AI is just one technology driving this startup’s solution for smart factories.
AI (artificial intelligence), IoT (internet of things), cloud, and mobile are taking an ever-increasing role in manufacturing. Yet, historically, manufacturers adopt new technology at a slower pace. Sometimes, that is due to the legacy systems that are in place and how challenging it can be to supplant them. Other times, it is due to a lack of solutions designed to meet the specific requirements of an industry. Manufacturing is one case in point. In general, manufacturers are often the last to have solutions created to serve them. Plus, they tend to hang on to older approaches for too long. These two realities combined mean American manufacturers are at risk of falling well behind manufacturers in other countries.
Industrial IoT Revolution
Manufacturers want to remain relevant and this is spurring an industrial IoT revolution. As a result, they are expected to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) at an extraordinary rate over the next 5 years and beyond. In fact, analyst firm Research and Markets predicts a compound annual growth rate of 49.5% and a market value of $17.22 billion, just for AI technologies.
The good news is companies like Xemelgo are creating solutions specifically designed to help manufacturers improve their products, supply chain and inventory management leveraging cloud, mobile, internet of things (IoT) and AI. Xemelgo was founded in 2018 and has a vision to trace inventory and products throughout the entire manufacturing process. The company’s industrial IoT platform will utilize IoT trackers on everything in the production process and AI to deliver important insights. This will allow plant managers to see, in real-time, how efficiently the process is running, predict and manage inventory requirements and enhance the sustainability of the business.
Co-founder and CTO at Xemelgo, Akhila Tadinada, shared some important lessons she has learned in growing a startup that is helping manufacturers remain competitive and build the smart factories of the future.
Lesson 1: Stop Selling and Start Listening
When founders have a solution to a problem, they can end up so focused on selling the new, disruptive solution and forget to listen to the customer. Taking the time to truly hear what your early customers have to share can lead to an even better solution. When you give the customer the opportunity to share what they need and what they are struggling with, it makes all the difference.
“The most important lesson that I’ve taken away from the last several years is to stop selling and start listening,” says Tadinada. “When I listened to the customers, I learned they were looking for a total solution. The main problem manufacturers said they were having with the applications and solutions being offered in the market today, is there isn’t a single end-to-end solution. They were struggling with getting good data, and then still needing to hire expensive developers to draw insights from the data,” continues Tadinada.
“When I listened to the customers, I learned they were looking for a total solution.”
“The customer didn’t want to have to figure out how to piece together all the elements that would be necessary to get a complete picture of their production process. Hearing this has allowed us to take an existing problem and see how cloud, mobile, AI and IoT technologies can solve the problem end-to-end. Once we listened and then changed our direction to meet this need, the customer’s eyes really lit up. That was when we knew we were on to something,” concludes Tadinada.
Lesson 2: Identify People that Love Technology
Things change fast in technology necessitating smart and adaptable people and the necessity of building a strong technical team. In fact, new industry 4.0 technologies are emerging every day. Tadinada says it’s crucial to form a tech-savvy team that can quickly adapt to emerging technologies.
“When I recruit, I look for people with a natural inclination to adopt new technologies,” shares Tadinada. “I look for people that are the early adopters. The additional benefit from this strategy is that we can incubate new initiatives inside the company,” continues Tadinada.
Lesson 3: Don’t Make Static Decisions
By combining the power of IoT and AI, customers can now make real time data decisions that can account for the everchanging work environments in manufacturing. Manufacturers work in constantly changing environments, yet they need to be really good at predicting the future. A plan that works today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Historical data has limited value for predicting demand 3, 6, 12, or even 36 months from now.
“When it comes to manufacturing, there’s a lot of seasonality. You don’t want to make static decisions,” shares Tadinada. “Trending can be useful for making smarter decisions that mean lower inventories and more efficient management of components. Often manufacturers end up with too much scrap. Combining AI, IoT and mobile technologies will help us create sustainable businesses. It allows manufacturers to manufacture only what is needed right now,” says Tadinada.
Lesson 4: Take Cues from Consumer Applications
Familiarity goes a long way when developing a startup. When people are familiar with how something works, it is much easier to get them using a new tool or solution. This is especially true when it comes to new applications. People do everything from their smartphones. This is even more important for industrial leaders because they are not sitting at a desk all day. They are walking the factory floor. Pulling out a laptop or going back to their desk to run a report doesn’t make sense. Alerts need to go directly to their smartphone in real-time.
“We want to make Xemelgo easy to use,” says Tadinada. “By looking at applications people utilize in their daily lives, we are able to accelerate adoption. For example, making the interface feel like the ridesharing or GPS mapping applications people are already using makes a migration easy. It also causes people to wonder why the applications they use in the factory don’t look like the applications they are using every day. It makes for a much smoother sales and deployment process,” shares Tadinada.
Lesson 5: Learn to Love Beautiful Chaos
Startups are messy. Market research and validation efforts lead to pivots. Pilot programs uncover new knowledge that can only be gained through hands-on use. User interfaces require changes once used in a real-world environment. It goes with the territory. It can be chaotic, yet good decisions are still the difference between startup growth and startup failure.
“Good decision-making within the chaos is crucial. We need to make the right decisions without rushing, though, at the same time, not over-analyzing. To be successful in a startup, you need to love beautiful chaos,” expresses Tadinada. “I’ve found making decisions in a timely manner is very important so the company can keep moving forward at the right pace.”
That’s exactly what Xemelgo is doing. By being the glue that is pulling the cloud, mobile, AI and IoT technologies together, Xemelgo is able to deliver a total industrial IoT solution for manufacturers. They have found a big opportunity at the intersection of a poorly supported industry and a set of technologies that have matured to just the right point to spur on an industrial IoT revolution. Their unique ability to see how to enable the technologies to work together is redefining how manufacturers manage their products, inventory and entire supply chain for sustainability and profitability. They are helping to build the smart factories of the future.
Let’s review the important lessons Akhila Tadinada shared with us.
- Stop Selling and Start Listening
- Identify People that Love Technology
- Don’t Make Static Decisions
- Take Cues from Consumer Applications
- Learn to Love Beautiful Chaos
Learn more about Seattle-based Xemelgo by visiting www.xemelgo.com.
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