I once wrote on leadership every Friday on another of my blogs. Then I felt as if I’d run out of anything meaningful to say. Publicists offer me books to read in order to review. I’ll share one I just received Friday–Formula X: How to Reach Extreme Acceleration in Your Organization by Jurriaan Kamer and Rini van Solingen. It was published in Dutch last June; the English edition will be available Jan. 28.
It is European, so the protagonist is known as a Managing Director rather than General Manager or COO. And the conceit regards Formula 1 racing.
I say protagonist because while the book is about leadership and organizational change, it is written as a story or “fable”. In that regard it reminds me of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt.
The protagonist is bright, yet clueless. The story weaves business and personal problems. And it is through learning from how a Formula 1 racing team operates that he learns how to organize the company, build teams, and achieve goals. It is only out of despair that he finally wakes up, gets a clue, and builds a winning team and relationship with his wife.
Sort of a journey from micromanager to orchestra conductor, if you will pardon the change in metaphor.
Whereas Goldratt was building a Theory of Constraints for optimizing production (it’s a 1980’s book, but still valid), Formula X steps back and looks at organizing the company and all its silos and disfunctions. It’s a blend of Lean and SCRUM (from programming) and Holacracy and other newer ideas.
The model is FASTER (as in racing cars must become…).
- Focus and clarity
- Accelerate decisions
- Team engagement
- Elementary physics (Newton’s Second Law of Thermodynamics, but don’t worry about that)
- Rhythmic learning
The authors use such Lean principles as Respect for People, daily stand ups (quick meetings), a form of 5S, using the people to find root causes of problems along with experimenting to find solutions.
Who you are is not the values you list on the wall. It’s not what you say at an all-hands. It’s not your marketing campaign. It’s not even what you believe.
Your organization’s culture is what you do.
What you do is who you are.
Thus Ben Horowitz introduces his topic–how to develop and sustain an organization’s culture.
This is not one of those leadership books where you read the first two chapters and you have everything the author intended to say. Horowitz fleshes out the concept through a series of gripping stories exemplifying parts of the process.
His examples include:
- The only successful slave revolt–Toussaint Louverture in Haiti
- The way of the warrior–Bushido-the Samurai Code
- The way of the warrior exemplified by Shaka Senghor, a prison warrior
- Genghis Khan–the way of inclusion
Elements of a successful culture can be seen in the Eight Virtues of Samurai (successful in Japan for hundreds of years):
Here are a few concluding thoughts from the book:
The most important element of any corporate culture is that people care.
Culture begins with deciding what you value most. Then you must help everyone in your organization practice behaviors that reflect these virtues.
You have to pay close attention to your people’s behavior, but even closer attention to your own.
Buzz words could well be the story of the year–digital twin, digital transformation, internet of things, industrial internet of things, digital thread, smart manufacturing, Industrie 4.0, etc. and ad nauseum.
I spoke to a couple of hundred elementary school students this morning about my career path of technology, liberal arts, and writing (not in those exact words, of course). In preparation, I pulled out Volume 1, Issue 1 of Automation World from June 2003. [Note: I left there in 2013 to pursue my own thing. I have no idea what they do anymore. The entire team that put this together, except for a sales person, has left. That’s the way of the world.]
I had a theme to the 10 years I was Editor of the magazine. It wasn’t just to put words between ads. Or just regurgitate product news. It was
How do you apply technology intelligently in order to make your business more competitive–more successful?
Back to today’s buzz words (marketing words?) of the year. Really, these reflect technologies and sometimes strategies that are worthless unless applied to make your business stronger.
Let us not lose sight of the goal!
Presentations abound at Emerson Global Users Exchange. Attendees can choose to take deep technical dives into Emerson products, get overviews and trends of technology and the industry, and even personal development. Yes, there was even a 6 am fitness time with either running or Yoga.
Where’s “The Edge”? Yes, you can use good presentation skills for career success. Building Your Personal Brand through Digital Transformation–or social media an networking. Here’s a recap of the 2019 Emerson Global Users Exchange based upon several sessions I attended led by people I’ve known for a long time–Dave Imming, Mike Boudreaux, and Jim Cahill.
The Secure First Mile–IIoT and the Edge
A panel discussion assembled and led by Emerson’s Director of Connected Plant Mike Boudreaux, discussed Industrial Internet of Things in relation to “Where is the Edge”. The blend of IT and OT on the panel was refreshing and informative. Most instructive was how far each has come toward understanding the entire picture broadening from each’s silos.
Attila Fazekas, ExxonMobil, stated that IoT connects to Level 4 of the Purdue model. He is part of the IT organization taking the view from that side of the divide. He noted that his company tries to have a hard line between the IoT (IT) and control systems, although he admitted that occasionally the line becomes blurred. He was a strong proponent of IT governance, notes they have a hard line between IoT and control system (although in effect the line sometimes gets a bit smudged).
Peter Zornio, CTO Emerson Automation, relates IoT and Edge to “a giant SCADA system.” He reflects those who come from the plant where intelligent devices are connected to an automation system, which formerly was the single point where data was collected and then passed through. I have talked with Zornio for years. Few people in the industry are as knowledgeable about the plant. He is beginning to adjust to the IT world with which he’s going to have to work in the future. Especially given Emerson’s expanded strategy into digital transformation and “Top Quartile Performance.” He sees security helping drive Edge applications to divide systems providing a firm break between control systems and IT systems.
Jose Valle, CTO Energy/Manufacturing at MIcrosoft, brought another IT view to the panel. For him, The Edge becomes a place for security with a separation of functions. He also brought an emphasis on provisioning devices through the cloud.
Rich Carpenter, Executive Product Manager, Emerson Automation / Machinery (former CTO of GE Fanuc/GE Intelligent Platforms), discussed a new Edge computer from Emerson (GE). It uses Hypervisor to run RTOS and PLC control on part of chip segmented by firewall from regular PC chip running Linux for IoT functions. Noted that for the latter, they’ve discovered it better to use Node-RED and Python for programming. Congratulations to Rich for landing at Emerson—he’s another long-time contact. And thanks for mentioning Node-RED.
Overall, the panel expressed concerns about providing security with the IIoT and Edge devices. The best part was Boudreaux’s assembling a panel split evenly with IT and OT and there was no acrimony or “you think this, we think that” nonsense. They are all trying to solve bigger problems than just IT or OT only. Businesses are driving them together to solve “digital transformation” challenges. Good stuff.
That engineers would develop ways for humans and robots to co-exist, yes even collaborate, seemed inevitable. Why should we consign robots to cages as safety hazards when the future assuredly requires close collaboration. Therefore the burgeoning area of collaborative robotics or cobots.
I’m thinking not just about industrial applications. Robots surely will assist an aging population cope with everyday tasks in our (near) future of fewer people to populate those jobs.
Several of the “old guard” robotics companies have developed “co-bots” but I’ve watched the development of Universal Robots for some time. The company sponsored this blog for a while a few years ago. Here I’ve picked up on a couple of items. The UR marketing team was a bit surprised to discover that I have more than a passing interest in packaging. As a matter of fact, I noticed packaging as a likely growth area for automation about 18 years ago, and that feeling has been borne out.
One story concerns a packaging demonstration with a socially worthwhile goal mixed in. The other reports on a recent market study by ABI Research.
Universal Robots Solves Random Picking Challenge, Providing Food for At-Risk Youth
The challenge: Pick six differently sized food items randomly oriented on a moving conveyor and place each of these items into the same pouch. Then do this again 1,199 more times, ensuring each pouch has the same six items. This is the challenge Universal Robots and Allied Technology will address, quickly identifying and picking items – ranging widely from packs of Craisins to cans of beef ravioli – in Pack Expo’s Robotics Zone during the three-day show.
“Random picking is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after automation tasks from industries such as e-commerce, fulfillment centers and warehousing,” says Regional Sales Director of Universal Robots’ Americas division, Stuart Shepherd. “At Pack Expo, Universal Robots and Allied Technology will demonstrate how UR cobots can be quickly deployed in a compact, modular system, handling the entire process from box erecting, to vision-guided conveyor tracking, part picking, tote assembly, pouch filling and sealing, kitting and palletizing,” he says, adding how the packaging line is also a testament to the capabilities of Universal Robots’ growing number of Certified System Integrators (CSIs). “Allied Technology was able to quickly create this fully-automated solution. We are delighted to see our cobots competently integrated in so many new packaging applications now.”
Allied Technology and Universal Robots’ packaging line features four UR cobots equipped with products from the UR+ platform that certifies grippers, vision cameras, software, and other peripherals to work seamlessly with UR’s collaborative robot arms. The latest flexible grasping technology will be showcased by a UR5e with Piab’s new Kenos® KCS vacuum gripper guided by a vision camera from UR+ partner Cognex.
Once completed, the 1,200 bags of food will be delivered to “Blessings in a Backpack” a leader in the movement to end childhood hunger, ensuring that children receiving free or subsidized school lunches during the week do not go hungry over the weekends. “We look forward to showcasing this demo that is meaningful in so many ways,” says Shepherd. “We are excited to partner with Blessings in a Backpack while also addressing the needs of the packaging industry with solutions that will simplify and fast-track cobot deployment on their lines.”
Unlike traditional robots caged away from show attendees, visitors to the UR booth are able to walk right up to the UR cobots and interact with them. The booth “playpen area” will feature several cobot arms including a U53e with Robotiq’s new UR+ certified E-Pick Vacuum Gripper, allowing attendees to explore on-the-spot programming. The gripper is one of the recent additions in a rapidly expanding UR+ product portfolio that now includes no less than 195 UR+ certified products with 400+ companies participating in the UR+ developer program.
Meanwhile, Universal Robots maintains top spot in ABI Research’s Ranking of Cobot Companies in Industrial Applications; Doosan, Techman Robot, and Precise Automation are closing in.
This news originates with ABI Research. There are well over 50 manufacturers of collaborative robots (cobots) worldwide, but only a handful of these companies have so far deployed cobots on any meaningful level of scale. Tens of thousands of cobots have been sold as of 2019 and earned US$500 million in annual revenue for world markets. In its new Industrial Collaborative Robots Competitive Assessment, global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research finds Universal Robots (UR) to be the clear forerunner, particularly in implementation.
The Industrial Collaborative Robots Competitive Assessment analyzed and ranked 12 collaborative robot vendors in the industry – ABB, Aubo Robotics, Automata, Doosan Robotics, FANUC, Franka Emika, Kuka AG, Precise Automation, Productive Robotics, Techman Robot, Universal Robots, and Yaskawa Motoman – using ABI Research’s proven, unbiased innovation/implementation criteria framework. For this competitive assessment, innovation criteria included payload, software, Ergonomics and human-machine interaction, experimentation and safety; implementation criteria focused on units and revenue, cost and ROI, partnerships, value-added services, and the number of employees.
“Market leaders in cobots generally have well-developed cobot rosters, in many cases backed up by an ecosystem platform that integrates applications, accessories, and end-of-arm-tooling (EOAT) solutions in with the base hardware,” said Rian Whitton, Senior Analyst at ABI Research. With 37,000 cobots sold so far, UR leads, followed by Taiwanese provider Techman with 10,000, and Korea-based Doosan with over 2,000. Precise Automation, which uses an advanced direct drive solution to develop faster collaborative robots, was cited as the most innovative of the 12 providers, just edging out Universal Robots, who claimed the overall top spot due to their significant lead in implementation.
There are several companies that are too young to be challenging the dominant parties in the cobot market but are developing new and disruptive technologies that will allow them rise to prominence in the years to come. Productive Robotics is a case-in-point. The California-based developer has an arm with inbuilt vision, 7 axes for superior flexibility, long reach, and a very affordable price point, but has yet to deploy at scale. Automata, a British company that develops a ‘desk-top’ cobot costing less than US$7,000, is significantly lowering the barriers to entry for smaller actors and is championing the use of open-source middleware like ROS to program cobots for industrial use-cases. Germany-based Franka Emika and Chinese-American provider Aubo Robotics also represent relatively new entrants to the market who are building on the success of Universal Robots and are beginning to compete with them.
Perhaps surprisingly, while the major industrial robotics providers have developed cobot lines, they have generally been less successful in marketing them or gaining market traction relative to the pure-cobot developers. In part, this is down to focus. While collaborative robots are valuable, they generally suit deployments and use-cases with smaller shipments and a wider variety of small and large end-users. For industrial players like ABB, FANUC, KUKA AG and Yaskawa Motoman, their client-base tends to be large industrial players who buy fixed automation solution through bulk orders. Aside from this, all four of these companies are competing extensively for greater shipment figures in China, where the cobot oppurtunity relative to the market for traditional industrial systems is much less apparent than in Europe or North America.
“Though many of the cobots deployed by these companies are impressive, and they have a lot of software services, the high-cost and lack of easy use among their systems largely defeat the current value proposition of cobots, making them the laggards in this competitive assessment.” says Whitton.
Looking forward, the larger industrial players are likely to improve their relative position, as future growth in cobots rests on scaling up and large deployments. “Universal Robots, though likely to remain the market leader for the foreseeable future, will be increasingly competing on an even footing with near-peer cobot developers, who are already developing second-generation cobots with significant hardware improvements. Meanwhile, some more innovative companies will be able to accelerate adoption through price decreases, improved flexibility, and common platforms to retrofit collaborative capability on industrial robots,” Whitton concluded.
These findings are from ABI Research’s Industrial Collaborative Robots Competitive Assessment report. This report is part of the company’s Industrial Solution, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Competitive Assessment reports offer comprehensive analysis of implementation strategies and innovation, coupled with market share analysis, to offer unparalleled insight into a company’s performance and standing in comparison to its competitors.
You may have heard of “back of the napkin” thinking where some people are talking at a diner. One pulls out a (hopefully paper) napkin and draws something to explain a point.
Supposedly according to myth, President Reagan’s economic policy known as the Laffer Curve or “Trickle Down Economics” was drawn on the back of a napkin and to this day explains the economic theory of some politicians.
Drawing out thoughts helps us think through a problem. Maybe we won’t set government policy, but maybe we will understand something better or help our organization solve a problem or raise funds.
This book has been around for a while. I’ve heard the author interviewed on several podcasts. I’ve read a little in the past. I recommend this book. Written with wit and insight, it will help you think.
I also use a form of drawing when I take notes during presentations or interviews (like I’ll be doing this afternoon about an Internet of Things survey). I’ll jot down a thought and then use lines or circles to connect thoughts.
By the way, I use pen and a notebook. I love the Uniball Signo Micro 207 pen. It is inexpensive and writes first time, every time with a smooth line. Studies show people writing by hand have better retention than those taking notes on a computer. Plus, it’s hard to draw connecting lines on a computer.
I also recommend learning to use mind maps. Better than traditional outlining for organizing a longer paper.