Each episode of the Augmented podcast reveals the stories behind the new era of frontline operations, where technology will restore the agility of frontline workers. which launched in February of 2021, has taught me a great deal about the ongoing industrial revolution. Especially encouraging is feedback from listeners. Professor Torbjørn Netland, Chair of Production and Operations Management at the top Swiss university ETH Zürich said this about us on LinkedIn recently: “Over the past weeks, I have spent a two-digit number of hours "together" with inspiring and knowledgeable people whom I never met”. Other podcast reviewers say: “part of my morning routine”, “made me think deeper”, and “relevant outside of manufacturing”.
What are the top ten stories we featured this year? It is hard to choose but I've picked the ones that resonated the most with me, these are symbiotic audio waves, after all.
With Rick Bullotta, co-founder, ThingWorx
This episode featuring the fabulous industrial entrepreneur Rick Bullotta was fun to record. I promise you will, as I did, get a sense of the playful, irreverent personality of this artisan tinkerer, bike lover and maverick whose motto is ‘I do things with things’. His story intersects with the major thrusts of the last 20 years of industrial innovation. He was an early employee of Wonderware, the famous precursor to manufacturing automation, back in 1993. He is the co-founder of Lighthammer Software which was later acquired by SAP. Then, in 2009, he co-founded ThingWorx, the first complete, end-to-end technology platform designed for the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) which was acquired by PTC in 2003. There’s a lot to learn here and I keep coming back to this episode. Bulotta was an early investor in Tulip, the frontline operations platform.
What Rick said about Wonderware: [00:08:15] “I learned a lot during that period about the importance of two things. One is ease of use and just empowering others to build applications. Particularly in the manufacturing domain. Second was ironically the importance of marketing. If there's one thing that company did extraordinarily well, in addition to having a great product was getting the message out there, maintaining a larger than life image.”
With Dayna Gayson co-founder of Construct Capital
Dayna Grayson is an impressive woman who has achieved so much as an industrial investor, breaking new ground in various ways. She is an engineer with an MBA, has experience in product design and reads the industrial marketplace better than most. She has now got her own fund Construct Capital, and is trailblazing the next generation of industrial tech companies in what she calls ‘foundational industries’. Adding to that, and perhaps relatedly, she is just a pleasure to talk to and feels relatable despite her immense accomplishments funding several unicorn startups (Formlabs, Desktop Metal, and OnShape) at her young age in her previous job at NEA, the legendary venture capital firm.
Dayna about Copia, a portfolio investment in the foundational industry of manufacturing: [00:15:00] “I've got early proof that there's going to be a real turning point in these industries, manufacturing, supply chain, production of any sort. Now the time to really double down on that early stage investing focus and build a whole portfolio around it. [...] Copia is a company that's really establishing modern developer operations in the industrial world [...] with the vision of creating code cohesion across machines.“
With Çağlayan Arkan, VP of Manufacturing Industry at Microsoft
Çağlayan Arkan, VP Manufacturing, Microsoft, is not only a wildly impressive industry executive, he is also a man of my heart because he is an avid outdoors enthusiast, a bicyclist, a back-country skier, a sailor, and a windsurfer. "Every chance I get, I am outside, enjoying the wind on my face", he says. Should this matter? To me, as an expat Norwegian who grew up on mountaintops and skiing in near endless forests, it does. Besides, he sees the industrial tea leaves quite clearly and without hype.
Çağlayan Arkan about Tulip: [00:28:13] “They go into the shop floor and look at local no-code citizen developers and bring it to life in the context of manufacturing operations.Suddenly the human machine interfaces are modernized, the legacy heavy applications that do not necessarily connect the enterprise change and there's a new workflow in place [where] people just act on data and intelligence, the job is much easier to do, and then you can build on it.”
With Professor Pattie Maes, MIT Media Lab
Professor Pattie Maes, the expat Belgian thought leader with her own Lab at the famed MIT Media Lab might have become one of my professional idols over this past year. Incredibly unassuming, astoundingly lucid, and a true birthmother of an entire generation of industrial artificial intelligence innovators, she has an effective, down to earth approach to innovation: design technology that empowers people. What can be more important than that? Adding to that, she is a co-founder of Tulip, so I get to spend more time with her, which is a privilege. Finally, as it turns out, we share a personal story of how Melanoma cancer has affected our fathers, which was an unexpected point of connection with matters a lot.
Pattie Maes about intelligence augmentation: [00:06:00] “I'm not one of these people who gets really excited about purely just the technology, the algorithms. I want to make my life easier and other people's lives easier and that has always been what motivates me and my work.”
With Jon Hirschtick, Head of SaaS, Onshape and Atlas Platform, PTC
Jon Hirschtick, Head of SaaS, Onshape and Atlas Platform, PTC, is a towering industrialist who has had a striking impact on the technology landscape in manufacturing, including being the co-Founder and CEO of Solidworks now a Dassault Systèmes company. His personality is also strong, after all, he was a member of the MIT Blackjack team. You get the sense that his views have mattered both because they were important and because he said they mattered, which only comes from naturally charismatic people. For that, he is a bit of a hero that future generations can emulate. His views on the emerging industrial tech landscape are likely no less prescient, so as a futurist, I listened intently.
Jon Hirschtick on moving manufacturing’s CAD software to the cloud: [00:41:50]: “It wasn't just taking the old applications saying, oh we'll move the workload into the cloud or something.[...] it was saying we're going to rethink the whole app and the data and the tools live in one place in the cloud and everyone accesses it and you get you eliminate all this hardware, crap and license codes and service packs. You eliminate all the problems they have by design. You don't have different people on different versions of software because we all use the same instance. People don't have to worry about which hardware they have and then the collaboration benefits are amazing. And that suits the needs of modern teams to be more agile and more innovative.”
With Jeff Immelt, former CEO of GE
I will admit that getting to interview Jeff Immelt was a treat. Clearly, he is no longer the CEO of GE, and GE is not what it once was, but for me, there was still a sense of talking to a historical era, not just to a person. A chairman and CEO of GE for 16 years, Jeff has in a way become the personification of the transitional industrial era of the past few decades, where things were emergent but not quite ready to transform. For having lived through that storm, he has invaluable insight which he also has shared in his recent book Hot Seat published by Simon & Schuster. Jeff Immelt's brave, honest, and wise book is unusually revealing and instructive.
Jeff Immelt on how GE got disrupted on his watch: [00:20:44] “Look, we were a company that was 50% financial and 50% old line industrial. It wasn't in the doc [but] the dotcom bubble burst. Everybody said, ‘those are just BS businesses’. [...] Look, hindsight's always 2020. I talk about this in the book. I'm more critical of myself than I am of anybody else, but I just think it's always good. Every company, large and small, has to have a window on the future. [...] I see it even today that lots of companies really don't take seriously all the disruption that's underway.”
With Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, Venture Partner, NEA
Hilarie Koplow-McAdams, Venture Partner, NEA, was another of the incredibly strong and successful female executives I interviewed throughout this year. I think what struck me the most about my interview with her was how she combines incredibly deep insight into human nature with a keen sense of industrial timing. Coming from a non-technical background, Hilarie has a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago, made her even more prescient about technology, if that makes any sense, perhaps because she initially had to work much harder at it. If you want to discover what future unicorns, decacorns, and eventually industrial powerhouses (such as Oracle and Salesforce) will look like, and shape them just as she did, you could do no better than listen to what Hilarie has to say. I loved hearing her reflections on Oracle, a company I once worked for, as well. Did I mention that she sits on the board of Tulip. Could that be an indication of Tulip’s future trajectory, too?
Hilarie Koplow-McAdams on the steps in getting ready to scale a software startup: [00:22:51]“Understanding who your buyer is, is Step 1. So understand who's going to buy the solution and scale up your access to those personas. Then, [Step 2] is what I would describe as staging a movement, creating and stimulating a movement.You hear people talk about this today as a community, which it is, a community creating communities, birds of a feather of a certain persona, but really your job in scaling the company is. Be the catalyst for that movement to take off and bring people holistically into not just a solution, but maybe there's a university offering, there's a marketplace, there are add-ons there, integrations that create this really robust opportunity for the buyer. And you notice in everything I say, I start ‘buyer back’.”
With Will Bruey, CEO and co-founder of Varda
I didn’t quite expect to, but I was quite taken by Will Bruey’s perspective on space manufacturing. After my childhood fascination with space tech faded, I have been so focused on earthly worries (the environment, health, emerging technologies), that the “endless frontier” faded a bit in my imagination and I started to see it more like a luxury concern. Not so any more. I am slowly starting to realize that space will be so relevant to my later years, and to my kids’ lives, that I cannot but focus immensely on it going forward. Are we really at a point where we will conquer the solar system? The near term benefits became quite tangible to me during this interview as it turns out that Varda is piggybacking on 20 years of R&D at the International Space Station.
Will Bruey on why space manufacturing makes sense now: [00:14:40] “There are a lot of aspects to engineering that space has to offer in product development. [...] and in the long-term with a multi-planetary species, it's hard to imagine a solar system where we have folks both on Mars and Earth, but for some reason, no manufacturing facilities in between.”
With Arun Kumar Bhaskara-Baba, Head of Global Manufacturing IT, J&J Technology
That Arun Kumar Bhaskara-Baba, Head of Global Manufacturing IT, J&J Technology, has had a busy year is a bit of an understatement. He is in charge of 100+ manufacturing sites throughout a pandemic where his company has had to deliver faster than ever before. To see how he has kept his feet keenly on the ground, developing a solid perspective on how to, in practical ways, empower his employees through Digital Lean transformation, is reassuring and powerful. Arun impressed me as an industrial executive of the future who J&J is lucky to have today. To think that he came to the US with a briefcase and a $10 bill is a wonderful reminder that there may still be such a thing as the American Dream.
Arun Kumar Bhaskara-Baba on how transforming supply chains depends on the operator: [00:17:23] “If you think of maintenance of the equipment, it used to be a stronghold of engineers that were sitting somewhere and they got to the equipment when there was a need. Look at where we are now with operator asset care, we are empowering the operators to own that equipment and drive it [...] That is the same journey that we have to go through from the digital side. The key is, first of all, making sure that we have platforms like Tulip and others that help us to be able to quickly download those apps.”
With Head Global Operations Technology, McKinsey & Company
Enno de Boer, Head Global Operations Technology at McKinsey, is an entrepreneur within the world’s top strategy consulting firm. That observation alone qualifies him to be included on this list. I’m sure that feat is not easy. The way that he has spearheaded far reaching collaboration with the World Economic Forum, launching the Lighthouse Network which inspires so many factories of the future, is inspiring to watch and take a small part in. Tulip works with many of the companies that have been awarded a Lighthouse facility designation, and hopefully will work with many more.
Enno de Boer on why he sees a Renaissance: [00:05:41] “Partly we have an evolution because the manufacturing sector, you cannot change overnight. It's very complex to manufacture products. You need many technologies. [...] The terrible pandemic has [...] accelerated the digital transformation. Now, it 's becoming much more of a revolution because I'm seeing examples where innovation is not stopping anywhere. There's a real revolution going on, a Renaissance, I would say of manufacturing and the art of the possible. I would say the sky's the limit.”
I’ve omitted fantastic podcast episodes that I will feature in other upcoming posts, but these ten interviews seemed particularly meaningful this year. Stay tuned for next year where we already have an exciting lineup that includes MIT professors, C-levels of Fortune 500 companies, investors and startup CEOs.
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