IoT Strategy: Firing Bullets Instead of Cannonballs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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 theearly two thousand very, you know, industrial robot. You know you wouldhave never thought that in two thousand and twenty one we'd be accepting that arobot and a human could be working in the same collaborative application space. Youare listening to over the Air Iot connected devices and the journey, brought toyou by vary. In each episode we have sharp, unfiltered conversations with executivesabout their IOT journeys, the mistakes they made, the lessons they learned andwhat they wish they'd known when they started. Welcome back to over the Air IOTconnected 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 theirIOT products correct. Thanks for being on the show. Hey, Ryan,happy to be here. So when, as I've learned about AMT, youknow in some of our conversations I would definitely describe you guys as an Iotcompany, but I know it's been a journey. You've been there for almosttwenty years. What can you tell us. Well, first of all, giveus a little bit of your background, but also, you know, tellus 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 howwe fit in the space. So, yeah, ampt is an engineering solutionsprovider and we develop and design full turnkey robotic systems and also provide engineering servicesto the industrial automation market and I've been a pleasure to be here for lasteighteen years. Founder led organization, Mike Jacobs. Our our founder, hada vision for creating an engineering company that would allow people to start their careersand develop full turnkey solutions for the market. And you know, a lot ofour applications, a lot of our technology focuses are not robotics and connectedmachines. And so, you know, myself really got started in the industrylate 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 youknow, 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. Youknow, then really kind of got involved in different areas of the company tohelp us expand outside of automotive and see other applications come to life. Asthe technology mature, became easier to use, it was more readily accepted by theend user manufacturing market. Well, from their started some consulting activities withinour amtea where we really kind of led customers on a journey of where doyou start with automation? So if you're looking to automate you have a lotof manual processes. You look in at your ry calculations, you're looking atthroughput, you're looking at safety. You know, where do you start?So we help companies really roadmap and landscape. You know, what does automation looklike in their factories? And once you got through the conceptual automation andour line numbers, you know, the quick next step was how are thesemachines and what data are we collecting? What value are we providing from thedata 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 looklike? So you guys are at the front of the space. You're doingsome 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, thespace generally was like in its infancy at that point. You know, giveus a candid snapshot of amt Eighteen years...

...ago. Yeah, it's it wasdefinitely different, you know. You know robots had vision systems, but youhad to write sophisticated code to make those vision systems do things. So,for example, you know, you know, automotive really pioneered standards in the industryrelated to, you know, how machines were built, how software waswritten and those kind of things are very valuable as you get into markets andorganizations that don't have those or less mature with their automation strategy. But eighteenyears it was it was old school automotive, you know it was. It wasa different demand, it was a different application and industrial robots were goinginto factories and, you know, companies were trying to mature technology. Itwas acceptable that, you know, it took long to configure devices and devicesdidn't talk to one another and ease of use wasn't really a thing, wheretoday that's a driving factor. You know, how quickly can you get something setup? How quickly can you get the data? You know, howcan you connect to the machine? In the early days, you know,you were writing specific drivers. Everything was custom and as the applications matured andas new industries adopted the technology, you know, companies really kind of gotalong and said, you know, in order for us to be unique,in order for us to put in more automation. You know, how canwe look at the technology and say, can we make things easier? Canwe write software that better? Can we write interfaces that are intuitive to theend user, which is typically an operator has to keep that machine running allday long? And you know, you come back from where we started andwhere we're at today, where we got you know, user interfaces of threescreens are last you know, factories that were monitoring and collecting data of themachines that we could monitor the assets and understand, you know, some predictiveanalytics on when the asset might fail and then, just overall, you know, how is your machine running? And you know some of the technology backin 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 acceptingthat 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 atime machine and go all the way back to two thousand and three and delivera piece of advice, what's something that? Like? What about the world intwenty one as you see it? I'm talking about like through the Lensof automation, Amt Iot, what's a piece of advice that Craig from twothousand and three would have said? Okay, future Craig has been drinking. There'sno way that's true. I am I am not going to do anythingwith that information. That doesn't that just doesn't make sense. Like, whatabout 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 throughthe lens of two thousand and three Craig that he would be likely to discountit 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 beplaced on a mobile manipulator and Amr autonomous mobile robot, or could be usedin leverage, in conjunction, you know, with human workers. It was alwaysyou know, how do you get the robot in a cage, thatit was protected, the human was protected, including safe stop and hard stops anddistances. You would have never thought that safety would be controlled by controlreliable 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 beable to actually collect data and look at your factory and understand if theequipment was meeting its required up time or a we calculations something to understand ifyou are a plant manager and user manufacturer...

...and you were responsible for the equipmentin that facility. We've always collected data, you know, back in the historicalautomotive days, but the accessibility of it and the real time nature ofit is really kind of game changing. So one of the things that's uniqueabout your background and caused us to be, you know, pretty excited about havingyou on the show is the tenure that you've had an amt and you'vetaken. You've been a part of a, you know, major journey. Arniethere it's cool. It's unusual. And if someone in our audience wassaying, 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 yourselfin the position you're a couple of beers and you're catching up with this oldfriend. That is the situation they find themselves in there saying, Craig,what does my next eighteen years look like? where? Where does this story evenstart for me? Like, taking the experience that you've gained, whatare 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 thinkingabout? Opportunities and threats and things like that. No, that's a that'sa 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 learningfrom other people. You know, that's the biggest thing that I've gained outof my career is learning from other leaders that like to share and really kindof like to be well educated and well read. I think, you know, by reading and understanding different authors and different topics. You know, beingwell read means you're investing in yourself and you're investing in your future. Sothe biggest piece of advice is, you know, really be asking, youknow, how are you investing in your cell? The second is really youknow, what's your vision? Do you have a vision, and I meana large vision, if you go back to Jim Collin, big Harry andthey just whole set really large goals. You know, anticipate, if everythingwent right, you know what is completely possible. And the other piece tothat is, you know, everybody's really has a sales aspect to their roleand I think you know, companies grow and they would sure as a leaderof that organization, you really got to understand how do you keep that singlefounders mentality and you're really think like an owner and, you know, befrontline, obsessed with the customer and get that day to day feedback. Whencompanies get too far removed from the voice of the customer, they start tosolve 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 componentsof it, a direction and speed, and resist that bureaucracy. And youknow, the last thing I'll talk about is is really, you know,team building, you know, surrounding yourself with the team members that are goingto 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 hetalks about the working genius model, and it's the idea of building teams thatare well rounded. And they talk about ensuring that somebody on the team isgot wonder or invention, meaning you know you're ideating, you're looking at newideas 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'smore of an evaluator. They discern and they galvanized, meaning they kind ofanalyze 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 canaccomplish the work. And although we have highly technical teams, it's good tounderstand the working behaviors some of those folks and make sure that you're surrounding yourselfwith team members that can look at the big picture evaluate if you're doing theright thing. And that's a little bit about when we went through our Iotstrategy, 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 aswhat was possible in what we take it to and you had to you hadto fail a little bit to really learn and pick things up and get tothe next step to say what do we really want to do here? Solet'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 justwant to like follow up on the direction piece which feels a lot like whatwe call product market fit. You know, picking the correct direction is like what, okay, what you know, unmet customer need are you trying tosolve? Aka, like we're going to take the company in this direct andXYZ 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. Thatfriend two beers in. So I say, Craig, great, got it.The vector matters a lot. I have follow up questions on the teampiece, more on that in a moment, but on the vector piece. Howdo I know what to build? You know, how do I knowif I'm building the right thing? Can you talk about you guys as journeyand how? I mean here you are, eighteen years later, you guys havebuilt this, this amazing company. How did you know along the waythat you were building the right things? And also, I cannot allow youto 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 athat's a great question in you know, as it relates to connected machines andyou know the connected factory started six, seven years ago, looking at reallywhat was iote and you know, I went to a many conferences and nobodyreally could tell me what it was. You know, they give you anarchitectural diagram, they can tell you you're doing some asset monitoring, but itwasn't really clear, nor was it clear to the folks that you're describing itto. 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 vulnerableand data Ip and all that stuff. You know, it could be technicallyconfusing. So part of all we learned in the journey is education. Inthe way we did that is through firing bullets versus cannonballs, so meaning makingsome small objectives before putting a lot of gunpowder into some bigger pieces. Andwe set up a technology council and we investigate a different platforms that were outthere, Siemens, Alan Bradley others, and really kind of, you know, fan a kind of a product out their field that was in its researchstage. Yes, so we sit kind of set out of a journey toreally kind of understand the different technologies and their maturity that were out there.And you know, really, if I can tell you, the three platformsthat we picked six, seven years ago currently don't exist. They've been cannibalizedby their own internal product investments and we didn't understand the market enough to understandwhere that fit. Where we were we're creating a product for the market wherewe 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 wereally 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'sunique, that allows ampt to look uniquely...

...different from other system integrators just deployingcapital equipment, putting into the market and moving on to the next and wesaid 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 aroundsafety and motion uploading and downloading program so that you can educate the customer onwhat a remote connection would look like. Then we said, let's just tieinto our own system to look at our own performance variables, let's look atour own machines and when we walk a customer through the building, could Ishow them that we care so much about the equipment that we put in therewe're willing to put up the performance metrics on the lobby conference room to showwhich machines were monitoring. And that takes it to a unique level where it'stelling the customer that we care about our equipment and if you care about itto you can have access to that data and will provide you that information soyou 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 showthat? And when we reset our strategy, and so let's get back to thebasics. Let's pick some simple platform and technology and let's just create aself sert piece of equipment that shows that we're providing value, we care aboutthe equipment as we're educating our customers. Let's start there and then we'll takeit to the advent level analytics and Trent predictions, you know, once weget 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 isembarking on a multi decade journey to massive deal. You know, this digitaltransformation, Iot strategy like these are difficult internal culture transformations as much as technologycan. You expand on the people side of things. You know, whatteam should they be thinking about building and what are some opportunities, in youropinion or your experience, to find partners, you know, versus building everything onday 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 forculture, is that they match the culture of the company. This be ofthe company, the environment that they're working in and the leadership. You know, an Amt, we have very flat organizational structure. You know, everyone'sopinion counts and you know egos are checked at the door and that allows theteam to fundamentally come up with good ideas and ideas that are there's and ideasthat are come from the team versus or executive driven, are much more widelyaccepted 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 screensto say, if you were to walk up to this machine, could Ishow you how to program it in ten minutes or less, just like youwould any technology that's in your home device? Eighteen years ago it was acceptable tohave very complex machine interface and now it's to a point where, withthe Labor challenges they are there, if you want operators to use and acceptthe equipment, you got to create a machine that's that's very easy and simplysimple to use. And then the use of partners is critical. We've alwayshad that philosophy. You know, we can't be graded everything. You knowwe're looking at various different technologies and you know, we recently partnered with acompany that does vision technology. That's allowing us to solve applications nonmachine learning algorithmsand it's allowing us to find applications in a different market segment that's not definedbut has huge upside potential for growth.

And then we've also partner with acompany that allows us to do different grasping technologies so that we can leverage roboticmaterial handling differently in arbitrary object picking, and the combination of those two partnersis what allows us to create an ideal system that then creates an application thatwe can define for industry and solved new challenges and just like we'll be sittinghere twenty years from now setting even a grander vision of what what robotics canhelp solve in the space of industry and ensure that they're working alongside and ensuringthat companies are being more profitable in gaining market share because they can properly deploythose types of applications. What. So, bringing you back to today, soI think like there's a lot there. I think there's a lot that youknow that's some extremely helpful advice. Bring it back to amt specifically aimptyand the future guys. So you know, we've kind of unpacked like some ofthe tricks that Craig is used over the last couple decades to be successfuland drive success at ampt what's next for you guys, like what are wegoing 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 aboutwhat you got as are thinking about how you're viewing, you know, theworld, 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 theprocess of doing with some of our investments, is really looking at how we cansolve some of the challenges related to box manipulation. So, you know, we're housing logistics is a very growing space. You know, it's notheavily populated by robotics currently, and we have identified an application and a technologyset that will likely allow us to solve a very difficult material handling challenge inthose industries, in that application market, and we think by partnering with acompany to help us solve some vision algorithms that were able to really define newapplication sets within the warehousing logistic space. And follow up question, and we'realmost 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 thisiot space. You always love to give a little hat tip to others outthere doing good work. Who in the in Iot Land, you know,in the broadest sense, however, you would want to find. It isout there. You know, it's a amt stories amazing. Who else isdoing good work that you think nobody's talking about that you want to throw throwa 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 thatreally changes the way you pick contoured objects and some of their algorithms with machinevision been pretty interesting and would allow, you know, new application set tobe really, you know, driven forward in the company soft robotics. INCis is a great company to take a look at. Take a look attheir 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 theshow 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 upwith him. How how can someone keep up with you out on the INNERWEBS? Yeah, you can find me linked in. Just search for Craig civilizedyou or it Applied Manufacturingcom, applied mfgcom,...

...and be happy to have a conversationand just learn from one another. Great. Thanks. Thanks a lot, Craig, and that's that's it for today. Folks. If you'd liketo be a guest on their show, email us at podcast at very possibleotherwise, 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'thave to worry about IOT projects dragging on or unreliable vendors. You've got enoughon your plate. The right team of Engineers and project managers can change apivotal moment for your business into your competitive edge varies. Close Knit crew ofambitious problem solvers, continuous improvers and curious builders know how to turn your ideasinto a reality on time and up to your standards, with a focus onmitigating risk and maximizing opportunity, will help you build an Iot solution that youcan hang your hat on. Let's bring your Iot idea to life. Learnmore at very possiblecom. You've been listening to over the Air Iot connected devicesand the journey. If you enjoyed today's episode, make sure to hit subscribein your favorite podcast player and give us a rating. Have a question oran idea for future episode? Send it to podcast at very possiblecom see younext time.

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