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.)

Ohio Roofing Manufacturer Pivots To Parts for Masks Responding to Covid 19

The press release came just now, and as I looked at it I thought, “I know that guy in the picture.” It was Todd Miller, CEO of Isaiah Industries in Piqua, OH. We used to attend the same church. I put one of his metal roofs on my house (which helped me sell it quickly and got me to Illinois). By the way, I vouch for the metal roof.

Much like the Polish engineers I wrote about last week who set up a face mask production line in a hacker space, Miller reports Isaiah Industries pivoted from metal roofing to metal nose strips for face masks responding to Covid 19 and have produced and shipped approximately 500,000 metal nose strips for face masks to over 3,000 people at no charge. Requests for the rust-free strips are coming in at a rate of 40,000 per day at www.metalnosebridge.com.

“Our current production capacity is around 100,000 strips per 8-hour shift,” says Miller. “With a total shipping cost thus far approaching $25,000, we have been blessed by several individual and company contributions to our effort. As a company, we did receive PPP funding which has allowed us to stay open and be able to contribute to COVID-19 crisis relief in a meaningful way.”

According to Miller, the company has had several commercial requests to produce strips for large manufacturers of face masks. “Interestingly, we’ve always dreamed of having a division of our company producing products for the medical industry,” says Miller. “Much as we all regret the COVID-19 crisis, it could be the unlikely route to achieving that dream.”

As the daily demand for face masks continues to grow exponentially, Miller and his team have gone into overdrive to help hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Miller says the requests are coming in so rapidly (several a minute) that he had to pause the website temporarily so his team could catch up with orders. He also said they will be charging for shipping, but not for the product, moving forward.

Way to go, Todd. Another example of innovation in response to crisis by manufacturers.

Ecosystem strategy essential for CSP success in B2B 5G

Platforms and value-add are crucial for not only success, but also survival, in many software categories today. I’ve done a bit of advisory and promotional work in this area. A platform with open APIs supporting a thriving ecosystem (think a healthy pond and wetland ecosystem with a variety of plant and animal life) brings value to both the suppliers and the users.

In the case of this research, we’re talking Communications Services Providers (CSPs) and what they need to consider for a strategy to make it in a 5G world. From the report summary:

Telcos losing ground in early enterprise 5G projects, must act quickly to recover position of influence as world emerges from COVID-19 pandemic

In brief—the news focuses on results of a global research study that includes some compelling data surrounding 5G in the atmosphere of Covid. 

  • Omdia believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on enterprise demand for 5G technology solutions. Indeed, 5G investment in China is already recovering because the country recognizes the importance of accelerating the digitalisation of industries to guard against future risk.
  • Omdia expects this trend to unfold globally as COVID-19 makes digitizing the physical, enabling a work-anywhere economy and mitigating risk in supply chains through an ecosystem play more relevant than ever.
  • It also reveals that manufacturing, transport, utilities and energy/mining sectors account for nearly 80% of early enterprise 5G deals. As an enabler of business solutions, 5G’s value will be realized through industry specific processes, supply chains, partnerships, and applications.
  • The report also notes that the new 5G world demands CSPs to embrace platform-based business models and orchestrate partner ecosystems to meet specific enterprise demands. The report points to examples of how Deutsche Telekom, Verizon, and Telefónica are starting to form industry partnerships to access these verticals.

BearingPoint//Beyond, in collaboration with Omdia (previously Ovum), released a report May 5, 2020 outlining how Communications Service Providers (CSPs) must change strategies in order to drive revenues from their 5G investments. The study demonstrates alignment between CSPs and enterprises on the importance of 5G but reveals a worrying trend for CSP 5G revenues based on their roles in early 5G enterprise projects.

The report finds that 5G strategies focused on selling communications solutions only are failing and that only CSPs engaging partner ecosystems to solve enterprises’ business problems will be able to make up lost ground. Additionally, it identifies key vertical markets, uncovers initial success stories and opportunities and key learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Omdia reports that 72.8% of CSPs believe most of their 5G revenues will come from B2B, B2B2X or Government/smart cities opportunities. Earlier this year, BearingPoint//Beyond research showed that CSPs expect a 15% increase in current revenues from B2B 5G services. However, Omdia’s Enterprise 5G Innovation Tracker reveals that they’re already being cut out of strategic engagement and solution building with enterprise partners. In 40% of enterprise 5G deals signed CSPs were the secondary supplier. 32% were led by enterprises. Only 21% were led by CSPs.

“Only one in five early enterprise 5G deals are CSP-led, proving that the way CSPs want to sell is at odds with the way in which businesses want to buy. What’s deeply concerning is that some of these early deals, such as the ones we see in automotive, cut out CSPs entirely – even connectivity is being provided by other suppliers. Businesses want to buy complete solutions that fit their needs and help them solve business problems, rather than individual technology assets. This is a multi-billion-dollar opportunity that CSPs need to address fast and requires CSPs to collaborate with enterprises and SMBs to better understand their reality,” says Angus Ward, CEO, BearingPoint//Beyond.

The report emphasizes the need for CSPs to change their posture from ‘5G-first’ to ‘business-first’ thinking, focusing on applications and vertical-specific solutions. It finds that enterprises are already making the connection between 5G and applications. Omdia asserts that 5G will act as a catalyst for those enterprises that are still hesitant about the deployment of specific applications and will enhance certain applications that are going to be deployed anyway.

“CSPs will only realize value from 5G if they can identify, partner, codevelop, implement, and run a proposition with application-specific and industry-specific specialists,” says Evan Kirchheimer, Research Vice President, Service Provider & Communications, Omdia. “CSPs that can orchestrate such a complex web of relationships will be capable of capturing a greater share of the market and will not be relegated to being one of many connectivity providers competing solely on price.”

Omdia’s Enterprise 5G Innovation Tracker reveals that manufacturing, transport, utilities and energy/mining sectors account for nearly 80% of early enterprise 5G deals. As an enabler of business solutions, 5G’s value will be realized through industry specific processes, supply chains, partnerships, and applications. The report points to examples of how Deutsche Telekom, Verizon and Telefónica are starting to form industry partnerships to access these verticals.

“The promise of enterprise 5G is there for the taking, but CSPs must realize they will need to master ecosystem orchestration, including joint go-to-market with vendors and cocreation with customers,” says Dario Talmesio, Principal Analyst & Practice Leader, CSPs Europe, Omdia.

Omdia believes that the COVID-19 pandemic is pushing the ‘fast-forward’ button on enterprise demand for 5G technology solutions. Indeed, 5G investment in China is already recovering because the country recognizes the importance of accelerating the digitalisation of industries to guard against future risk. Omdia expects this trend to unfold globally as COVID-19 makes digitizing the physical, enabling a work-anywhere economy and mitigating risk in supply chains through an ecosystem play more relevant than ever.

“The report notes that the brave new 5G world demands that CSPs be brave. CSPs have to embrace platform-based business models and orchestrate partner ecosystems to meet specific enterprise demands. This requires a change in mindset, experimenting with business models, accelerating testing and monetising speed to test and monetize new offerings that are co-created with ecosystem of partners and underpinned by the right IT platform to support these new ways of working,” concludes Ward. “Fundamentally, CSPs must become 5G ecosystem orchestrators. That’s the only way they can hope to meet enterprise business needs and re-integrate themselves into enterprise 5G value-chain as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Download a free copy of ‘Industries and enterprises are ready to reap the benefits of 5G’.

BearingPoint//Beyond Infonova Digital Business Platform

While researching Bearing point, I found this information about its platform. So, here is a bit further information.

BearingPoint//Beyond’s  Infonova Digital Business Platform is 5G-ready, enabling Communication Service Providers (CSPs) around the world to create, experiment, launch, and monetize new 5G offerings at speed and at scale. The Infonova platform has already been selected by major CSPs, including NTT Group and Tata Communications.

To monetize 5G at scale, CSPs must ensure that their operational and business support systems can meet four main requirements:

  • Orchestration and delivery of complex solutions spanning both different types of networks (e.g: 4G, Fiber,5G) and different sources of services (e.g. edge, AR, VR)
  • Flexibility in charging and monetization capabilities enabling CSPs to bundle and price anything from network slicing and consumer IoT, to industrial IoT solutions
  • The development of partner ecosystems enabling CSPs to truly co-invent and co-create joint solutions with multiple third parties that better fit customer needs
  • Increased operational agility and speed with cloud native solutions

The 5G-ready Infonova Digital Business Platform has been designed to deliver precisely these capabilities, enabling CSPs to:

  • Reduce risk by rapidly experimenting, launching and monetizing new offerings and scale with success, due to its SaaS delivery model
  • Achieve fast and simple integration with their business and operational landscape by using a comprehensive library of Open APIs and a flexible microservices and containerized architecture delivered in cloud native environments
  • Offer advanced charging and billing capabilities ready to support any pricing model, including network slicing offerings
  • Bundle anything with connectivity – especially important for consumer IoT, OTT services and enterprise solutions (e.g. Industrial IoT, Autonomous driving) – as a result of its flexible catalogue
  • Access comprehensive order management and service fulfillment functionalities, managing the challenge and complexity of dynamic 5G service activation, diversity of devices and network functions
  • Support multiple business partners on a single platform, allowing CSPs to easily and dynamically exchange offerings, orchestrate and monetize B2B2X, B2B, IoT marketplace, B2C and wholesale 5G use cases with an ecosystem of partners