051. Idea – Innovation in Industry

Chris: 00:30

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have an idea episode and we’re going to have a lot of fun with this. We’re going to be talking about innovation in industry, and to help us walk through that, we have Renee Eddy. She is the director of innovation, operations, and methods at Eaton’s.

How are you doing today, Renee?

Renee’: 00:47

Great, Chris, how are you doing today?

Chris: 00:49

Oh, I’m doing great. It’s a beautiful day. So I’m looking forward to this conversation. I know you’re going to bring so much wisdom and insight for our listeners. A fun topic. I’ve been really excited about this and maybe start us off with our listeners, just tell us a little bit about yourself.

Renee’: 01:04

So Chris, and thank you very much. I also think this is a really cool topic and, I joined Eaton, a power management company in March of 2018 and to have the opportunity to work on innovation methods and operations has been and continues to be really exciting.

And the role that I have at Eaton is my role spans the electrical sector and it spans across a number of different areas. The key element that ties all of these other areas together though, is really innovation. And what we’re doing is working with our customers to understand their pain points. And what problems do they have that really need to be solved and using that information to really investigate some tools and technologies that can help our teams create solutions that meet those needs.

Chris: 01:56

Cool. That sounds like a fun role sound like it’s something changing every day, right?

Renee’: 02:02

Every day is completely different and that’s what makes it really exciting.

Chris: 02:07

That is awesome. So how about those changes that you’re working through in their approaches? So far as product development, things like that what’s driving some of that?

Renee’: 02:17

So one of the things that we’re really seeing is our technology landscape is continuing to accelerate and you look at technologies that are coming in. Some of them have been out there for a while, but some of them are new and coming in like IOT, augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and additive manufacturing, just to name a few.

And they’re all really fueling this acceleration. And what’s happening is these technologies are really starting to drive a trend for more complex product offerings. And at the same time, opening up new markets to our industry and areas that we can participate in that maybe we haven’t in the past. And the result is driving increased need for faster time to market with technology, diverse products.

So we need some methodologies to help our teams to provide them with development technologies that are both innovative and as our products that are being developed.

Chris: 03:15

Okay. Is that whole gamut that you just talked through? The IOT, the AR, VR, AI. So your role encompasses all those different types of technologies and innovation together?

Renee’: 03:27

Yes, my role encompasses all of those technologies. One of the key things is we want to make sure as we’re developing products for this industry, that we have technologies to support us that are as innovative as the products that are being developed.

Chris: 03:42

Very cool. Very cool. So you mentioned accelerating technology. So how does one do that? Or how do you go about that to make sure you’re meeting the needs that are out there?

Renee’: 03:54

So from our perspective, it really starts with understanding the needs of the customer. And at Eaton we’re really leveraging design thinking methodologies to understand our customer use cases, leverage a platform development approach, and then look at leading edge development tools and technologies to help accelerate our time to market.

Chris: 04:14

Very cool. Very cool. So what are some of these tools that you could share with us that maybe people hadn’t considered or thought of?

Renee’: 04:21

Underlying infrastructure is really focusing on a world-class program management process that leverages these development tools. So thinking about the tools, we focus on design thinking methodologies, and that is really what starts it all off with gaining the voice of the customer and bringing that knowledge inside.

With regards to what products we need to be focusing on to meet our customer needs and taking that information, using other tools, like data analytics, to get a better understanding of the industry trends and the market trends that we’re looking to be able to address. Additive manufacturing to help from an overall acceleration perspective and get a first look at some of those products faster than we would have been able to in the past. Virtual reality and augmented reality to help us be in places where we really can’t be when we need to be there.

And especially when you look at COVID-19 as an example, that’s really created a situation where we need to be able to support social distancing. That’s really limited how we can actually interact a lot of times with our customers. So taking tools like virtual reality and augmented reality. And allowing us without having to travel, to actually put ourselves with our customers and be able to interact with them directly, that’s really important for us , especially as we look in COVID-19.

Chris: 05:49

No doubt. That sounds, that’s really cool. And that leads into a topic. That’s really interesting from my standpoint, I just see a lot of this technology that’s changing out there and I get to talk to a lot of industry experts like yourself on it, and that’s augmented reality.

And I think this is something that our listeners are going to really enjoy hearing about. So when you think about augmented reality, we really focus on the industrial standpoint, where do you see that fitting in?

Renee’: 06:17

There are really a lot of places for augmented reality can be a great fit. Some of those include remote collaboration, as I mentioned, just a little earlier and then expanding that out to training. So in the past where maybe you’ve brought people together to do training classes or do recertification within the industry. Having the opportunity to do that training remotely, but still get access to all the people and get those certifications done and get that training complete, augmented reality can really help with that.

And then another space is room layout. Actually get the opportunity to be in the room without actually having to be there and understand the layout of the room and how equipment can fit inside the room. What needs to be put in place going forward. That’s a real key aspect and a real benefit of augmented reality.

Then, if you looked on the manufacturing side pick and pack and being able to see, what is actually in the manufacturing, what do you have available to, to provide to the customers without having to be in the warehouse directly .Expanding even further over to marketing and sales. A lot of our equipment is pretty large and it’s always been in some cases, difficult to move the equipment and get it to the customer so that you can actually be able to view the equipment and see if that is something you want to move forward with.

This allows us to actually bring our equipment to our customers without even having to move it. Once the equipment is there and in front of the customers, you can add things like data visibility. So you can put things onto the equipment, overlay information onto the equipment. It can actually show how it’s operating and look at kind of the background of what’s happening inside the equipment without having to physically be in front of it.

So there’s so many different items that augmented reality can really help us with, and they could help us with before COVID-19. Honestly, after COVID-19 have really become even more prevalent.

Chris: 08:22

No doubt. And some of those were brand new. Definitely to me, I’m sure to some of our listeners, the room layout, that sounds really cool how that works.

People typically think of that training opportunities like you talked about, but room layout and that marketing sales piece. That sounds very interesting to incorporate in as well. So thanks for unpacking that. I know typically when I thought about augmented reality, sometimes I think predictive maintenance from an operations and standpoint from a manufacturing. Are you seeing that as well?

Renee’: 08:54

Yes, definitely from a manufacturing standpoint and being able to actually be on the factory floor as products are being built and running down the line and looking for opportunities to continue to work with the manufacturing teams to either help whenever a question comes up on the line and keep the lines moving and look for opportunities to improve flow and things like that, it definitely is part of the whole equation.

Chris: 09:25

In that it’s just cool stuff in it, Renee?

Renee’: 09:28

It is extremely cool stuff. It really is a cool technology. It’s great right now, honestly, to have the opportunity to be an engineer at this time. With all these technologies that are out there and they’re really coming to fruition and they’re really accessible to people.

It’s really a fun time to be an engineer and get the opportunity to see what can be done with these technologies.

Chris: 09:54

No doubt. You think back to the old movies, back in the day and some of the stuff, they were portraying, We’re living a lot of that stuff now. It’s just really cool to see how the technology has evolved.

But through evolution there’s always headwinds. And I don’t think we could go through this episode without addressing some of those for our listeners, because they need to know the realities that are in front of them as well. So what could they expect from a headwind standpoint when they’re trying to implement something like augmented reality?

Renee’: 10:20

So one of the things that we found and this isn’t unique to Eaton. Change is hard. And a lot of times when a new technology comes in, there’s been a way to do the item that it’s looking at doing that has been in place for a long period of time. Whether you’ve got an existing process or you’ve got an existing tool or technology that’s already been there.

This is something that’s coming in and looking at a new and different way for doing things. And one of the key elements that really is about the success of any change is helping everyone to understand what’s driving the change. What problem is change helping to solve? What will be the value to the customer that the change will actually bring.

For this, it’s really key to have a defined vision of where you’re headed. If you can tell and help everybody understand “this is where we’re going. This is exactly why this tool or technology is going to help us to get there.” That helps to get things moving with the change process and helps things to be successful.

Chris: 11:29

Okay. It sounds like the ultimate headwind could be a culture. Getting the team to understand and to see the value of some of these changes in hand, as you mentioned, change is hard. So is that accurate?

Renee’: 11:42

Yeah, Chris, that’s a great point. Yes. A lot of times that is changing the organization to address something new and different, whether it be a new technology or not is a lot of the times the biggest hurdle that needs to be overcome is actually providing a vision to the organization of where you’re headed. So that you can help people understand that, provide that vision and get buy-in to move forward. Yes.

Chris: 12:10

I got you. And sometimes to get that buy-in people, particularly in management, they need to understand what that success looks like.

If we do this, how’s that going to impact from an operation standpoint or ROI, whatever that metric is that KPI that they want to measure. What would you define that as?

Renee’: 12:29

From my perspective, success starts with the data. And it really creating an environment where the whatever data is required to help us make decision-making and understand the trends that are happening within our organization that is making sure that information is readily available to whomever needs it, is the underlying element that will help us drive success. And to do that really requires this, having these tools and technologies to support that, building this strategy out from the beginning.

So when you look at something like augmented reality and it puts you in a place where you’re not able to be for whatever reason, whether it’s, you’re out able to travel or social distancing, you’re actually moving the data to where it needs to be and helping to ensure the overall success of the initiative.

So that’s why I say the data is really key and understanding the problems that we’re going to be solving. Understanding the data that’s required to help us solve those problems and making sure that it’s available to the right people to help make decisions and help move forward effectively.

Chris: 13:44

And that really takes a special level of understanding because you have to have process understanding of how the process should work, but then you have to have that data analytics side as well. So I guess combining those two, where they merge that really is where the innovation takes place. Is that a fair assessment?

Renee’: 14:04

Chris, that’s a great point because that’s exactly spot on. It’s exactly where that intersection and that merge point actually occurs is where that innovation takes off.

Chris: 14:16

That’s really cool. And that just for our listeners, that’s the merge point that you live every day, right?

Renee’: 14:23

Exactly. Exactly. And that’s what makes it so exciting. So when you are asking the earlier question of, how does each day look every day is different because that merge point comes at a different time. As we look across all these different technologies and the data associated with them, the points that they all come together and merge and create that innovation are all different.

Chris: 14:47

Very good. Sounds like it’d be a fun to come hang out with you for a week. So we’ll have to see if we can line that up post COVID Renee, if you don’t mind.

Renee’: 14:54

Yes, that would be great.

Chris: 14:57

So maybe there’s a plant manager listening right now and they’re wanting to, “okay, this all stuff sounds good and we’ll and all, but I want to know the impact it’s going to have on my business.” What would you say to that person, that individual on the potential impact for some of the innovations that we’re talking about?

Renee’: 15:16

As we’ve been talking about looking across these technologies, really the common thing is getting access to the data, analyzing the data and providing meaningful information to the customers and end users that everybody can act upon. So for looking at that, some of the results that we’re seeing from implementing these technologies are additive manufacturing.

As an example, has been providing methodologies first, really to help reduce our time to market. And part of that is introducing prototypes earlier in the development process to support that. Virtual reality is providing new ways to help us train our team members, which is really increasing our learning retention while supporting the need for social distancing.

And then augmented reality as we’ve been talking about is providing ways for our teams to remotely collaborate. And as a result of this, we’ve really been able to make some improvements from a production output, quality standpoint, and reducing our time to market for new product introductions and improve our competitiveness.

Chris, I wanted to let you know, in 2020 for augmented reality at Eaton, we won a CIO award. The reason we won the award was we were leveraging augmented reality to help us drive productivity across our manufacturing, engineering, and service teams. And all of that and increasing that productivity across all those teams has a direct, positive impact on the products and our customers.

Chris: 16:45

Congratulations on that award. I’m sure that was so much work and people involved in getting that. I think you really drilled it. The impact question for that plant manager, who’s listening to understand how it will impact their business. Renee, this has been a ton of fun, brought a lot of ideas.

New type of thinking, this is the type of stuff we really enjoy on EECO Asks Why and we always have to get down to the Why. Usually save that towards the end. So for the listener out there that wants to know the why, what is the heart of this conversation? Why does the industry need to accelerate technology and development?

Renee’: 17:24

So Chris, thank you very much for that question. And the real heart of this is in reality, the pace of technology development is continuing to accelerate at an unprecedented rate at our end markets. And then you combine that with emerging technology trends, like energy transition and digital solutions, which are also in parallel accelerating their rollout.

There’s a real need to develop solutions that meet customer expectations and get to market faster than ever before. And tools and technologies like we’ve been talking about in this conversation are all helping us achieve that objective.

Chris: 18:04

Absolutely. It was great stuff. And we’ll put some resources out there in the show notes for our listeners. They can go check out some of these innovations and dig deeper. Cause I’m sure Renee, there’s a lot of places that we can point people to help them. But thank you so much for taking the time on EECO Asks Why and for sharing so much wisdom and insight on this fun topic of innovation, Renee.

Renee’: 18:26

Chris. I want to thank you also for your time. I appreciate it. And it was a great opportunity to speak with you. So have a wonderful day.

Chris: 18:34 You too.