Remember the Customer

Om Malik’s writing has inspired and influenced me for decades. He’s a thoughtful observer of the technology scene and a good photographer. He recently posted a piece about Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the new Meta–his replacement for Facebook when it finally fades. After quoting from Zuckerberg’s talk about where Meta is going, Om points out that it’s all about what Meta can get from its customers. Nothing about serving customers and society.

During this morning’s workout, my podcast picked up Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast. His theme began with a story from a management meeting at Chick-fil-A many years ago. A new restaurant chain had popped onto the radar. Executives viewed it as a threat. The discussion centered on growth. Like a race, they wanted to grow faster than the opponent.

Founder and chairman Truett Cathy pounded on the table to obtain attention. The room quieted. He looked around the room and said, “First, we work on improving quality. If we are always improving quality, then our customers will tell us to grow.”

Two polar opposite views of the market.

Do customers serve us? Do we serve customers?

I am weaning off Facebook. It truly is evil making money by trying to entice us toward posting ever more extreme (and stupid) stuff to capture attention. I have never been in a Chick-fil-A. That’s because I don’t eat chicken. But if I did, I’d patronize the place that is trying its best to serve me. I’d shun the place that is cynically using me to make more billions.

Now–you are going to glance at this brief essay and return to work. What are you going to do? Figure out how to improve quality in order to better serve customers? I hope you choose wisely.

5G Marketing Failures

5G has potential for industrial and manufacturing applications, but when have we heard that much about it? Analyst firm Global Data’s recent study says mobile operators are failing to come up with a strong marketing story.

The study by GlobalData Technology, which involved a July 2022 audit of around 30  standalone 5G  commercial deployments worldwide, concluded that although operators are keen to flag the adoption of standalone 5G in general marketing messages—largely focusing on the improved network quality and capabilities for enterprises—the number of standalone 5G references within consumer 5G service portfolios are few and far between.

Emma Mohr-McClune, Service Director at GlobalData, comments: “The lack of effective standalone 5G promotion is a real problem for the future of 5G monetization. Standalone 5G will be a vital requirement for a lot of the more exciting 5G use cases, from autonomous devices to commercial augmented and virtual reality.”

Mohr-McClune continues: “The few exceptional cases—in Singapore, but also in Germany and elsewhere—make for fascinating study. In the future, we could see more operators position standalone 5G as greener, safer, and more reliable than future generations of wireless technology, but the current industry is still waiting for signature use cases to give the upgrade meaning to consumers. In the meantime, we believe that most operators will focus on marketing the technology to the business sector, where there are more immediate and distinctive use cases emerging.

“In the Enterprise sector, it’s an entirely different story. Standalone 5G enables enterprises to set up their own, closed Private 5G networks, to better manage connectivity in ultra-connected working set-ups, such as ports and mines–or even ‘slice’ the network for prioritized levels of service for mission-critical operations. The benefits, use cases, and return on investment (ROI) are far clearer. However, in selling standalone 5G to consumers, operators are going to have to make sure they don’t repeat the same promises they spun out for non-standalone 5G, or risk appearing to contradict themselves.”

Patented Lithium-Sulfur Battery Technology

This was a strange press release that I almost just trashed. The lede, the news, was about a PR agency getting work. PR is never the news. PR executives and agents do not want to be quoted. Their job is to help people like me get to the news. They help point out new things and help us get interviews with the right people.

However, the real news concerns battery technology for electric vehicles. That news is timely and relevant. Batter technology constrains the utility of all electric vehicles from automobiles we drive to autonomous guided vehicles in warehouse and factory settings.

In brief (and in the words of the new PR agency):

  • Nevada-based NexTech holds the patents in process and materials for groundbreaking lithium-sulfur battery technology
  • The semi-solid-state technology is set to revolutionize EVs, renewable energy, aircraft, personal electronics and more with unprecedented energy density, overall power and safety
  • DRIVEN360 will spearhead global launch – driving strategic communications and brand – emphasizing superior performance, push for U.S.-sourced materials and no reliance on expensive and/or foreign commodities

First point:

NexTech Batteries, the global leader in proprietary lithium-sulfur battery technology, has selected DRIVEN360 – a world-class integrated communications and brand marketing house – as its global public relations agency of record (AOR). With deep expertise across mobility, technology and a wide range of industries, the DRIVEN360 team will oversee NexTech’s disruptive entry into multiple markets, championing the most powerful, patent-protected semi-solid-state battery technology to date. Strategic communications efforts will also spotlight the company’s goal to maximize U.S.-sourced materials.

Key points:

Lithium-sulfur called “the most powerful semi-solid-state battery with unprecedented energy density. Emphasize US-sourcing.

From its research facility in Carson City, Nevada, NexTech will focus on creating a domestic supply chain prioritizing U.S.-sourced materials, reducing the use of foreign suppliers and without the need to source unethically mined or rare materials used in current generation batteries. The company has already inked deals with North American-based lithium suppliers.

NexTech Batteries was founded in early 2016 and initially was the result of the exclusive license to the rights and patents to the lithium-sulfur battery technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

But That’s Not All, You Can Get Twice As Many If

I wondered how long it would take for someone to ask. What happens when an independent software developer who has a widely adopted product sells out to a particular supplier? The supplier proclaims independence, but will it really not absorb it into their proprietary product?

Then GE Digital sent an email to me at a very old address that I still have forwarded (note to self: delete that old address).  Get Proficy Historian for up to 90% less than OSI—or swap your current OSI or eDNA license at no cost.

Wow. This sounded a bit like a late-night cable TV ad. “But wait, if you act now you can get two for this amazing low price of $19.99.”

Sorry to poke a little fun at GE Digital. The question is, does this ad reflect a real marketplace concern? Or, is it a weak marketing gimmick? I don’t know. But I have been curious. What do you think?

Gary,

We’re serious about helping you get the most from your OT data. So we’re giving you two offers to choose from: 

Offer 1: Get Proficy Historian at our lowest price ever—up to 90% less than OSI 

Offer 2: Swap your current OSI, AVEVA, or eDNA historian license for a Proficy Historian license at absolutely no additional cost. You’ll then also enjoy product support at 50% off your previous rate with OSI, AVEVA, or eDNA.

Thousands of companies worldwide depend on Proficy Historian for gathering their most important data. Take advantage of:

  • Modern visualization and data in context with Historian Analysis app
  • Up to 100 million tags with Proficy Historian Enterprise
  • Support for server horizontal scalability and mirroring
  • Third-party cloud connectivity
  • Too many other features to list

Universal Robots Takes ActiNav Next-Gen Machine Loading on Tour

I guess we have entered the post-pandemic era. Universal Robots is taking its latest technology on tour this summer. By the time I got to this news item, the first date was passed. If you are close to one of these areas, check out this cool technology.

Automating machine loading traditionally means integrating conveyors, bowl feeders, custom trays, shaker tables or various other components and processes. These approaches can lead to a range of obstacles and challenges, including complex programming and setup, poorly-utilized manpower, inefficient machine utilization and decreased output.

ActiNav changes all that, combining intelligent vision and sensor software with the autonomous motion control of Universal Robots’ world-leading cobots in one seamless Application Kit that solves the random bin picking challenge in machine tending applications. To give manufacturers an opportunity to experience ActiNav hands-on, Universal Robots and its partners are now hosting live demos, inviting attendees to bring their parts to be picked, experiencing how easy it is to set up a sophisticated machine loading system.

“We want manufacturers to experience in person the “wow factor” as they see ActiNav effortlessly pick their randomized parts and place them correctly in a designated place,” says Bryan Bird, Regional Sales Director for Universal Robots’ North America division. “We look forward to working with our partners in providing this unique experience.”

The ActiNav Tour dates are hosted by Universal Robots partners and systems integrators on the following dates and locations:

FPE Automation: July 13, Elk Grove Village, IL

Southwestern PTS: July 22, Coppell, TX

NEFF Wisconsin: August 3, Mequon, WI

CIMTEC: August 5, Charlotte, NC

Shaltz: August 10, Flint, MI

In addition to meeting ActiNav on tour, manufacturers can now leverage an expanded network of ActiNav Solution Providers (ASPs), a vetted and carefully selected group of systems integrators across the U.S. to deploy the next-generation machine loading solution. Joining the ASP network are:

Muratec, Charlotte, NC, PCC Robotics, Germantown, WI, Computech Manufacturing Company, Washington, MI, and PrecisionForm Inc., Lititz, PA.

Bird explains that UR’s selection process focused on integrators with expertise in both vision and robotics, that deliver superior value, and on time/on budget projects for customers.

Dan Carney, General Manager at Wisconsin-based PCC Robotics, is looking forward to sharing the benefits of Actinav with manufacturers in his region. “As a systems integrator we find parts staging to be a key component of nearly every application,” he says. “We have reviewed a number of bin picking offerings and ActiNav is simply in a different class.”

NI Expands Global Network to Serve Small Businesses

NI has always served smaller businesses—most of whom do work for big businesses or projects solving interesting engineering problems. This month I received an announcement of NI’s partner network focusing on small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). We must remember that the true engines for economic growth come from startups and smaller businesses doing innovative things.

NI announced the expansion of its global distribution channels within the NI Partner Network, a strategic move to support its omnichannel strategy dedicated to serving small-to-medium business (SMB) customers to help them do what they do best — innovate. 

NI is focused on providing value and choice to its SMB customers, strategically connecting them to partners and resources on ni.com to provide a positive, efficient experience. Shifting to a multi-channel approach in this way leverages established, well-known distributors and ni.com to meet customers’ buying needs. 

“We know our customers, especially those in the SMB space, need simple and efficient ways to buy so their time is spent on moving their business forward,” said Josh Mueller, GM of the Portfolio Business Unit at NI. “That’s why we’re taking important steps to serve our customers in ways that help them the most, including new avenues to purchasing NI products and solutions.”

NI is also committed to purchasing more from small and diverse businesses. As outlined in its 2030 Corporate Impact Strategy, Engineering Hope, NI has put forth a goal stating that by 2030, 16% of NI suppliers will be small or diverse businesses. Diverse and equitable procurement has a positive ripple effect throughout entire communities and NI is taking steps, such as increasing access to its global distribution program, to cultivate opportunities for small or diverse business suppliers. 

To show appreciation for its SMB customers and community, NI is celebrating Small Business Month in a big way, from providing access to best-in-class test tools and technology at a discount, to sharing customer success stories.

During the month of May, members of the SMB community can look forward to:

  • Customer stories and the “Secrets of Small Business” video series featuring SMB CEOs and their perspectives on overcoming some of the greatest engineering challenges of today.
  • Limited-time promotions on tools, software and solutions designed to help SMB customers advance their engineering initiatives, including LabVIEW, FlexLogger™ software and CompactDAQ.
  • Webinars about NI software and solutions to help SMBs address quality in validation designs and flexibility in engineering.

“Connecting our customers to the right technologies and services helps them accelerate their pace of innovation and better serve their organizations and end customers,” said Jim Ramsey, vice president of the Global Partner program at NI. “We’re excited to celebrate Small Business Month for this reason — to help equip more engineers with the tools and technologies they need to take on their next big opportunity.” 

Learn more about NI’s expanded global distribution network and how it’s celebrating the SMB community this month. 

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