Episode 18: Thoughtful Industrial Automation with Kyle Reissner at Rockwell

Today's Guest: Kyle Reissner, Head of Digital Customer Experience Leader at Rockwell Automation

Kyle currently serves as Digital Customer Experience Leader at Rockwell Automation, the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information.

Kyle Reissner is a connector, innovator and persuader that loves technology. Kyle has more than 20 years of diverse industrial product management and marketing experience, which has allowed him to grow into key leadership roles where he’s been responsible for industrial software strategy, lean startup software developments and global marketing campaign execution across various industrial companies. He’s led andx` been a part of teams that have delivered more than 10 new software products and digital tools, he holds 17 patents (co-inventor) and has globally launched numerous marketing campaigns while at large corporations and smaller startup companies.

Kyle currently serves as Digital Customer Experience Leader at Rockwell Automation, the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information. In this role, he is responsible for defining and executing an enterprise vision/strategy to drive a digital experience for customers that is connected, intuitive and personalized across their full life cycle. He’s previously had roles at Rockwell Automation where he’s lead a lean startup software product development team and was responsible for the company’s product mobile app software strategy.

Show Notes

Kyle Reissner and Industrial Automation (1:21)

Nearly two-year journey at Rockwell Automation to overhaul digital experience for customers. Kyle joined up with the newly-formed team make these visions a reality.

--Overhaul lifecycle and digital engagement with customers. Presales and discovery. Pricing, procurement, design, implementation, maintain Rockwell products...all making customer experience a priority in a way it hasn't been in the past.

--Background on Kyle. Deep manufacturing and automation experience from the engineering side all the way to product and marketing side.

--FactoryTalk TeamOne at Rockwell Automation (what do mobile apps look like in the manufacturing space?)

Impacts and consequences of Automation (4:47)

How do you utilize digital experience to educate customers around automation?

Across the industry, people don't really understand the complexities of automation and its true impact.

--Sewing machine replacing hundreds of thousands of people stitching clothes. But thousands to maintain the machines and so many people freed up to fuel the industrial revolution.

--Rockwell doesn't spend time in automation education.

--Tagline evolution: Listen, Think, Solve (engineering-focused) changed to, Expanding Human Possibility (people-focused).

--Huge cost for product lifecycle because Rockwell products are so rugged and need to run for decades without stopping.

--Blake Moret has brought a big impact and change to the education, brand identity, and philosophical foundations of Rockwell Automation. Very positive.

--STEM support and effort is strong in the company.

Should people focus on things other than just assembly lines? (10:34)

Look at Toyota - they consider their front line people the most important in the company.

--Toyota pours money into making assembly faster, better, safer, etc. These people on the front line are highly valued.

--Elon Musk - too much automation can be a bad thing. Supported by Toyota's effort to introduce manual quality checks to slow down the process of automation.

--Tape manufacturer: why does tape tear perfectly straight? Result of a process that needed specialized automation to do. Very expensive. But it made the customer experience of the product many times better.

American manufacturing competitive advantage in in this age? (14:19)

Intellectual propert is a big deal in this conversation.

--And it leads to a culture of innovation

--Seeing things like moving manufacturing closer and closer to the customer so that customized products get to customers faster.

--Empowers a much different, much more intimate relationship between a brand and its customers. This is across Adidas and other retail manufacturers all the way to 3D printing etc.

Fahads from Adidas, coming in 2020 (18:03)

What is smart manufacturing? (18:25)

50/50 on the term, "smart manufacturing."

"Smart" implies that our current methods were dumb or inept. Not true at all.

--So many "antiquated" processes in manufacturing have produced and still produce massive value.

--Companies have been collecting data from the factory floor since the early 90s even. We've been doing "smart" manufacturing already for a long time, depending on how you define it.

--Kyle's view: how do you make problems simpler and faster to troubleshoot? How do you make all components speak to each other faster and in a more robust way? Augmenting with some level of AI or analytics.

--From Fahad's perspective: everything is connected.

--From Andrew's perspective: moving from machines doing just what they're told into more predictive or prescriptive decision-making in manufacturing processes. Additionally, collecting real-time insights into the operation of lines in factories. Maintenance gets easier. Productivity increases. Data allows operators to adjust very quickly and reduce losses. Increased quality of product as well.

The evolution of data analytics thinking and projects (25:50)

--Cost of analytics projects is decreasing drastically. Cost of curiosity and experimentation was very high.

--NEED: data collected and analyzed must align to enabling business processes change. Digital twins are not enough! Data for the sake of data is a bad goal. No impact.

--Output-driving pricing for services in these areas.

--Found that driving the improvements customers want actually requires far less data than people think. Be smart about data and analytics projects.

--Lean cycle: build, measure, learn, etc.

--Users need software that meets them where they're at; UX that is thoughtful is critical.

Data unlocks new areas of value (31:07)

--Customer experience learnings: sizing and selection of products for industrial automation projects is an area for huge wins.

--There is a lot of design complexity involved in sizing and selecting Rockwell Automation components for automation jobs.

--How do we empower new engineering grads to do this better and quicker?

--Lots of tribal knowledge that can be captured and value to be unlocked.

What technology trends are impacting automation as a whole? (34:35)

--Devices becoming smarter.

--Configuration and setup need to be easier for customers.

--Very confusing right now - too many parameters. Too much trying to boil the ocean with all the options available in the products.

--Preconfiguration. Reducing the pile-of-parts problem.

--Customers are starting to expect a Nest-level or Eero-level configuration experience more and more.

--But need to know the customer! Rockwell customers do want options, choices, and all the complexity. Rockwell's selling to really smart people.

--Example: there are hundreds and hundreds of parameters produced by an Allen-Bradley motor drive.

--Regarding trendy technology like blockchain etc - AI is king. Looking at AI for helping guide users on the customer experience side. This is realistic right now and helps customers solve problems better.

Edge computing and Rockwell Automation (40:22)

What does adoption and reshaping of thinking here look like?

--Rockwell's entire business empire has been built off of computing on the edge.

--PLCs replaced relays on factory floors carrying electrical signals in the 60s and 70s. Industrial automation invented edge computing.

--Now, a PLC can have a module running full Windows 10 can be plugged into a chasis and can process at the controller level.

--Big IT organizations are pushing down to run more applications and process at the edge?

--We aren't seeing as much progress in the area AI making automatic process decisions closer to the edge. There's a threshold limit for the ability of decisions to be made at the edge. Can only get so close, so far down without compromising safety, liability, and regulatory compliance etc.

Manufacturing coming back to the US (45:57)

--Farm-to-table model for manufacturing.

--There are a lot of perception problems with this topic. There is a lot of movement to and away from the US. The most innovative minds in the world are actually here in the US still.

--Mass-produced toilet paper was invented and produced first in the US. What did we do before this? Thanksgiving fact to be thankful for!

--Scaling manufacturing is where it becomes tough - for some companies, it makes sense to stay in the US, for some to leave, and for some, to return.

--ABInBev, for instance. Goose Island production level needed to scale massively quickly because of the growth of their brand. But couldn't. So ABInBev bought them and together, they scaled up nearly overnight because of the level of technology and experience ABInBev brought to Goose Island.

--Manufacturing that needs to scale well will always find a home in the U.S

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Fahad Shoukat
Written by

Fahad Shoukat

Fahad has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an MBA. He brings over 15+ years in Business Development, Strategy, Sales, Product, and Marketing in various industries such as software development and Internet of Things (IoT). His experiences have led him on an unwavering pursuit to meet thoughtful people and build thoughtful software.