Podcast 206 Innovate To Win Business

I have published a podcast, Number 206–OEMs How To Innovate To Win More Business. I’ve found in many discussions with special machine builders, custom manufacturers, and even systems integrators that they may have given up too easily in pursuit of a contract. I have a couple of stories.

The podcast is sponsored by Ignition from Inductive Automation.

Consulting Firm Makes Open Source Acquisition

In brief: Arthur D. Little acquires Cutter Consortium and Presans to expand open consulting capabilities

Arthur D. Little (ADL) today announced the acquisitions of Cutter Consortium, a business technology research company based in the US, and Presans, a leading player in industrial open innovation based in France. By combining its own expertise with an existing community of independent experts, ADL expands its consulting ecosystem to establish a next-generation value proposition powered by open consulting and open problem solving.

Now, at first, I suffered from a bit of cognitive dissonance. It’s difficult to imagine these large consulting firms who make a living from charging high prices for custom coding. Then I remembered what a friend with experience at this level told me–open source is good for the community, but the large companies benefit, too. You see, they get in return thousands of hours of free software development by the community. I guess you could say it’s a “win-win-win” situation.

Acquired companies described 

Cutter Consortium helps organizations navigate digital disruption of business models and leverage emerging technologies for competitive advantage and mission success. Through its research, consulting, training, and executive education – all delivered by globally recognized thought leaders – Cutter delivers innovative solutions to its thousands of clients worldwide. Cutter’s experts have done the ground-breaking work in areas ranging from digital architectures to digital tech, enterprise agility to data analytics, and digital leadership to sustainable innovation. At the heart of its business is a membership service that gives clients valuable access to its experts and their insight. 

Presans is a leading data-driven platform dedicated to industrial open innovation and open problem solving. Thanks to cutting-edge technology based on big data and artificial intelligence, as well as a team of fellows (former research and innovation executives) with in-depth knowledge in innovation, Presans leverages a network of over 6 million experts worldwide. Presans provides a variety of high-end open innovation services, contributing to the acceleration of decision-making and removal of scientific and technological roadblocks. Presans has worked for 50+ international industrial groups and delivered more than 100 innovation projects in Europe, the US and the Middle East.

Supporting quotes

“Arthur D. Little applies an ‘open consulting’ and ‘open problem solving’ approach and brings the best global experts to every assignment to complement its internal strengths,” comments Ignacio García Alves, Chairman and CEO of Arthur D. Little. “We believe the future is open consulting. With the double acquisition of Cutter and Presans, we are able to expand our open consulting ecosystem and open problem solving capabilities, offering access to experts, premium insight and a differentiated experience for our clients, in a seamless way.”

“The Cutter team felt an instant synergy with our colleagues at ADL. We share a focus on innovation, which, in ADL’s case, goes back to its roots, and an emphasis on providing custom, leading-edge solutions. Moreover, ADL’s more than 40 offices in 30 countries has given Cutter an enhanced ability to assist its clients worldwide,” says Karen Coburn, CEO of Cutter Consortium

“Since its inception at the École Polytechnique’s start-up incubator, Presans has always engaged with the best experts in the world, mainly to help its customers solve complex technical problems,” says Albert Meige, Founder of Presans. “Presans now addresses more and more problems at the crossroads of strategy consulting and scientific & technical expertise. The time had therefore come for Presans to strengthen itself by joining forces with Arthur D Little.”

Benefits

Together with Cutter and Presans, ADL reinforces its position on digital and information technologies, as well as industrial innovation, particularly in breakthrough innovation and convergence problem solving. In addition, through the acquisition of the technological platform of Presans, ADL is accelerating its investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop state-of-the-art offerings for its clients.

Cutter Consortium and Presans will continue to operate under their current brands with the same management teams, while benefiting from ADL’s capabilities, investment, and global exposure.

Entrepreneurship: Building the Amazon of Africa

PR people often send me review copies of new books. In this case, I received an invitation from the author. I just finished Chasing Black Unicorns: How building the Amazon of Africa put me on Interpol’s Most Wanted List by Marek Zmyslowski

As in many good stories, this one is true on many levels. You can read it as the adventures of a young man maturing into wisdom, experience, and perspective.

It’s also a story of entrepreneurship. How there does exist a “glamorous” side, but also extremely hard work, long hours, strenuous travel. And also attracting liars. cheats, backstabbers, crooks, huge egos. Then again beautiful women, much liquor, parties. It’s all here.

Zmyslowski includes not only his successes, but also his failures. His decisions both right and wrong.

Along the way, we learn as much about ourselves as about him.

As an American born and raised in the Midwest, I was also fascinated by his descriptions of life in Poland, Nigeria, South Africa, and more. It is also instructive to hear what someone outside of the country thinks about the US.

We have grown accustomed to media alternately glamorizing the crop of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and billionaires only to jump on any who are down. Very much like the PR machine developed in the 1920s to glamorize movie actors and actresses who in all previous history were considered outside of respectability. This story provides a raw look inside the sausage factory to show how the sausage is made.

These stories also caused me to pause and reflect on my own experiences with small startups. None ever grew, which is why I am where I am today. But I also met my share of liars, cheats, backstabbers. On the other hand, I’ve met many great people and learned much about success and failure.

It’s a good read.

Hitachi Vantara Expands Digital Manufacturing Portfolio

Many companies emphasize their response to the current Covid-19 pandemic and some leave behind the core announcements or benefits. This announcement (and a interview and webinar) from Hitachi Vantara, the digital infrastructure and solutions subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., is an example. The company has brought in another company group, Hitachi Consulting, and has organized expanded offerings specifically relating to manufacturing.

The new consulting and software group within Hitachi Vantara help manufacturers accelerate Manufacturing 4.0 (or Industrie 4.0, or Smart Manufacturing, or name your brand) initiatives. One other strategy I’ve briefly touched on is the difficulty of safely restarting production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This will not be easy and will require thought, planning, and changes to policies, procedures, layouts, and workflow.

Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice and its expanded portfolio of digital manufacturing solutions, services and consulting services aims to help manufacturers adapt to these immediate challenges. It also promises to help manufacturers lay the foundations for the digitalization of health, safety and environment (HS&E), asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing a litany of challenges for manufacturers that highlight how important unlocking data and digital industrial innovation is to the industry’s future,” said James Destro, general manager, Manufacturing Practice, Hitachi Vantara. “With our powerful IT and OT experience, Hitachi Vantara can uniquely inspire, envision, architect and accelerate digital transformation that solves today’s challenges and prepares manufacturers for the challenges of tomorrow.”

Lumada Video Analytics for Smart Spaces Address a Safe Return to Production

Worker health and safety are primary concerns for manufacturers restarting their operations. The expanded portfolio of digital solutions for manufacturing from Hitachi Vantara includes health, safety and environment solutions leveraging Lumada Video Insights technologies which can be configured for safety applications such as elevated body temperature identification and hand washing detection.

Thermal cameras and Lidar technology can detect the temperature of a person from a distance, so that workers can non-intrusively be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 and workspaces can be monitored for compliance with distancing recommendations.

Practice Helps Manufacturers Lay Foundations for Digital Transformation

COVID-19 has revealed many manufacturers’ overreliance on manual processes and operations, and the lack of visibility that many manufacturing line managers and executives have into their supply chains. Modernizing and digitalizing such capabilities will be essential for manufacturers to recover from the pandemic quickly, and to creating the more agile and resilient manufacturing operations needed in the future. This is another focus of Hitachi Vantara’s new manufacturing practice.

Hitachi’s manufacturing innovations, enterprise-class information technology, and intellectual property – coupled with deep, industry-specific consulting expertise and proven methods to accelerate time to value– enable customers to operationalize digital innovation in a secure, deployment-agnostic, and end-to-end approach. Hitachi Vantara’s outcome-focused consulting process breaks down barriers between OT and IT teams to craft comprehensive solutions that deliver transformative outcomes.

Hitachi Vantara Expands Lumada Manufacturing Insights Portfolio

Hitachi Vantara further announced the expansion of Lumada Manufacturing Insights solutions with new domains that help manufacturers address health, safety and environment, supply chain optimization, asset insights, predictive quality, and operations optimization.

Lumada Manufacturing Insights is a portfolio of industrial internet-of-things (IoT) solutions that empowers manufacturers to achieve operational improvements through data-driven insights. The portfolio delivers benefits such as improved overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), superior operations efficiency, and product quality optimization through predictive and prescriptive insights.

The new solutions introduced today, coupled to Hitachi Vantara’s advisory and consulting services, enable manufacturers to connect production floor Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to create a ‘digital thread’ that provides complete visibility into the data of the organization.

Benefit of Digital Transformation in Industry

I laid out editorial direction for a magazine I helped to start with two basic ideas: contribute to thought leadership in industrial automation; and, tell stories of intelligent application of automation where the “heroes” of the story were the people doing the work not the products they used.

Seventeen years ago if you asked a company for a success story (you never get the “tried it and failed stories”) the formula was “Joe had a problem; Joe bought this list of products from his supplier; problem was solved and Joe was happy.”

Rockwell Automation has a Digital Transformation group headed by Vice President Keith Higgins. The PR folks sent me a “teaser” for an article about real-world application and benefits of digital transformation attributed to Higgins. I haven’t done many application stories at The Manufacturing Connection, so I jumped at the chance to get a real example for what companies are describing as digital transformation. I sent a bunch of questions. I received the formula company (all companies, not only Rockwell) app story.

However, reading into the story which I’m about to share were some lessons about successes from applying digital technologies and also to temper your enthusiasm lest you picture digital transformation like Clark Kent entering a telephone booth (remember those?) and emerging as Superman. While not so dramatic, nonetheless applying digital technologies can enhance productivity and therefore profitability.

This is a story about Agropur, a North American dairy processing company. Not a small one. It consists of over 3,367 dairy farmers who rely on 37 facilities across North America, processing over 1.5 billion gallons of milk into numerous dairy products, resulting in $5.9 billion in sales each year.

The company’s largest facility in Ontario had legacy industrial technologies which faced operational issues and downtime inhibiting its ability to produce the necessary data to continuously improve operations.

So, problem = downtime + inadequate data collection. Proposed solution = implement a standardized, plant-wide IT platform to collect, analyze, and understandably present data.

Agropur had already invested heavily in industrial technology at its Don Mills, Ontario facility, but none of those solutions have been able to provide it with the seamless data insights it needed to continually improve its operations. Data was not efficiently collected costing more than 2,500 hours per year and what data was collected could not be presented to management in such a way to enable continuous improvement teams.

On top of the data collection issue, the Don Mills facility’s equipment and systems were prone to failure. When the facility went down, it was forced to restore from the latest backup. That was no small feat considering there was no way to determine which of their seven maintenance laptops had the latest backup.

These inefficiencies and challenges drove Agropur to begin a search for a standardized, plant-wide

Rockwell Automation together with Grantek Systems Integration, a Rockwell Automation PartnerNetwork Solution Partner, deployed the new system with Agropur.

The result was an entirely new automation system built from the ground up. The system wasn’t only focused on creating a new way to collect data, it was also focused on overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), performance, capacity and more. From my point of view, the emphasis on OEE was unfortunate, but I guess it worked for the customer.

The technology involved included the Allen-Bradley family of ControlLogix controllers, PowerFlex drives, and PanelVew human machine interface (HMI) hardware from Rockwell Automation. Running FactoryTalk View Site Edition software on a virtualized server, each HMI could establish the standard for all additional software. This system collected data from production and provided information to operators to help them improve operations.

Supervisors decided to use OEE for benchmarking using FactoryTalk Metrics software, which collected performance data to power informed decisions.

With the information solution in place, employees from across the facility could see what was occurring on the plant floor and use that data to make continuous improvements.

Benefits: The Agropur team could eliminate 2,500 hours of manual data collection each year. Additionally, significant hours were saved annually thanks to the ease of managing assets through FactoryTalk software.

As soon as information was available, teams at Agropur deployed a data-driven approach to benchmark whether new hardware would curb the usage of lubricants for the lines. Creating benchmark reports and data-driven estimates of new hardware effectiveness, they were able to reduce lubricant consumption by 30%.

Here’s a benefit that I’m shocked to learn it took all this data collection and visualization investment to figure out. Supervisors seeking to identify opportunities for increasing capacity.discovered that lunches, breaks, and meetings caused more than 33 hours of downtime. Changing schedules turned lost processing time into productivity.

Restarting Manufacturing After The Covid-19 Shutdown

Someday soon we’ll be going back to work. Some, of course, are already working in manufacturing under the new regime. Many questions lurk for those planning to get moving again.

To find out more, I spoke with Kim Wallace, executive vice president of Hire Dynamics a staffing consulting company focused on the Southeastern US.

She told me that after the first shock of cutting back or closing, companies began reevaluating their workforce and job descriptions. The first order of business was what jobs needed to be maintained and which employees could work from home. Then came the difficult decisions of furloughs and lay offs. Managers would evaluate balancing personnel needs per department. What is driving the frenetic activity? Cash flow. All of who have been in business know that cash is king. Many companies needed to stop the bleeding.

Hire Dynamics provides strategic consulting on workforce issues and was quickly called in to help management develop strategies for a situation no one knew how long would last.

When it’s time to start up, employees have many considerations, all of which have ramifications for the company. In some cases, going back to work could actually mean a pay cut for the employee who is better off financially to stay home. Some have childcare or elder care situations where there is no alternative to their being home to provide that care. Many will be nervous and concerned about returning to work only to become infected by the coronavirus—despite efforts to reduce the risk.

Many people do want to work, though. And companies need to get production going or die.

So, what does it take to start up again? The threat of virus spreading is still real. No one wants to have most of its workforce and its management team home sick with the possibility of several dying.

This takes a strategy. Companies such as Hire Dynamics are there to help companies plan and start up.

Wallace pointed out that most companies are worried about three things: cash flow, culture, and image. Managing cash flow is crucial for all businesses, and especially for small to mid-sized enterprises (SMEs). This calls for phased start up balancing workers with sales. As companies bring back employees and face necessity of bringing in new hires, they need to be mindful both of maintaining their culture and also developing a culture of health practices. Aware of how decisions impact their image in their communities and their industries, companies need to manage the startup well.

Strategies

Companies cannot afford for the virus to spread throughout the entire management team. They, therefore, stagger management team days at work so that if someone spreads the infection it will not spread to the entire team. Considering production people the first strategy is to adjust shifts so that they do not congregate exiting and entering. If at all possible, have different doors for entering and exiting to keep some separation.

Companies may need help with signage to direct people where and how to enter and leave. They need procedures for temperature screening employees entering for their shifts. Do managers do the screening leaving them at higher risk of infection? Or hire medical technicians?

Another consideration is sanitizing. Perhaps the best strategy is for each shift to sanitize when they arrive at their workstations and then again just before they leave. They will need procedures and training on sanitizing. Note that all this needs to be part of the clock in/clock out procedure. Speaking of company image, management must be cognizant of the impact of decisions unlike a very large company who earned a lot of bad press and congressional scrutiny by doing much of that work off the clock on employee time.

Here are some of the policy and procedure and practical help that Hire Dynamics can provide:

  • Signage
  • Sanitizing
  • Procedures
  • Break rooms (close? Eat at stations? Other things.)
  • Restrooms (block every other sink and toilet stall, etc.)

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