to the next and we said let's do two things. Let's create a machine that we can connect to, let's minimize service calls, let's remote connect in and put some parameters around safety and motion uploading and downloading program so that you can educate the customer on what a remote connection would look like. Then we said, let's just tie into our own system to look at our own performance variables, let's look at our own machines and when we walk a customer through the building, could I show them that we care so much about the equipment that we put in there we're willing to put up the performance metrics on the lobby conference room to show which machines were monitoring. And that takes it to a unique level where it's telling the customer that we care about our equipment and if you care about it to you can have access to that data and will provide you that information so you can see what the status of your equipment is. And you know it. It's a about do you care about what you're doing and can you show that? And when we reset our strategy, and so let's get back to the basics. Let's pick some simple platform and technology and let's just create a self sert piece of equipment that shows that we're providing value, we care about the equipment as we're educating our customers. Let's start there and then we'll take it to the advent level analytics and Trent predictions, you know, once we get a little more mature. You mentioned people a few times in there. You know, going back to that advice to the friend, you know, one of your things was, hey, build a strong team around you. Like it makes perfect sense to me. You know, you're a person is embarking on a multi decade journey to massive deal. You know, this digital transformation, Iot strategy like these are difficult internal culture transformations as much as technology can. You expand on the people side of things. You know, what team should they be thinking about building and what are some opportunities, in your opinion or your experience, to find partners, you know, versus building everything on day one internally? No, I think that's it's a great avenue. There is kind of too composed to that is cans, as I mentioned. You know, when building teams you want to make sure that you're hiring for culture, is that they match the culture of the company. This be of the company, the environment that they're working in and the leadership. You know, an Amt, we have very flat organizational structure. You know, everyone's opinion counts and you know egos are checked at the door and that allows the team to fundamentally come up with good ideas and ideas that are there's and ideas that are come from the team versus or executive driven, are much more widely accepted and leveraged and surrounding out the team. You know, we've even had, you know, a person that's non technical, look at our HMI screens to say, if you were to walk up to this machine, could I show you how to program it in ten minutes or less, just like you would any technology that's in your home device? Eighteen years ago it was acceptable to have very complex machine interface and now it's to a point where, with the Labor challenges they are there, if you want operators to use and accept the equipment, you got to create a machine that's that's very easy and simply simple to use. And then the use of partners is critical. We've always had that philosophy. You know, we can't be graded everything. You know we're looking at various different technologies and you know, we recently partnered with a company that does vision technology. That's allowing us to solve applications nonmachine learning algorithms and it's allowing us to find applications in a different market segment that's not defined but has huge upside potential for growth.

And then we've also partner with a company that allows us to do different grasping technologies so that we can leverage robotic material handling differently in arbitrary object picking, and the combination of those two partners is what allows us to create an ideal system that then creates an application that we can define for industry and solved new challenges and just like we'll be sitting here twenty years from now setting even a grander vision of what what robotics can help solve in the space of industry and ensure that they're working alongside and ensuring that companies are being more profitable in gaining market share because they can properly deploy those types of applications. What. So, bringing you back to today, so I think like there's a lot there. I think there's a lot that you know that's some extremely helpful advice. Bring it back to amt specifically aimpty and the future guys. So you know, we've kind of unpacked like some of the tricks that Craig is used over the last couple decades to be successful and drive success at ampt what's next for you guys, like what are we going to see, you know, as twenty one turns into twenty two? Not asking you to, you know, reveal secret sauce here today, but, you know, can you give us a little look under the hood about what you got as are thinking about how you're viewing, you know, the world, as this this new decade in front of us on folds? Yeah, so kind of going on that last topic of technology partners you know, one of the things we're going to be doing, in We'd already in the process of doing with some of our investments, is really looking at how we can solve some of the challenges related to box manipulation. So, you know, we're housing logistics is a very growing space. You know, it's not heavily populated by robotics currently, and we have identified an application and a technology set that will likely allow us to solve a very difficult material handling challenge in those industries, in that application market, and we think by partnering with a company to help us solve some vision algorithms that were able to really define new application sets within the warehousing logistic space. And follow up question, and we're almost out of time today, but I always love to ask you know what, you and I and our audience, we're all kind of stewards of this iot space. You always love to give a little hat tip to others out there doing good work. Who in the in Iot Land, you know, in the broadest sense, however, you would want to find. It is out there. You know, it's a amt stories amazing. Who else is doing good work that you think nobody's talking about that you want to throw throw a shout out to? Yeah, one of the companies we've been recently, just early stage working partnership together, is they've created some some grasping technology that really changes the way you pick contoured objects and some of their algorithms with machine vision been pretty interesting and would allow, you know, new application set to be really, you know, driven forward in the company soft robotics. INC is is a great company to take a look at. Take a look at their technology and you can see how that would apply to robotics and robotic applications. Cool Soft Robotics Inc congratulations, Craig. I really appreciate you being on the show for people that are following this story and they're they're saying, man, Craig is a font of knowledge on this. I'd love to keep up with him. How how can someone keep up with you out on the INNERWEBS? Yeah, you can find me linked in. Just search for Craig civilized you or it Applied Manufacturingcom, applied mfgcom,...

...and be happy to have a conversation and just learn from one another. Great. Thanks. Thanks a lot, Craig, and that's that's it for today. Folks. If you'd like to be a guest on their show, email us at podcast at very possible otherwise, that is all she wrote for today. My name is Ryan prosser. Thanks for listening and we will see you on the Internet. You shouldn't have to worry about IOT projects dragging on or unreliable vendors. You've got enough on your plate. The right team of Engineers and project managers can change a pivotal moment for your business into your competitive edge varies. Close Knit crew of ambitious problem solvers, continuous improvers and curious builders know how to turn your ideas into a reality on time and up to your standards, with a focus on mitigating risk and maximizing opportunity, will help you build an Iot solution that you can hang your hat on. Let's bring your Iot idea to life. Learn more at very possiblecom. You've been listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey. If you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to hit subscribe in your favorite podcast player and give us a rating. Have a question or an idea for future episode? Send it to podcast at very possiblecom see you next time.

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