Message from the President, Nick Riggio
In the animal world, a cobra is the ultimate symbol of chaos. When you’re that feared and that deadly, you don’t have a lot of predators. A cobra can impose its will on pretty much anything it runs into, from a human to an elephant. Except a mongoose, of course. Those cute, furry little critters are what keep cobras up at night.
You see, instead of becoming prey for poisonous snakes, the mongoose evolved by becoming so used to cobra venom that they’re immune to it. And they adapted by getting so good at dodging cobra bites that it rarely matters anyway. Yes, the scrappy little mongoose saw a giant poisonous snake and identified it as a tasty opportunity. In the food chain of Southern Asia, the cobra’s place on the top comes with a mongoose-shaped asterisk.
In 2020, COVID-19 sank its fangs into the world of business and manufacturing and none of us were ready for it. Now we have a choice. We can wait to see what happens next, or we can adapt and take charge of what happens next.
Let me give you an example. It can take months to install or update a manufacturing process or line, so many companies that had spent 2019 installing new equipment and technology for their factories were stuck with powerful new systems that sat idle in early 2020 because they couldn’t get OEM engineers and technicians into their facilities to commission and start up this new equipment. Travel bans, social distancing and other measures may slow down a pandemic, but they also slow down the commissioning process.
Thankfully, LSI has spent the last six months or so working with companies that have refused to become victims. Instead, we’ve served as the avatar (a competent engineer, functioning as their remote eyes and ears) for OEM automation vendors that can’t be onsite (because they are located outside of the U.S.). We’ve employed remote connections, virtual meetings and carefully planned visits to complete the installation and commissioning process.
We’ve given our customers the agility to adapt rapidly and respond to changes quickly. Instead, of watching events unfold, they can realize the benefits of their capital investments.
In fact, agility has become critical in every part of automation. The evolution in data collection that we’ve seen over the last decade or so has accelerated into a revolution in 2020. COVID-19 has sent supply chains around the globe into unpredictable convulsions, with demand fluctuating as quickly as the news cycle itself. In a world where you need to increase productivity, but you can’t spend large amounts of time or capital to do it, good data intelligence becomes essential to survival.
Our data experts have spent 2020 helping manufacturers take advantage of the data that their processes and equipment generate. As a result, our customers don’t just collect data, they are understanding and turning that data into information to more effectively run and optimize their manufacturing processes – and they get an experienced partner who can help them every step of the way.
Here’s an example. One of our food & beverage customers was collecting data from their line but were not able to use it to effectively track their OEE (overall equipment efficiency). They needed a systems integrator / data intelligence resource with experience in operations as well as process control to help them determine the best approach for their multi-line packaging operation within this facility.
In the midst of COVID-19, LSI provided a data, operations, maintenance and reliability expert to listen to their needs. Then we implemented our solution by starting with a proof of concept on two of their largest packaging lines, demonstrating how data utilization could help with their OEE, reporting requirements and, ultimately, the productivity of their lines (which is really the bottom line).
Even with enhanced safety protocols in place, we were able to work effectively (both virtually and on-site) to implement the project and train the operations team. The customer is already seeing large productivity and throughput increases and realizing the value of this improved data utilization – so much so that we expect the same methodology and solutions to be rolled out to the rest of the customer’s lines and facilities soon.
More than ever, 2020 has illustrated that speed is critical to manufacturing success. Not just speed in production, but speed in adaptation, communication and the adoption of new ideas. When product demand for your product can quadruple in a week, you need to be able to respond quickly. The more nimble and optimized your systems are – the more your data is real actionable information – the more able you are to pivot, using your new position to identify opportunities where there were only challenges before.
After this year, your business is going to be different in one of two ways. It’s either going to be the year you started looking backward trying to establish business as usual, or the year you identified evolution and adaptation as positive processes and started looking for new opportunities to put them into action.
I can tell you which path LSI will take. Join us, and we’ll turn the tables on the cobras in this world together.