Hot Topic - Bringing the smart factory to life with Mike Loughran

13 July 2018

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Speaker 1 :You're listening to Manufacturing Ignition: Hot Topics, bringing you right up to date on the latest trends and discussions within UK manufacturing. Sponsored by Bonfire Recruitment, helping manufacturing leaders across the UK to attract the best talent for their manufacturing company. Ignite your business or career today by visiting

Speaker 1 :Here's your host: Terry Mallin.


Terry Mallin : Welcome to this week's Manufacturing Ignition podcast. I'm delighted to be joined by Mike Loughran, who is a senior manager within Rockwell Automation. The reason why I'm excited to have Mike on the show this week is he got a real passion for working with companies to help them unlock the benefits of their job manufacturing.

Terry Mallin : Throughout his career, Mike has worked with both large and small manufacturing companies to advise and set up their automation strategy. And this is to help them achieve their productivity and sustainability goals through the use of smarter technology.

Terry Mallin : Rockwell Automation, I'm sure most people who are listening in would've heard about Rockwell Automation. It's one of the largest companies in the world. And it's dedicated to industrial automation and information. They help customers to be more productive and they want them to be more sustainable. And you may recognize some of the flagship products, such as Allen-Bradley. Every engineer worth their weight in salt will know about Allen-Bradley.

Terry Mallin : Rockwell Automation is recognized for their innovation and excellence. Delighted to have you on the show, Mike. How are you this week?



Mike Loughran : I'm very well, thanks, Terry. Thanks for having me on the show. I'm looking forward to it.


Terry Mallin : Great, and to gain the highlight of what we're going to discuss this week, this week's hot topic is bringing the smart factory to life. Over the last couple episodes we've talked about Industry 4.0. We've talked about different robotics that can be used within manufacturing environments. And Mike's gonna give us a good insight into how we then bring a smart factory to life.

Terry Mallin : So, Mike, how do we go about doing that?


Mike Loughran : Yeah. It's a question I get asked quite often Terry, and the answer seems a bit simplistic, but one bit at a time. And why do I say that? Because I've been kind of a connected enterprise Industry 4.0 ambassador for Rockwell for probably about five, five to six years now. From when the IoT, the Internet of Things, phrase was first coined. I was, kind of very invested in it from a personal point of view as well as from a business point of view. It kind of really struck me as being something that was gonna be the next change in manufacturing. There were some early adopters from some companies and then there's been some later adopters. But I've had the privilege of actually being able to work with some of these companies.

Mike Loughran : But I've also been able to see where it's went really well and where it's not went as well as could be expected. And one of the main reasons is that sometimes we try and bite off more than we can chew. So, you've heard the phrase “How'd you eat an elephant?” Well, one bit at a time. The big bang approach doesn't always give the results people require, which soon then stops any further investment in that, which is really sad. So, I think that we've had the chance to learn from our mistakes, to learn with our customers, to go on this journey, as they say. And there's some certain key things that we've identified from it. How companies can be successful.


Terry Mallin : I think the main benefit, Mike, you've been there. You've been- you've breathed this, day in, the out. What are your listeners who may be thinking about, or may be on the start of the journey to a smarter factory. If the cogs are turning in somebody's head and they're there going, “Do you know what I would want to know more on what to think, what to find out.”

Terry Mallin : How would somebody go about starting that journey?


Mike Loughran : Yeah, that's a very good question Terry because again, a very popular one. I think, people have to understand where they are from a regains point of view so, what do I mean by that? First and foremost you need to understand where you're gonna start and what you're trying to achieve and where you may think you have problems. But that's just the start of it. If you identify, let's say for instance you think you could increase your productivity, it's a kinda core one, and by increasing your productivity you will be able to increase your profitability which is quite a wide arching statement right, where do you look at that?

Mike Loughran : Then you kinda review, so I'll tell you what we think that this line could be improved and if we improve it, we'll be able to get more through-put, we'll be able to pass that onto our supplier, we'll be [inaudible 00:04:46], great, okay, that's a great place to start. From that you have to look at and say, are we kind of ready to do that? If that line for instance is maybe very old, it's a very manual process, it doesn't have any sort of network capabilities, there are a number of ways that you can kinda start to address that. But you have to go from a point of, am I ready, what am I trying to achieve?

Mike Loughran : And it's that kinda bigger term picture, and once you've got that bigger term picture, you can then boil that down into small actionable ways of achieving that. And it could be, just as simple as, I'm gonna get some sort of network connectivity on there so I can just visualize what's happening ad start to report back on any downtime, any unplanned wastage I'm having.

Mike Loughran : Or it could be you've got a machine that's fully automated, and you're just putting your own [inaudible 00:05:35] around it. So, every customer is in a different part of their journey and it's about recognizing what you've got and again that sounds well, I don't really know where to look at that but believe you me, if you've got a trusted manufacturer or a trusted engineering partner that you work with, they should be able to help you on this journey and work with you in partnership.



Terry Mallin : With regards to your experience in working with companies that you've worked with over the last couple of years, number of years, what technical barriers would you say is most common?


Mike Loughran : Rather than kind of barriers, we look at it and say, we think there's three core pillars on a customers digital journey, digital transformation and those are people, those are process and technology. And when people talk about industry for connected enterprise, IoT, IIoT, call it what you will, they tend to normally go to, “well it must be more technology.” And that's only one part of it because if, for instance you don't have the process in place to utilize the technology in the correct manner, or you've got some very defunct ways of doing things, how your people aren't bought into it, then you're not gonna have a very good journey.

Mike Loughran : Now, some of the things that people throw up are the problematic, as well, you know something, "My workforce is not digital ready. They lack the skills in I.T. We've got no new users computers.” And although that can be the case, in many cases it's over simplifying things because many of the people let's say within that plant will be using smart phones, will be quite used to using smart phones and tablets. So actually, implementing a system that might integrate into that, that provides some greater insight into how their plant is running, how they can improve maintenance, how they can prevent plant down time, it would be second nature to them because many of them are already doing that right?

Mike Loughran : So that can be one thing, it's the people side of it.


Terry Mallin : Yeah, and it makes complete sense and you know everybody's got iPhones or Samsung or android device. Connecting all and training, is that something that, is quite easy to implement as well, the training side of things for employees?


Mike Loughran : There is yes, and you're touching on it there, most people have got a smart phone whether it be, you know iOS or android so if you can bring it, we class that as technology, it's not necessarily adding more automation, it's using that off the shelf technology that can help people implement these systems straight away and it also brings an ease of use because people are used to it.

Mike Loughran : It also fits quite nicely into, we recognize that within the manufacturing industry, there is a potential issue with not attracting enough young people into the business. So we've gotta kinda, older work force. Now by kind of, introducing these digital technologies, by utilizing off the shelf products, by bringing devices that they're more used to, it helps to encourage people into that world of manufacturing, where also they bring a lot with them. Their ideas, you know rather than having a [inaudible 00:08:45] screen that they might be used to sitting behind and using a mouse with, they might want to put that onto a tablet they can walk about with then flick across screens.

Mike Loughran : Well, that's more than achievable. It also drives innovation for the design workforce and engages people from that point of view. But people can use £200 tablet off the shelf to get some greater insights into data that they've never been able to access to. It's already wifi enabled, it's already cellular enabled, and it's got many things built into it for communication. FaceTime, WhatsApp, so on and so forth.

Mike Loughran : And certainly from Rockwell's point of view, that's an area we've been heavily investing in, around leveraging these technologies and putting apps out there, because people expect it now, they want two swipes of data, they don't want to have to delve into spreadsheets, go into very far fetching analytics. They kind of want it at their finger tips. And I think that's the way that people need to be looking at it, it should be easy, it shouldn't be a task.

Mike Loughran : Customers task is to manufacture, is to have industrial products, they've got an output. It's not to be high end technology innovators. But there's plenty of things out there that can help them utilize that so they can get on with their day to day task and become more productive, secure and sustainable.


Terry Mallin : And I feel that also, [inaudible 00:10:03] technology, and being forward thinking as a business, that's going to have a positive impact on employees as well because as we've touched on there, they're gonna get training and development, and that's gonna be great for the individual personally.


Mike Loughran : Absolutely.


Terry Mallin : But also, actually seeing the business investing in technology, then actually, [inaudible 00:10:25] commitment to the future and commitment to growing which can only benefit an individuals career. So it's actually, very positive Mike, and you know, coming back to how do you bring this smart factory to life, so for somebody to reach out, what could Rockwell or yourself help someone to start that?


Mike Loughran : We very much believe in a kinda consultative, trusted partner approach and what we've done is, we've distilled down some of the experience we've had with our customers, and also the experiences that Rockwell has cause we ourselves are manufacturing and we implemented an industrial connector enterprise approach five years ago across our manufacturing base. And we've got the results to prove that we are successful in that and they're publicly available.

Mike Loughran : But what we did is we just thought it down actually into a planning model which we are quite happy to share with people who want to work with us and quite happy to set up workshops to work them through this which is typically how we do that so it's a six point plan.

Mike Loughran : First thing is we sit with the customer and we understand their future operating vision. What are they trying to achieve? Whether that be, grow to multiple sites, have a global operation, or increase their supply chain, whatever that might be we sit and work with them on that. Typically with the management, they've got that vision.

Mike Loughran : Then stage two we create a consensus. So what we do is we look at the areas that they're trying to improve and ensure that we talk with all of the stake holders and get them together. And it sounds obvious but one of the things we've seen failure in the past in is when one part of the business wants to go on the journey but other parts have not been involved or not had their say and can become either blockers or can not contribute. And you need all parts of the business, whether that be the manufacturing, the I.T., it could be finance, it could be marketing. If they're not all aware of the vision, then how do you kind of get there? And there might be different stages but that's a very important one.

Mike Loughran : Then we look at where we can, some small key areas we can get a quick return improvement on. And we call that a pilot project. And why we do that is because again what we've found is by having small quick wins with quick return investments, it helps to

Mike Loughran : 1) prove the case, prove that there's something to be had from this journey,

Mike Loughran : 2) it proves that there is financial gain in which quickly helps to drive more investment and buy in from other parts of the business. So you can get to the stage where you have different segments to the business actually vie for who goes next which is really great to be in cause then you know you've got the real buy in.

Mike Loughran : Once we've improved, once we've found that improvement area, we've found that little project, we like to put together an estimated ROI so again, people can see what should come out of it should they invest in this and should they be part of it. So there will be a capital gain to measure that against. And we're only looking at kind of a six month ROI in many cases on the size of project. Again, it gives us something to measure against, something that benchmarks it.

Mike Loughran : Once we've defined that ROI, we start the pilot. And we run the pilot through with the customer and ideally, it's something the customer implements and looks after themselves, if not we can help or our partners can help.



Mike Loughran : Once that's done, we typically have a meeting with the organization again, walk through it, walk through the ROI and then go right the way back to stage one again, pick another area to go and look at. And on it goes, so the journey is made up of many, many different stages but if it follows the same procedure and it comes back on itself and away you go again.


Terry Mallin : I mean, it sounds, really simple that way. You know, it gives a clear indicator on how someone could bring the factory and make it smart. Summarizing the, I've got a lot of things going through my head at the minute and if I'm summarizing everything, it sounds really straight forward to get the ball rolling but I think the big challenge is, is for people to actually get the ball rolling. And if you're listening to this podcast and you're thinking “We could, it would be good to have a chat with Mike and see if there's any potential there.” But it could kind of give you a clearer picture.

Terry Mallin : Clearly from what I can see here there's significant benefits of reaching out to someone like Mike and the basis of, Mike's been there, done it. He lives and breathes this every single day and there's a lot of positives as well as he's learned from some of the barriers that he's faced in the past as well. You could really benefit from someone like Mike with their experience.

Terry Mallin : Let's remember, you know, the main purpose of having a smart factory is gonna improve the productivity and efficiency of your business, which Mike was touching on there with regards to ROI, you know, these stuff should pay for themselves. And probably the most important part that I see is, it's got a real positive impact on employees and staff. They can see your business invest in and being forward thinking and being a leader within the industry because most sectors within manufacturing, there is few companies that are actually spearheading automation and it's perfect timing for somebody to really take the bull by the horns and charge on.

Terry Mallin : Mike, I hope I've done you a wee bit of justice there.


Mike Loughran : No, no, thoroughly enjoyed it, Terry. Thanks for your maturity of catching up with you and having this chat, because as you say I'm very passionate about this and especially from a UK manufacturing point of view, I think we all understand that we have to move to the next level to increase our place in the world. If we don't do it, somebody else will and so we don't want that to happen.

Mike Loughran : I think there's certainly a push from government that we've never seen before around the manufacturing base, there is a lot of R&D going on, there is a lot of grants available for companies who want to start on this journey as well, from various different organizations. There has never been a better time for people to get involved, and yeah, start the journey now.


Terry Mallin : Completely agree. All exciting stuff then. That brings us to the end of this weeks Manufacturing Ignition podcast, I would like to thank Mike Loughran from Rockwell Automation for joining us today and I'm sure after listening, Mike knows what he's talking about, very creditable.

Terry Mallin : If you would like to get in touch with Mike to discuss how he or the business can help bring your smart factory to life you can get in touch with Mike by email it's:

Terry Mallin : Thank you very much as always for tuning in today. Until next week!


Speaker 1 :Thanks for listening to the Manufacturing Ignition podcast. If you've made it this far, we take it that you've enjoyed the show. In return we'd love it if you would leave us a rating and review on iTunes. Subscribe while you're there and we'll catch you for the next episode.


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