075. Industrial Networks Series – Connecting OT to Business Goals Transcript
Manufacturing and the capabilities of manufacturing is only getting bigger. And a lot of people can look at new technologies as being disruptive, but it’s really going to come down to the ones that can align their operational goals with their business goals that keep improving and stay stable. Stay here.
Welcome to EECO Ask Why. A podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights heroes to keep America running. I’m your host, Chris Grainger, and on this podcast, we do not cover the latest features and benefits on products that come to market. Instead, we focused on advice and insight from the top minds of industry because people and ideas will be how America remains number one in manufacturing in the world.
Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today we have a fun idea. We’re going to be walking through, and it’s about how you connect the dots with your OT and business goals. And to help us with this, we have Amos Purdy from Global Process Automation. Amos as a lead systems engineer. And he’s going to help us with this today. So welcome Amos.
How are you doing today, man?
I’m doing pretty good. Loving the storms down here.
Well, you’re close to the beach, man. So I’m not feeling but so bad, but yeah, I hope you are safe through the storms brother.
Oh, yeah, no, it’s great. Having the beach right here. Great sunsets.
That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, I know this is an exciting topic. We talked prior just about your background and you have the technical, but you also, you went the business route. So you can really talk at both ends, which I think is going to be really exciting for our listeners. Some of our listeners may not be familiar with OT. So when you hear that term, how would you explain that for someone who’s new to this?
Well, OT is really operational technology. So a lot of the times, that’s your ground floor. That’s what’s on your plant floor. Your PLC’s, your SCADA, your DCS. Everything that you really are running your operations with.
A lot of times when you’re talking about that, everybody goes, okay, that’s fine. But a lot of those things can be pretty standard, but a lot of times, every plant is different. They have very specific needs, highly specialized equipment. So you get a lot of third party stuff down there.
You get a lot of custom software. And so your operational technologies is everything. Even those edge use cases. So really defining a lot of what that operational technologies is bleeds over into a lot of things. Sometimes something on the plant floor is purely for a business aspect, but a lot of times the operational technologies has to use a portion of that. So operational technologies is really a whole breadth of what it takes to run your operations.
Gotcha. Okay. So just boiling it down, basically, if it’s on the floor, if it’s involved with the process, is that typically what you can think of from an OT standpoint?
Yeah, I think every plant is a little bit different and that’s probably one of the biggest things about industry and why there’s people like us around, right? To try to figure out all the different intricacies of some of these processes. And some of these processes are crazy complicated. And all the things that really need to go in place there really isn’t one size fits all and even within the same business, the operational technologies will change from plant to plant.
But at the end of the day, those businesses still have the same business goals. So the operational technologies driving to the business goals. I mean, that’s still the end goal, right. To make sure the business still are happening.
Exactly. Well you really touched on a point. I know our listeners would probably like to understand more. How do they relate when you’re talking about business goals and OT? Where do they come together at?
Well, I mean, if you think about businesses like a car, right. You’re trying to get from point a to point B. Operational technologies are really like the engine. They’re not moving very fast if your operational technologies really aren’t driving that process and producing something, that’s going to help move the car forward.
A lot of times when you’re driving your car, like the check engine light comes on. So that’s like your operations basically saying something’s wrong, but what kind of information does check engine really give you? And I think that’s where a lot of times that’s the pure disconnect. If you get that check engine or that check operations light, someone’s going to have to go figure out what that means and relate it to a business goal and it’s trying to figure out what it actually means to the business, even though the operations is having problems.
But that’s usually where the disconnect is. And, and, and check engine lights are annoying because you’re going to have to go see a mechanic. But the same thing in your business when the operations is having a problem you have that person in between and they have to relate it to the business goals and it it’s really hard to understand completely all the operational technologies to really pull it off.
So there’s always that someone in between to really, that needs to be able to understand both the operations side and what the operational technologies are. Their constraints and what they’re actually telling you and guide the business with what’s actually capable with their technologies.
Ok now when you say there’s someone in between, what are you referring to there? Is that a particular type of role or can you break that down for us a little more?
Yeah. I mean, that’s really the process expert. It could be the process engineer.Could be the engineering manager, but it could be a lot of people that just understand the process, chief of operations.
But it really comes down to someone understanding the process and the operation side. Just as much as the business side. So with the current way that a lot of things are set up, operations wants to stay completely separate with all their technologies. And then they just kind of aggregate data and then they give it to somebody and then someone else goes, goes and makes the business goals.
But to really be efficient, they need on the operation side, they need to understand where the business is going. So they really drive good operations that don’t need to be driving to just an operational goal. They need to be understanding how that operational goal relates to the business goal and how they can better focus to achieve that.
Ah, okay. Now that, that helped me. That that definitely helps. So, but I understand how operations and business and some of these things worked or there are different dynamics involved, right? So what are some hurdles maybe in communication that people need to be aware of for both sides of the fense?
I think some of the biggest hurdles is probably around understanding really how operations works. You need to have someone that knows a lot of process knowledge around your specific process. But it is difficult, you know? So a little bit of backstory on me. I’ve got a masters in electrical engineering and I’ve got a master’s in business administration.
So understanding the engineering side and all the intricacies, you can easily get lost in that. I mean, you can easily get lost in making sure your tolerance on a part is just lower and lower and lower, so you can get better and better quality. But that takes more and more resources. From the business side, you’re getting better and better quality, but it’s very minute increments.
So the engineer is going after what he thinks is his goal, or as the business is just pouring more and more money into it without actually achieving their main business goal. So I think that the main hurdle is really understanding both sides of that. How operations is actually truly effecting the business goals.
And a lot of times it’s it’s quality. And so the operational technologies have the data to go after the different business goals around quality or production. But at the end of the day they don’t know that it’s actually a problem. A lot of that business information doesn’t actually get fed back down.
And that’s one thing that we’re seeing a lot more with getting more connected and getting more IOT and everything where the data is out there. A lot of times those business goals are now driving down into the operational technologies. And I think that’s one of those major hurdles, major problems that operations really doesn’t doesn’t want, or the business starts driving clear down into their own separate plant.
But that’s what we’re seeing a lot. And so it’s coming up a lot more in our conversations with our customers.
So tell me why would they not want that? What’s what’s the hesitancy there?
Usually with operational technologies, they’re very specialized. So it takes someone to be almost an expert, be trained in that, to do them right. And so when business goals are pushing down in there and people who don’t understand the process start trying to implement standards and new technologies and shoving more stuff in there. There’s always that, Hey, you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t mess with my machine. I took me a long time to get to this point where I even understand it.
Now you’re going to try to change some things on it like that. That can be that can be a little tough to do. And. With that the operations side on the plant floor, they’re usually tasked with keeping the plant up and running. So someone from the outside, putting some technology in there that they don’t know about, they don’t know how it’s going to affect their operations.
They’re going to push back on that pretty hard and they’re, their, their tasks were keeping the plant up. So, and they know how finicky sometimes operational technologies can be. But because of that, they’re going to push back and not letting you put in something that could be critical and drive the business just that much, that much better.
Right? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s their baby, right? It’s their process. So they understand it better than anyone. So when you get these business goals that are dropped in front of them and they have to somehow you have to address it. You can’t just ignore it, right.
Either you have to do something at some point. What would you recommend to that engineer out there who’s listening to maybe help build a stronger case for projects or, or, or to help implement something that it’s been pushed down on them. What advice would you give them?
Well especially from like the process engineering and the ground floor, the operational side, I mean, to justify these kinds of projects where you’re really linking both of them, talk to the departments that you never really thought about. Talk to HR. Talk to the back accounting. Usually there’s something that is a business goal that they have that never actually gets filtered down into operations, right? Like maybe an HR you’re having a lot of turnover because you’re doing a lot of repetitive tasks.
Well, from an operation side, turnover means a lot more training. A lot more monitoring of your operators. From HR side, you can see just turn over of having to go through all of that same kind of stuff, but handling new people and severance packages or whatever. So a process engineer start to talk to people about what business goals the other departments actually have and how operations could help alleviate some of those problems. Repetitive tasks and be as simple one. Maybe financial, I think most people, most engineers really want to stay in the numbers, but they don’t ever want to go to dollar figures. Right. Um, And I think making that leap of knowing exactly how process decisions will and could make huge financial changes.
No doubt. Now, speaking to that, Amos. You kind of led me down a path here. So I got to go a little bit further. Key metrics, KPIs, whatever you want to call them in, in an industrial environment. What are some of those that engineers could learn or focus on and make you’re right, a lot of them may be financial, but they’re probably other ones such as maybe OEE or I’m not sure. Where would you go? Key metrics that engineers should focus on to help make that connection to the business goals?
We can definitely look at OEE and meantime between failure and total keep but same point. Those are always to increase your production or your efficiency from the process standpoint. There’s always some kind of interpretation that needs to be done from a process metric to a business metric. And I think one of the main ones that business side always talks about and your plant managers definitely talk about is return on investment.
It’s not that hard of a calculation. Line out all your costs. You find out what you think that you’re gonna save by doing something. Get time. Quality improvement, so you can get less returns. But ROI return on investment. Line out your projects. Talk to a lot of people about all the different problems they’re having and try to get a better understanding of what really is the bigger project and how it’s going to affect the business as a whole.
And include those benefits. A lot of times on the plant floor, they only see better quality and that’s going to feed into their OEE metric. And then someone has to say, okay, a 1% increase on our OEE metric is going to probably mean this for the business revenue increase at the end of the year.
Well, really that one change in quality could also mean that your financial department doesn’t have to worry about returns. It could mean your HR doesn’t have to have people that can process those returns, or you don’t have as many people on the quality department that have to go and continually test and retest and take out parts to confirm quality all the way through.
So really thinking about the business how all of the operation decisions affect all parts of the business. Not just the ones that you normally think of off the top of your head.
Right. Absolutely. In ROI, I mean, you think of that a lot, but that’s often overlooked. I think that’s a great point you made it to focus on it. What do you think? Is it because it’s somewhat of an intimidating number to figure out because you do have to get so many data points to put that ROI truly together. A lot of it’s maybe a gray area, is that why you see potentially people may shy away from that?
Yeah. I mean it’s really hard to really estimate sometimes how long it’s going to, or if a specific process is going to be, it takes 10 minutes and now it takes five. Sometimes it’s hard to determine. Other times people don’t really want you to realize that they’re spending six hours a day just typing in numbers so that they all the numbers line up at the end of the day.
But being truthful um, a lot of times you can start to get some of those out there. So there is some of that gray area, but I would say really even just putting numbers down that you can easily mess with and you just kind of get a better picture of the whole thing and then talk about it on the business side from an engineering standpoint. You can put in all these different metrics. Try to think of every different way that it affects it and try to get a good idea of, okay if someone usually makes $20 an hour and I’m going to save them an hour a day, Well, that’s $20 a day. That adds up real quick.
And getting these numbers out there, where business people then understand it a little bit more or they’re seeing, okay, well, $20 a day. Oh, wait. I’ve got. 10 employees. I can do this. We could be saving $200 a day. You’re going to get a project through real quick. And so yeah, that gray area, harder to find it’s, it’s better to at least put them out there and think about the total business impact and at least start to get some numbers around it because you’ll start to see that operations, we spend a lot of money on human capital, as much as parts and materials.
So really taking that bigger piece and not overlooking all of the big picture. You, you can get a lot of things justified and ROI really kind of drives it home. A lot of engineers don’t, I feel like maybe not speaking for everyone, don’t really like to get down to the dollar figure because it can mean a lot of different things for how the plant gets analyzed or they, they worry about that little step, step up the chain, I guess.
But it is pretty astounding to see some of the small changes that we’ve seen in customers like, Oh this engineer has always wanting to do this. It was a $10,000 project that saves them a hundred thousand dollars a month. Like that’s huge. And that person becomes a champion and that’s, that’s where we really want to get.
But I’m just thinking through, from the human aspect of us, just the way we are. You don’t want to put yourself out there unless you’re have a a pretty high level of assurance and confidence, right.
So I’m sure that’s some of that factors into these decisions and could be holding people back from moving forward with suggestions, or like you mentioned what, if you’re impacting somebody’s job potentially by identifying a project. And so I’m sure there’s some emotional factors of will that couple in here.
Yeah, for sure. I think that’s one of the other big things I would say is get a lot of people on board. Get people excited about it, not just in the plant floor, the process, the engineers. Get the operators excited about it and get quality and get maintenance and stuff excited about some of these things when you’re pitching projects.
That’s, that’s great advice. I mean, I just got that yesterday from my mentor on just areas you have to get your team behind you and get across departments to understand their needs, how to help them. You need to kind of build some cheerleaders that are on your side, but, but you’re right at the end of it, you have to have the right audience to present your solution to and move it forward.
So, this is great. If you’re out there on the floor right now, what do you see as some great opportunities that could be used to connect the dots between OT and company goals and any advice there?
Talking about buzzwords and that kind of stuff. I know we were talking before this and like IIOT and understanding edge computing. It’s it’s crazy how cheap some of these things can be in, if nothing else just get like prototypes. And a lot of times you’re always hearing about that machine back in the back corner that no one wants to go back to or this or that.
But someone has to go look at it once a day. So that IOT and your edge computing can really start to get things more remote so you can get a better, bigger picture of your whole operations and better see where you’re actually at and where the business is trying to drive.
A lot of times with the business goals, they’re just looking on you reducing your overall burden on them as much as trying to improve quality and quantity of your products. So although that might seem like you’re taking people’s job, by not having someone go walk out to that far back machine , by not having someone that has to go to that far on a machine looking at IOT things to quickly get something up that you can go start analyzing and connecting that to that machine.
And start getting all of that information that you really need to start driving to business goals and looking at reducing your burden, but using the, if your don’t want to reduce your burden, don’t want to reduce your head count. Looking at using those people more efficiently. He doesn’t have to walk to that clear back machine. Maybe he can actually fix this other machine or go after another piece of the operations.
Right. Absolutely. I mean, and that kind of leads me Amos, you kind of touched on it right here with that example specifically, but there’ve been a lot of changes in technology that particularly are hitting the plant floors right now. What are you seeing as some of the most advancing enhancements out there that have moved the needle and connecting the OT and the business goals?
The amount of wifi or mobile technologies to really get a lot of those remote monitoring in place has been huge. I mean, just the infrastructure and planning that it takes to put a sensor in sometimes. And sometimes it’s the simplest sensor. Well, you take all of that having to run this cable and plan for the dig and all this kind of stuff. And you go put something out there that has a mobile connection. Is gonna be reliable. And yeah, if nothing else, more real time than you had it before anyway s. And doing that in such a short timeframe to do proof of concept, to prototype, to start getting that data.
So you start getting that historical trend of that. that’s huge. Hardware and the timeframe, the low cost of being able to do that these days is, is just sounding.
No doubt. I mean, that price point is steadily moving down and those technologies are, they’re just so awesome. You can get so much data out of relatively cheap devices now that are just really connecting everything together. And where do you see the evolution going, man. For the next level of connected plants? What’s your vision?
It’s interesting looking at like cloud technologies, right? Where there’s infrastructure as a service to software as a service and all these different things as a service. Now, if you really start to break down and have very capable edge and IOT devices, why don’t you have things looking like manufacturing as a service, right?
Like each individual part could be compartmentalize and easily shit pay. You need a spin up this process. Well, I know I need three of these conveyors and four of these robots. And for that ship them here, set them up. They can be fully containerized. They all do their own little black box thing.
You go on your way. You’ve got all the monitoring. You don’t have a lot of the overhead of planning it all out, putting it in there, keeping it until it breaks down and trying to figure out how to Keep it there. Being able to quickly deploy manufacturing processes as a service, I think is, is really the next step. And it might be some years out, but I think, I think we’re getting closer and closer with the capability of edge computing.
Right? I mean, any examples of, of where you’re seeing that at right now, just to kind of give a point of reference?
In one of our projects, we deployed a machine that literally just takes waste from the end of a process and really kind of extrapolating that out. Like we have a whole bunch of these now, right. That go and do this on a whole bunch of plants. And because that’s the main thing that we’re focusing on. We’re really able to dive into what that, what that means for all the different plants, not just that one plant. We can correlate what it takes to plan logistics and what kind of quality we’re getting waste what kind of stuff we’re kidding and overlying it with a whole bunch of different locations and stuff, and really be able to dive into that one specific process, right.
Or not even analyzing the rest of the operations. We can tell you the operations is doing by our data, honestly. But by having that one templatize machine and being able to easily deploy that. Really, if you could do that with the whole production line, it would be awesome.
You know, You can see how all of my different presses were for all the different plants and all that customer is worried about was I needed that press. And they just rent it from you. You go do it, you get all the data, you can improve your product and easily drop it in and take it out when they don’t want it anymore. Go use it as another, the customer when they want it.
Yeah, I love it. I mean, I love that type of thinking, I mean, that’s a turnkey solutions on a, as needed in the moment. I mean that that’s intense, man. You got the data. I mean, I see where you’re going. Thank you. That, that definitely painted a much clearer picture for me. And hopefully it does for our listeners as well.
So Amos, this has been a fun conversation, really helping connect those dots between the OT and business goals. And we love to wrap up each episode of EECO Asjs Why with the Why, where we get down to the purpose for our listeners. So if you had to wrap up why is knowing how to connect these dots important, what would that be?
I would say manufacturing and the capabilities of manufacturing is only getting bigger. And a lot of people can look at new technologies as being disruptive for jobs and that kind of stuff. And with newer technologies, it will disrupt a lot of jobs, but it’s really going to come down to operations, knowing how that truly do their job and do it in such a way that’s going to help the business be more efficient, more nimble, and be better quality that is going to keep a business going. Without operations aligning with your business goals. If the business is gone, it doesn’t matter how good your operations is. And there’s just, there’s not a lot of low-hanging fruit out there.
There’s a lot of people who do a lot of processes very well, and it’s the ones that can align their operational goals with their business goals that keep improving and stay stable. Say here.
No doubt you have to that communication within your facility and, and have the leadership and the understanding and the people who are willing to have these conversations.
And I love how you said early in the conversation about crossing departments and, and understanding what’s important to others. And that all ties in here with this topic. So Amos, you really, you unpacked a lot for us today and for our listeners and brought just a tremendous amount of knowledge and insights. I thank you for your time today, sir.
All right, well thank you guys. It was great.