123. Hero – Preston Hadley, President/Controls Specialist at Envision Automation & Controls Transcript
My personal, why is solving problems that most people seem to find impossible. We’re solving problems that are just a huge pain in somebody’s rear on the day to day. And to see that satisfaction on their face and their tone and the way that they speak after it’s been fixed. That’s my, why?
Welcome to EECO Asks Why a podcast that dives into industrial manufacturing topics, spotlights the heroes that 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 focus 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 and today we have a hero conversation. I’m very excited to have with me, Preston Hadley, who is the president at Envision Automation & Controls. So welcome Preston.
Thanks for having me guys.
Oh man. I’m so excited to talk with you, buddy. I see a lot of about Envision and stuff that you’re doing on LinkedIn, and we had to connect and talk. So, tell our listeners, where is Envision at? Where are you guys located?
Yeah. So we’re located in Chandler, Indiana, which is in the tri-state area, Indiana, Kentucky, and Illinois, right on the Ohio river.
Okay. Very cool, man. Very cool. I loved a lot of the stuff that you’re doing and I know we’re going to dig into a lot of that today when we’re on this episode, but maybe just get a start at Preston. Tell us a little bit about your journey through your career, man.
Yeah, so I actually started kind of in a different way. I started in IT way back in the day, in the family business, which was a manufacturing company and taught myself in IT and took a couple of Dreamweaver courses and Photoshop courses and stuff like that which was part of a web development kind of development cycle for myself that I went through, just taught myself all of that.
I developed the websites for the company and other customers at the time. I went and worked for an IT company for a few years on and off. And eventually I was introduced while out on my own, outside of the family business, I was introduced by my father to a gentleman that ultimately became my mentor in automation and controls.
And led me down this pretty amazing path. And so here we are today. I started Envision automation controls and January of 2019. So it’s been about two years, little over two years now. And everything’s going very well.
That’s great, man. So Envision, so you’re a system integrator.
Okay. Very cool. Very cool. Just want to make sure listeners know exactly the line of work that you’re in, man. So that’s so exciting and, now I’m starting to get why some of your content is so awesome because you have that background with that, that you mentioned your website and a lot of your social stuff looks just killer, man. Great job.
Thank you. I appreciate that. Yeah, I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting graphic design for the family business back in the day. And you know, that comes in handy today, for sure, man. I don’t have to pay a marketing firm.
You know, when we were talking to prep for this conversation, Preston, one thing that came up, man, and I see it in a lot of your social media is about the skills gap and industry and you got a passion there. I mean, I love some of the stuff you’re doing. You know, why do you see that skills gap as such a big challenge for industry right now, man?
I think it’s going to be typically hard to pass down knowledge in any industry, but I think it is most notably a challenge because I don’t feel like there’s enough people making a connection between the older generations and the new newer generations coming in. I feel like by the time most of the guys are retired that’s when the new guys are starting to come in. And I think that’s happening because there’s also a shortage. So I feel like a lot of these younger guys are coming in, they’re feeling alone and they’re having to do it the old fashioned way and just kind of beat their head against the wall to learn things and get into the groove of things. So, and that’s fine. A lot of people have to learn that way and will learn that way, but I do think there’s a big skills gap. We’re not getting people that are less formally educated into it as well, which I think is a good path. There are many people on LinkedIn that are at the top of their expertise and have not went through the traditional more formal education process.
Yeah, for sure. I noticed one thing when we were talking and seeing the stuff that you’re doing online, you did this thing called the Change a Life Giveaway. And to me, that addresses this problem directly. And it’s actually one of the most direct ways I’ve ever seen someone address the problem of the skill force gap. So can you tell us about that? How’d you come up with that idea and what did that look like? And any details around the Change a Life Giveaway?
Yeah well, it kinda came about because of the mentorship that I received was so influential and such a big deal. For me, it actually did change my life. And so I wanted to be able to give that kind of experience with somebody else without having to actually become a mentor to each and every person that came to me for advice or knowledge, which happens quite a bit on LinkedIn and, it’s flattering. I wish I knew everything, but I don’t, so I try to help where I can, right?
But yeah, I came out of wanting just to, take what the mentor that I had gave me the value that he gave me and see if I couldn’t just push it back out into the world for somebody else whether, you know, in a different way. And so I figured the best way to do that would be to get the technology into somebody’s hands becuase I know a lot of people are visual and they’re hands-on learners and maybe not necessarily the best when it comes to traditional learning through a classroom environment or a webinar or whatever. So I figured the best way to get somebody, you know, a leg up or a head start would be to give them a physical PLC to get their hands on.
That’s pretty cool. So is that what that is? What’s the winner of that challenge or the opportunity? What do they get as a PLC and some other control?
Yeah. So the first one we did was for the first quarter of the year, the winner was Jason Rice. And what he won was a Siemens S-7 1200 starter kit, which included the S-7 1200 PLC and HMI and a few little inputs and outputs to get them going. It also included a version. I think it was version 15 license of step seven software. So you can program it. And also he received a license for factory IO, which is a virtual kind of manufacturing environment, which you can integrate with your physical PLC on your desk to give you a real world a touch and feel of it.
Yeah. That’s super cool, man. So I mean, did you, so did Envision y’all funded that yourselves?
Yeah. So the first one we completely sponsored and funded in-house. There are more giveaways in store. They will be each quarter throughout the rest of this year. We are darn near done planning the second one which will be launching in June. The third one is in tow as well. And I think that one will probably include more Siemens product. And I think some of these going forward, I will be working with either distributors or the manufacturers directly to help bring some of that value to whoever wins.
You know, we talked to a lot of people and there’s definitely a lot of wonderful integrators out there, but you’re one of the first I’ve seen doing a program like this, where it’s impacting one-on-one people directly, man, hats off to you. I mean, what feedback did you get from the winner? Has it impacted them? Any stories there?
Yeah, it’s a wonderful story. It blew me away actually. So he won, he was ecstatic of course, free PLC. That’s pretty cool right? But he happened to be in school to be a controls engineer or electrical engineer, one of the two. So he was going down that path in a formal, traditional kind of way. And he was working a part-time job and he has pretty good size family. It was probably one or two weeks after he won. And I posted the fact that he had won. That kind of found its way through my network to a recruiter, a really awesome recruiter. And he hooked him up with a job in that field. So within a, it was like a four week span of him winning, he actually landed a full-time job in the field in which he was looking for.
Oh man, that’s a touchdown right there, man. That’s awesome.
Yeah. So it was, an indirect result of the giveaway, but nonetheless he did send me great words about how it really did change his life. Just one thing through the other and kind of indirectly, it changed his life.
Man that’s wonderful. That is absolutely wonderful. Congratulations to him. And man, thank you for being intentional about a program like this and having the vision to want to put something out there like this man. That’s great at a so great.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
I know when we were digging earlier, too. We were talking about, you have control engineers and you have control technicians, and we haven’t really talked about on EECO Asks Why the difference between the two. So man, what do you see as the difference there?
Well when I think of a traditional controls engineer, I’m thinking of someone who can engineer solutions from scratch on blank sheet projects, meaning electrical engineering, programming, PLC programs for OEM equipment, integrating that equipment with other equipment from scratch.
I think controls technicians would better fall under like a service category guys who can go out and troubleshoot equipment that’s been deployed and has been running or make small modifications to the PLC programs and HMI’s, commissioning equipment and of course, swapping out components and troubleshooting wiring and things like that working with maintenance personnel and electrical contractors to get the job done. That’s what I think a controls technician is in my mind.
Yeah. I’m with you, you know, and you see a lot of stuff out there, particularly on recruiters and LinkedIn and things like that about the control engineer himself, but the control technician piece, you know, I don’t see that much. So, I mean, what do you think? How should we be talking or promoting these control technician type of opportunities to get that next generation excited about that opportunity as well?
Yeah. You know, I think it’s a great path for guys who are in the electrical contracting industries. I think it’s a great path for people who are in maintenance and I think to get them excited, honestly, to go into it guys, you’re going to get as close to automation and a controls engineer as you can, without that degree, and it’s a great path into it. I think that what would make me most excited if I could get the title of controls technician coming from electrical or a maintenance background that puts me one step closer to my ultimate goal is to be a controls engineer.
You know, if I can go to a systems integrator or an OEM, or just to a manufacturing plant and show them that I either have the electrical or the maintenance background, coupled with I’ve worked with drives and PLCs and HMI’s and all these other components. And I understand how the whole system works. And I can come to the next step where the, a smaller company who is not necessarily looking for that degree but may use you in a controls engineer type position. So I think it just puts you one step closer.
For sure. For sure. Becuase I mean, not everybody’s ready right out of high school to go for that engineering degree. I mean there could be stepping stones. Everybody’s path is a different path.
Correct. And, some of the more influential and higher caliber men and women on LinkedIn that you’ll see in our industry, a good portion of them are not formally educated. And just perform out of this world. It’s really quite incredible.
It is. It really is, man. I know you’re all about the workforce gap there and things we’re trying to close up. What advice would you have if somebody wants to pursue a career like yourself, what are you going to tell them?
I would say, guys get started now, there are so many resources that you can work with from home. There’s PLCdojo.com, SolisePLC. Of course there’s the automationblog.com. There are an incredible plethora of resources for you to get started. So my advice would be sign up to one of these courses, start watching the YouTube videos. Follow them on LinkedIn, follow them on their subsequent social media websites and just soak up as much of the knowledge as you can now.
And, bring that knowledge before your employers. If you’re in a maintenance position or you’re an electrician or something, and you have the ability to move up into controls and engineering prove that out at home, learn it, tinker, and just be curious, right? I think if you can bring that kind of knowledge that you’ve gained and put it into some kind of form, whether it be a PLC program, an HMI program, or some physical hardware and some wiring, if you can bring that before your employer or new potential employers, you may actually have a really good shot at landing a position.
And the reason I say that is because I do feel like the requirements for these degrees are actually starting to drop quite a bit, I think because of the shortage. And I think a lot of employers are like, “Hey, we want to know that, you know your stuff, but we also need people and we need help.” And so at some point they kind of start to dial back those requirements a little bit on the formal side and they really just want know, do you know your stuff or can you learn your stuff?
Right. Now, a couple of those resources you mentioned, I wrote, I was writing quickly. So PLCdojo, what was the second one you said that you really want people to go to?
Yeah, it’s SolisPLC. Okay. That’s Vladimir Romanov, if you know him on LinkedIn. And I believe Sean Carney The Automation Blog, and there’s also Tim Wilborne with TW Controls.
Yeah. Yeah. He’s a good friend of us here at EECO Asks Why. We love TW and what Tim’s doing, how he’s actually been featured on the show. And I tell you what for our listeners, we’ll put links to everything here that Preston just went through so that you can go directly to it because I think there’s a great opportunity. We haven’t heard of a couple of these Preston’s so I definitely want to go back through that one more time. So I appreciate you walking us through that, man.
It’s a big part of it. When I first got rolling one of the first courses I took was Paul Lynn. He had his courses on Udemy and I took a course there, two or three courses, and that’s really what helped me quite a bit on my own time outside of my mentorship.
That’s cool, man. I mean, I know you’re talking to a lot of people coming to industry. You said you’re getting hit a lot. Do you have any standard questions or people’s perception about the industry that you’d like to take a chance to clarify right now? Hey man, people think this is what we do, but this is reality? I would love to hear your thoughts there.
Yeah. So I think a big common misconception in the industry is I think a lot of people feel overwhelmed and they feel like there’s this giant block of knowledge you have to consume within a short span of time. And it’s anything further from the truth, you know, as anything else you can’t consume everything overnight. And your brain can’t consume everything overnight. So I think a big misconception is something people should think about is it takes time to learn things and it’s an incremental process.
And at what speed you earn that knowledge incrementally is completely dependent upon you. If you want to go home at night and tinker on your Micrologix 1500 that you purchased on eBay because you’re just so passionate about it. You said I’m going to shell out a couple of hundred bucks and buy this and get the software and I’m going to make this happen. Obviously you’re going to move a little quicker than the next guy. You know, nonetheless, I think that’s a big misconception. It might be a big block of whatever, but just take bites out of it and you’ll eventually whittle away at it.
No doubt, man. No doubt. Do you think it’s important for people who have that passion to try to find an alligned mentor? I know you’ve mentioned a mentor a couple of times, it’s one thing to have that PLC at home, working on it at night, but if you get stuck sometimes you need somewhere to go and, to get past that point, that you’re at. What are your advice there around mentors that maybe have helped you in your career?
Yeah. So my advice would be if you’re stuck, get on LinkedIn. That would be my first and foremost piece of advice. Secondly, you may find a mentor on LinkedIn. That’s probably the best place. Social media is a powerful tool. There’s Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and all that, but I find that our particular community is extremely interactive and involved on LinkedIn and not really the other platforms.
I know there’s some large automation groups on Facebook. Join those go in there and talk to people. And you may find someone who kind of sees potential in you and wants to hand down their knowledge, because really a mentor kind of has to see a spark in you to want to take on that initiative, and I was very lucky to have that. And I wasn’t actually, when I got a mentor, I wasn’t even doing anything in controls. I was just an IT guy doing nerdy stuff. And he just, he seen that. I knew both IT and a little bit of the mechanical stuff and he just rolled with it.
I think definitely going on LinkedIn and seek out knowledgeable people and don’t be afraid to ask actually, if I had someone inbox me and I had more spare time and they said, “Hey, I love your content. I think your great, but I really want to learn from you and I want you to meet my mentor.” Don’t be afraid to ask that. There’s probably a lot of guys out there that would love to pass down their knowledge to the younger generations. It’s a very rewarding process as a mentor.
I mean, you You’ve mentioned a few times, you had those mentors, I mean, anybody you want to give recognition to specifically?
Not necessarily, he’s a very private person, but I would say other than him, my father was a great mentor in manufacturing in small business. And of course a few of my family members have been great mentors that are also business owners.
There’s my uncle is a good electrical contractor and my aunt she’s a pharmaceutical director. And so a lot of these family members they’ve been very influential and of course just having the support of my family and friends along the way has been very influential.
That’s awesome, man. That’s great. And that’s, it’s so important to have that good core people around you.
So yes, absolutely.
Yeah. I’ve noticed some stuff even posting and putting out there. It has to do about machine retrofitting now and how you’re seeing that change for system integrators. You know so what are you seeing there? What’s the biggest change that’s coming?
Well, I noticed that companies are wanting to retrofit equipment, but not necessarily just retrofit them to updating controls. They also want to connect those machines. They want to get data from those machines and they want to be able to utilize that data. I think that whether manufacturers know it or not they feel the pressure in the industry to move towards 4.0. It is kind of a buzzword let’s be honest about that, but there is a significant push for it and it’s felt by everybody. I met with a customer recently that they want all of their older equipment to be connected, monitored and grabbed data from that so they can see uptime, downtime and all of that stuff and production data, and et cetera.
And they don’t exactly know how to get it done. They just know that they need to move that way if they’re going to stay with the times and move forward as a modern manufacturing company. So I think that’s a big core element to retrofitting is not just updating it from, an old PLC-5 to a CompactLogix or ControlLogix platform from Allen-Bradley, it’s also making that machine intelligent enough so that we can grab data from it and give that data in a useful way to our customers.
Outstanding, man. I mean, that’s definitely where a lot of this stuff is going for sure. And sounds like you’re on the cutting edge and on the front lines, rather of making that happen for a lot of industries out there.
Yeah. Well, you know, before I started working in automation, I actually did a lot of C ++ programming on microcontrollers and embedded projects. Just a handful of years ago where we were using a lot of the same technologies like MQTT and Mosquito we’re using Node Red and the Influx Tick Stack and stuff like that to deliver IOT data to the cloud for monitoring, different things like fuel tanks and water levels and pest control traps, and you name it. So a lot of that comes very familiar and I see a lot of technicians and engineers playing and toying and integrating that stuff into their actual machines and products and pumps skids, and et cetera.
And it’s really exciting cause it’s super cool technology. It’s really not all that complicated, but it’s super useful for the customer at the end of the day.
No doubt, man. No doubt. And then sounds awesome. Sounds like you have a lot of fun. I am curious, man. When are you the happiest? What work are you doing that gives you the most fulfillment man?
I’m the happiest whenever I can pass down knowledge you know? When I get somebody, it could be an operator at a plant and they say, man, what do you do? What is that you’re doing? You know? And I’ve had people say that’s magic. You know, what is that? And then I’m like, guys, it’s not that complicated. And I just love explaining things. I love passing down knowledge to newcomers in the industry. And of course I’m really happy when I get to solve my customer’s problems, but hey, that’s, I have to say that anyway. Right. You know, but it’s true. I really am happy to solve their problems.
That’s awesome, man. That’s so good. Yeah. Yeah. Let’s take a turn outside of Envision for a minute and talk, about things outside of work. How about that?
So what do you enjoy doing for fun, man?
As of late, I’ve been working on my new boat. Well, new to me, it’s a 1985 Baha. I really enjoy tinkering on the outboard motor. It’s a 200 horse. I love getting this thing ready for the summer.
Nice man. Nice. Okay. So you’ll be hitting the lakes up there in Indiana.
Yeah, we’ve got Patoka Lake, Kentucky Lake. We’ll definitely be on the river since we’re right here. And a good couple of friends of mine. They have private ramps on right down the river, off the back of their house. We get to go down to the river and play. So that’s, one more recent kind of outside of work, passion/hobby that I really enjoyed. So yeah.
Now you when you get on the water, are you skiing? Are you fishing? What are you doing out there on a water man?
Well, this summer we plan on doing some tubing and that’s about it. And then of course getting in the water and swimming and stuff. Cause we have a six year old and she’s never tubed or anything like that. So we want to take a nice and slow and just take it easy.
Yeah, I hear you, man. That’s awesome. That’s awesome, man. Share with us about your family. We love hearing about families here on the show. So what would you like to tell us about.
Yeah. My girlfriend, Jessica, she’s a sweetheart. She actually is a photographer for a studio, they take photographs for for schools. So she’s doing all the photographs for your kids and in their yearbook all the elementary and middle school and even high school.
So she gets a lot of satisfaction out of that cause she loves children and our daughter, Lily, she’s six years old. And she’s just a smart little whip is what she is. In fact, I was showing her some new knots on tying up the fenders and the anchor and the dock lines on the boat yesterday. And she got them the first time out without having to try more than once. So she’s a smart little thing. And that’s the entirety of our family, but we have a good little family.
That’s awesome, man. That’s so great. Congratulations. Hope you guys have a wonderful summer out there on the water and get to get Lilly lots of time out there. And by the end of summer, man, she’ll be a professional tuber. I’m sure.
That’s, you know, she would absolutely.
Very good man. Very good. How about this Preston? We love that we’ll work out what we call it, a lightning round and these hero episodes. And I like doing it because it just gives our listeners a chance to get to know you even better. You know, we talk so much about work, but just getting outside of work, it’s just fun to know a little bit about, you as a person. So if you’re willing to play, man, let’s jump in and do it.
Alrighty, let’s go.
All right buddy. So how about your favorite food?
Favorite food has to be chicken. That’s all I can eat
All you can eat? Okay.
I have Alpha-gal, so I can’t eat mammalian meats.
I got you, man. I got you. Was that like a, from a tick bite or something?
I got you have that adult beverage.
I don’t drink adult beverages.
No adult beverages. And what about regular beverages?
Water, Fanta. Fanta soda. I love that stuff.
Nice man. Fanta soda. I hear you’re the first Fanta soda favorite beverage. We’ve had man. So got you, bro. You broke that, but that’s awesome. How about a favorite movie man?
Oh, gosh, I don’t know if I could pick one. I love comedy, you know, I’ll say a good one Blue Streak with Martin Lawrence and that’s a pretty funny movie or National Security. I think Martin Lawrence is in as well was pretty funny.
So I’m taking up a Martin Lawrence theme. So is he your favorite actor?
When I was a younger kid, he was he’s hilarious, man.
He was, he was good, man. I mean, just, Martin the show was awesome.
Yeah. When he was in that Blue Streak movie, he put on that pizza guy delivery outfit and did that weird dance in the police station to get the badge. It just cracks me up every time man.
Now how about music, man? What do you enjoy listening to?
Well, I used to play drums was a long time ago and I played a lot of rock, but I think my favorite music these days is a mix between country and rock kind of like country rock pop, almost a little bit. Yeah, but if you see my Spotify playlist, there’s like a thousand songs and they’re all kinds of different genres, but I’ll say country rock is my favorite.
So country rock is your favorite. So if you had to narrow it down to an all time favorite country and all the time, favorite rock band, who would it be man? I’m gonna try to put you on the spotlight here.
Sure. Yeah. For country, it’s going to be Hank Williams, Jr. And for rock, it’s probably going to be Shinedown. They’re a great band, great music.
That’s awesome, man. Awesome. And we’ll see, we’ll get, we’re getting to know you, man. We’re peeling back the layers of that onion. That’s awesome. How about somewhere you haven’t been before that you would like to like to go someday, man?
Oh man. Texas. I’ve never been there. Never been in there.
Just want to go, just to see what it’s like?
Yeah. You know, I just want to see what it’s all hype about the 10 gallon hats and everything’s big. No, for real though I’ve been down south, we’re kind of considered middle of the road, Southern. I just think everything about Texas interests me, you know, their culture and just the way that everything is down there. So I wanna check it out. A lot of the. YouTube channel stars I follow. They live in Texas, so they have an interesting lifestyle. But yeah, I’d definitely love to go down there.
That’s cool, man. That’s cool. Now you mentioned some of your YouTube channel, so many. What are some of your favorite YouTube that you watch in there?
Yeah, I can’t help myself, so there’s a YouTube channel called Demolition Ranch. And Off the Ranch. It’s Matt, I forgot his last name, but the guy is crazy and I’ve watched him for years. So in Demolition Ranch, he just, blows stuff up with guns and everything else. And then on, Off the Ranch, they’ve been restoring and abandoned mansion for like a year or two now. And yeah, it’s just a lot of really interesting things are being done on that channel and down in Texas.
Also, there’s a huge wave of all of these entertainment stars from Los Angeles to Texas, over the last year, Joe Rogan moved to Texas, Elon Musk, know they all moved over there and they’re just a bunch of great people to watch, man.
Yeah. Yeah. Very cool, man. Very cool. And I have that still in a lightening round, a vacation spot that you’ve been to that you really recommend others.
Panama City Beach, hands down. Nice. Yeah, if you can get a condo right on the water. Thankfully one of my buddies has one and we got to stay there, but if you can get right on the water, there is not a more beautiful place, probably other than just north of Los Angeles. If you go north about an hour I think there’s a theme park right up there. The kind of mountain range area around that’s really beautiful as well, but I would definitely recommend Panama City Beach.
Cool. Yeah. Ford or Chevy?
All right. Just curious. I had to throw it out. I just want to see where you sat on that. And then last thing, pets, man?
That is the only right answer. And you got it right, brother. All right. Yep.
Yeah, absolutely. Man,
We’ll see. I’m sure that will come back on me one day where I’ll have some cat person will come back to me, but that’s just the way it is, man. There’s really only one right. Answer there.
So that’s correct. Man’s best friend right there.
This is fun Preston. We really got to know you. Just think what you’re doing at Envision is wonderful. We call it EECO Asks Why. We always wrap up with the why, and that’s just speaks about your passion, man. So, you know, if somebody was coming up to you to say, Preston what is your personal, why, what would that be?
My personal, why is solving problems that most people seem to find impossible. We’re solving problems that are just a huge pain in somebody’s rear on a day to day. And to see that satisfaction on their face and their tone and the way that they speak after it’s been fixed. That’s my, why?
That’s awesome, man. Well, You’re doing a great job. I highly encourage our listeners. We’ll make sure in our show notes that you have ways to connect with Preston following Envision, to see the things that he’s creating out there. Again, there’s just so many wonderful things that you’re doing Preston, and we’re very supportive and proud of you and happy for you. Wishing nothing but the best out there in Indiana and all over, because I know you’re all over the place. And just thank you again, man, for taking the time with us on EECO Asks Why today.
Well, thanks. I appreciate it, Chris.
Absolutely. You have a wonderful day, sir. You as well.