The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 4 months ago

Problem-Solving Digitization w/ Adam Keating


Manufacturing got left behind as the software industry progressed rapidly over the years. It’s time to catch up, and innovators like Adam Keating make it possible.

As the Co-Founder & CEO at CoLab Software, Adam embraces the engineering approach of problem-solving. His team enables 2D and 3D CAD collaboration which has changed the game for manufacturing businesses, especially in the last 18 months.

What we talked about:

  • Adam’s Hyperloop adventures and the emergence of CoLab Software
  • Manufacturing is catching up on the 20 year lead held by the software industry
  • Examples of businesses that are thriving since embracing collaborative manufacturing technology
  • Digitization strategy for the sake of it vs. the intent to solve tangible problems

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Most technology road maps are actuallyare really scary. I like be completely candid. They are like their big massivechanges. You need to know where you're going, but is more important to havegotten started with, like a tangible problem, like a small problem that youcan fix. Welcome to the manufacturing executivepodcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that aredriving mid size manufacturers forward here, you'll discover new insights frompassionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share abouttheir successes and struggles and you'll learn from bt sales andmarketing experts about how to apply actionable business developmentstrategies inside your business. Let's get into the show, welcome to another episode of theManufacturing Executive Podcast, I'm Joe Sullivan your host and a Co founderof the Industrial Marketing Agency Gorilla. Seventy six, as my gueststoday, will remind us not a lot of good came out of this pandemic of twothousand and twenty and two thousand and twenty one. But one positive isthis: We've broken down a number of technology barriers out of sheernecessity that have, in turn, opened up the doors to all kinds of new ways tocommunicate and to collaborate. Today, we'll be talking more specificallyabout how this acceleration of digital transformation has made collaborationamong engineering teams in the manufacturing sector more accessiblethan ever. So let me introduce my guest. Adam Keating is a mechanical engineerwho co founded Co, lab out of sheer frustration when he saw how engineerswere being held back by inadequate tools for working together. Adam'sbackground includes leading development of one of the world's first hyper loopvehicles taking home second place internationally at space x's, twothousand and seventeen competition, inventing an electric propulsion systemfor large scale, aircraft, designing systems for biology, guidedradiotherapy and managing elements of multi billion dollar energy projects.Just to name a few highlights his co labs. CEO Adam now leads a growing teamof forty plus people were setting the new standard for engineeringcollaboration since two thousand and Seventeen Adam has spent countlesshours talking to engineers, manufacturers and industry leadersabout the barriers to effective collaboration. Those conversationsguide, CO, labs software development and have allowed them to shortencustomers design review cycles by more than fifty one per cent with the launchof CO lab three point, O in March of two thousand and twenty one Adam andhis team are well positioned to help even more teams around the world whowant to build the future faster. Adam. Welcome to the show o thanks for havingme Bladin. The first thing I have to do here is ask you about how you gotinvolved in hyper loop and also, if I could get elon musk cell number yeah,so the selle cell number- I don't know if we're going to get that paradise andI've heard even on the emails that he rotates emails, and I mean you know,there's only so many combinations you can guess. You must have somethingpretty good. We keeping that in box clear but Hyella for me was actuallystarting point and basically his entire journey cola would not exist. Had I notdone, hyperlane hyperion happened because a friend of mine, I wentthrough McCallen inary school with really got fixated kind of what washappening in Selton valley and but what but it was a hard ware guy like reallywanted to get involved, and you know at this point. His dream was get the appleand we saw this thing come out about Elan most talking about hyperlatinismas a sketch. It was just like on a Napkin. There was no wall, you, Google,hyper, look, you got this one picture, Elan Musket sketched out and I'm in hiswhite paper and anyway, that was two thousand and fifteen. He committed meto join this team. At that point, I was like really focused on energy likenever really thought about creating new technology. I thought about it, butnever really seriously considered it and anyways fast forward. Two and ahalf years later and I was leading that team, I think I was probably doing itmore than anything else. I basically... bread and sleeps hyper loop and wetook together a group of people from Newfoundland and the east coast ofCanada, and then group universities in the US and actually competed in spaceaxis high belief, competition, which I could tell you the whole story. Weprobably need three or four podcast to kind of go through, but long storyshort. We actually end up coming sack and globally building this ridiculousbacle like it our products tie. We were really resource constrained. We didn'thave the same budgets to other teams. So on the second competition weactually had a twenty foot. Long, two Osan pound vehicle that floated on anair cushion go a hundred glomer an hour in this two. That was our first timeever like on national TV. The last day of the competition we had somehow madethe up three, which was we didn't expect to ever got to kind of get there.We knew we could do it, but we didn't expect to happen were on national TVtrying to get this like you know, this was the first high speed. You knowgreat an hundred clomber move for an air bearing high glue pot ever anywhereprofessionally or I mate wise and all I can say is. I was really happy when itstopped. I on the vehicle didn't crash into the back of the two when we got tothe end and it worked, and you know for me what I really really is is it issort of vehicle in a metaphorical sense as well, and it kind of showed me whatwas possible in terms of building new technology and that team I was on.There was about forty of us there's seven or eight companies a started fromthat team. Most of the rest have gone on and worked like super cool places,whether it's space, ax or test law, or no building their own thing, and Ithink it just really encouraged like this new school of thinking. That'sactually a call up. Stare is call Abe started because we were frustrated withtools we had while doing that, both as students and his work and internshipand yeah. I don't think my life, my life, be completely different. Had Inot accepted my friends or cost to join that team back in two thousand andfifteen, although I gave him a hard time talk about it? What an experienceI mean! Congratulations on what you're able to do there and and what you wereable to take from it. I can't imagine being a part of something like that. Itmust have felt surreal. It was there's many parts of it that were sore on likejust to give an example. Once you get into this stuff, everything isconnected. We show up to La we're trying to compete in this competition.We had a really shoot string budget like at this point when we weremanufacture. I Talkin that perspective. We couldn't even afford to pay otherpeople manufacture for us, so we would take aluminum out of recycling likewhatever was left over from someone else's projects and like mill, our ownparts, and I like turn around parts, and we were doing that ton of stuff andwe show up to La and the vehicle we had was really big compared to other teams,because we didn't have the money to restart and we got the vehicle stuck ina store locker. We couldn't get it out, because the trailer hat stuck with thewalls like the vehicle or the trailer was time feet wide stars. Lockers tenfeet wide. It was stock, so this this guy from bowing, saw stuck there andbrought down a Canada. Forty, the walls, let us out help us out and then gave usas a dry covered driveway for three days. We didn't know the guy and that'slike one of the ten thousand things that happened on this journey, but yeahwhole different perspective of manufacturing and building stuff. Aftergoing through that, that's really cool. Well, it sounds like it was a launchpad for you, obviously to into what you are doing now, which is running thiscompany Co lab. So could you tell us just a little bit about what collapseall about how it came to be? Yes, so it s a call up for us. Initially it was.It was the Stans we wanted to take to say now. We need a better technologyfor engineering teams and all their partners, but that's a supply ormanufacturer, or just down no help doing code design. Then we felt thatfirst time just trying to build things of students, but then saw an industryat you know most individed startups all the ways through to Fortune fivehundred and realize that software teams were literally twenty years ahead whenit comes t technology and agility compared to teams in the manufacturingworld and arguably the manufacturing world you're physically buildingsomething so making mistakes. There is very, very costly, and I'm going backis very very hard and that's for German, and I a CO founder said: You know whatwe need to build, something that helps teams work better together, but in away that you know takes him to the next...

...chapter. What engineering is going tobe so today, collab provides the the fastest and easiest way to share andreview d Ted Cad with anybody doesn't matter. If it's your company or supplyor manufacturer you break down that barrier, for teams to sort of adopt thetechnology and where we're going long term is helping teams move towards moreof a practical Verin eval for hardware manufacturing and then also introducingthe value of what you know. A model based enterprise actually looks likefor these teams, and you know if you really baledock we're trying to helpteams work together with all the data they're spending all this time.Creating I make better products faster. That's really what we're trying to dotoday, well good for you guys for recognizing a problem that youexperienced in your own world and figuring out how to act on it andcreate a product around it. Adam you. I heard you comment second to go herethat you know you said industries twenty years behind the software world,in terms of I guess, Utilizing Cloud Technology and collaborativeproductivity tools talk a little bit more about that for me and how is thatgoing to start changing yeah? It's really interesting and I'll talk alittle bit about how ovid had a large impact on. I think the trajectory havethat changed at what we saw was the problems we described no matter whattype of product you built in the mechanical world or the manufacturingworld, everybody had the same flavor communication was poor things slippedthrough the manufacturing floor and then became constantly changes likethings are doing in, and you look at what and it almost always comes back tothe munication layers, something so in a crack or apartment wasn't meant, butthat was never recorded. Something's lost in a note like there's always somepart of the system is following apart and then you look at your mark. Ourcounterparts and software revelers have a whole bunch of other problems. Don'tget your wrong like there they've got so much going so quickly that there'sother challenges there now trying to find the ticket that they're working onor trying to find the history of how decision was made. That was neversomething they struggled with along side of us and they're. Moving reallyfast, like we're talking about a true Ajo, not a waterfall, based approach,and that wasn't the problem and that's that's when we started. I reallylooking at what tools we had and if you look at the engineering world like indesign, you're thinking, bally a CATICOL, a plan, it there there's sortof your br Briton butter when you get to analysis tools and maybe specializeengineering tools. But you know really that's what you have in the creationside. If you think about everything else, how people communicate primarilyemail- and if you talk about how hey can hit externally like to amanufacturer from a design, firm or company, almost exclusively email? Howis something tracked almost exclusively some kind of a home made excel tool howit was like defender example, how does the even communicated between thecompany and a manufacturer most times? Is The power point deck the screenshots the model that model cost you like millions of dollars to make, andthen you spend weeks or months went back and forth over mark ups in thepower point deck on changes that are probably cost a lot of mine in thefuture, and that's what we started saying that it's just doesn't happen inthe software world and there's good reasons why it has s is the way it istoday in hardware, and you mentioned a couple of good examples like cloudadoption. Being a barrier is a huge limitation that thin covin has changeda year and a half ago we would talk to companies and they were all hesitant tomove to. La Very very few were saying you know we're clouded first overseeing now is that a lot want to move cloud first and even more were in thekind of the you know. The center bucket are cloud accepting and that's a hugecage like we went from having conversations with you know, Fortunefive hundred defense contractors, who would say like no way in Hell. Are weever going to the cloud to talking to one right now? Who is telling usthey're only going to do it if it's in the club, because that's the waythey're moving right and the power of that for the manufacturer on the otherend is if you can catch that wave the cost of the way you do your businessand the what you can do is with your customers becomes much tighter. You canbe much closer to customers and I'm wearing a a someters. Her today justgot it in the mail. That's kind of what they're thinking about right is youknow? How do you create that amazing experience, not just for your team, butfor all the people that you're working with and they're do? is some reallycool stuff on bringing you know,...

...clients and their partners together?And that's really what it's all about? I think ovid now is kind of broke downthat barrier, giving people a taste of Microsoft teams, for example, was likewhat this could be like to actually work more closely, and I think the nextfive or ten years you're going to see a massive adoption of tools that you knowin the last two decades we hadn't seen yeah, I think the last year, justforced so many companies to take steps that you know they probably knew werecoming at some point, but they didn't have a choice. They were somewhere onthe digitization strategy or a Rodman, and then one day someone said Oh wowwe're all stuff from home. What do we do tomorrow and they just acceleratedall the approvals, but that really was. That was one positive thing that cameout of the pandemic: There's not a whole lot about there, but that is onepositive that a lot of things that were you know, years and years behind or nowthere which, which sets a new precedence. I think which is going tochange the way relationships build between these companies. I think of thefuture Adam. You mentioned a couple of your own customers in an email to me. Ithink it was J C I and Genoa design. Where were the ones that you referenced,whether them or others that be interested in hearing you sort of touchon. You know how have companies like these that have acted on actuallymaking the right technology decisions been able to kind of move theirbusinesses forward or what's been the impact yeah, and I think it's a broadconversation that you're seeing sort of across all technology now and with ourparticular customer base. It could be something as simple as the decision gonow I made so back in March of two thousand and twenty we were playing towork with Jania coming coming. May that was like the plan. We then get theorder that everything is worked from home. You know locked a new from lineLabrador and I get a phone call saying hey. We need to be able to do thissooner and we we agree, we're going to do the next morning because they wantedto be able to. You know they had to go through tens of thousands of drawingsover the course of next year and they didn't want to be having their team,but the print out all that kind of stuff at home or send it around on PDand like communication for them then became their competitive vantage on avery tight project deadline. We ended up rolling solution out. They starteddoing every single, drawing review that they were doing for an entire skipthrough the platform, and I think we're about. Fourteen months later, we justran math last week and they've done almost thirty. One thousand drawingreviews to call at and saved almost eight thousand hours that eightthousand hours they've saved has made the difference than being. You know noteven just being like standard quos has quote with what they did in the office,but actually being better than they were when they were in the office allbeing completely remote in a whole new world, and that and that's the type ofthing that we're seeing now, is that teams who are willing to take that jump.I M willing to take that risk they're, the ones that are having with comparedadvantage going forward for ee. Now you know, on the other end be resin. Hadthe ship building contract to award, you know, budgets have gotten tighterand so people need to be more competitive in bidding. It's the samething for a manufacturer. If you can make it easier for the manufacturer,Secou work with the engineer and there's less of that friction. You knowpeople are a little less sensitive to the parks might be a little bit more onthe manufacturers sat because they're giving a better serice, and I think Itold you when we were chatting before that in the process, a million houseand when I went through that process. The very first thing I considered was:who will be the easiest for me to work with? That was actually my number onesiteration, and you know I almost missed out on the best quality, becausethat was my top consideration. It took getting a couple of quotes that Iwasn't happy with to actually go to another builder and look keep lookingand keep looking, but you know in most cases I quota come back. When I lookfor the first or second time, I would never even got down the line to theones that weren't quite technology ready becase. I just wanted somethingeasy and that's that's I think, coming out of coved, a lot of people are goingto expect just build to get on to on a zoom call. Send something happenedthere immediately. That's what's going to change, and you know you mentionedJohn's controls as well. I think they done some really invasive stuff when itcomes to how they do their products like they came to us with a challengethat they used to do these like walk throughs of their products in factory,to do value added. You Know How do you...

...actually reduce the cost, as pribemakes, is probably better and their VVVAIL, and they were trying far to dothat during Cowa with no flight capability or thinking about you know,may be stream the event or whatever might be, and we just turned that intoa virtual event in thred in our Ab, and they actually saw twice as many peopleparticipate and obviously cost a lot less, because they didn't fly peopleanywhere and they actually had twice as many ideas come out of the out of thewhole event in like three hours versus you know. What would it take? You knowseveral days plus travel time. An that's become something now that alltheir teams are doing inside of these groups and something that I think a lotof the industries didn't want to do, and that was like not even something wehad thought about, as as they actually came to us like as a customer wherethey were using for other purposes and Sin Er view, and they just use the sametool to have a complete different news case. And you know, I think, there'smore and more in the manufacturing world people getting clever now andsaying you know, we want purpose built tools like we don't want to be sendingscreen shots around. We don't want to be flying people for Sake of flyingpeople and the ones the ones who kind of craft something for their businessand kind of get that competitive advantage. In terms of their angle,it's kind of have an size impact three to five years from now. So this is,this is sort of the window is like the window to kind of get ahead. I thinkyeah well well said I mean seems like there are hard cost advantages thereare. There are also a peace of mind. Things like the ease of working withsomeone like you touched on. It just seems like sometimes there's thisbarrier, this hurdle, like this intimidation with new technology, butonce you can get through that, there's so many benefits to be realized. Yeah.One of the piece of advice that we give people to is, like you know, technologyand and most technology road maps are actually are really scary. I'm like becompletely candid. They are like their big massive changes. You need to knowwhere you're going, but is more important to have gotten started with,like a tangible problem like a small problem that you can fix, becausethat's it that's the difference here with US versus you know a lot of thingsthat you might see a market. We're not trying to do. You know changeeverything at once and fix everything at once: We're trying to influencebehaviors that people are accepting on technology so that when you know a newfeature comes out or a new solution comes out of new product in degreeswith what we do or no not even rallies at all. People are not as nervous to doit like we just rolled out a piece of software internally to help with one onones and performance, management and goal setting and communication, andthat's will started rolling out two days ago we took the step on day. Onesay we're just going to be one on ones: People like so much and they want, butthey literally en and grabbed the next piece, and so okay, now we're on startdoing, reviews now we're something gold. This is three days three days we've hadthis progression, but the reason that worked is because we said: okay, we'rejust starting with one piece out of the like fifty things it can do so peoplewere accepting to make a king that stuff, whereas if we tried to the wholeplatform of the one, you know it's sort of terrifying, I think manufacturing isyou know exponentially worse than not because you look a digital, pinning andmotivate enterprises and all this kind of stuff like that is hard, like anyonewho says they're a true motivate enterprise today, there's no there's noorgan in the world who is truly fully love with enterprise? There is notthere's some copies leading to church, but no one's fully. That I mean youhave no drawings on paper. Nothing printed out! Really! You knoweverything is in one system or at least connected together and we're gettingthere. But you know, taking baby steps is really important by progression.Adam I'm going to read something that you wrote to me in a recent emails. Weprepared for this conversation, and I like to hear you comment on it. So yousaid typical digitalin strategies often run countered a true, continuousimprovement in our constant conversations with engineers andmanufacturing teams. We've found that the most successful companies are theones who begin with their people and apply a true problem solving a mind setto define what needs to change. You talk about that a little bit and tellus kind of what you're getting at there yeah. I think it's really poor one too,because if you look at most engineering teams or manufacturers, they all havecontinuous improvement departments or someone in charge of that, and it'ssomething very tangible. But you know...

...often times when we talk about thedigitization strategy. We talk a lot about the big picture and not aboutwhat the actual problems are for the end user and that disconnect createslack of Byan and, if you're not bought in this things not happening, but it isdoesn't feel practical. This thing is not happening, so you know, there'sreally two ways to look at it often times you see, tool, process, peopleand that's like a typical digit, say digitization strategy. You know we wantto be here, we're going to use these tools to do it, these proces in placeand the people use it this way, but that's really countered what it needsto be and and something that, like you know, we I was at at this in thebeginning, with Colaba would always talk about tools and tact and features,and whatever none of that actually really matters right, like there's lotsof great examples of people buying book bags- and you know how do you go aboutthat? I was the features trahis, but what the person's looking for. So, ifyou flip that around and start with people, you know what is the actualproblem: They have. What process need to be met? What tools can help them? Aslong as you know where that goal is, you will make better progress, go inthat direction and you'll have buyin, and that's something that I think thatapplies everywhere. It's not even just technology adoption, it could besteadying goal, it could be create new line of business. We create newproducts. If you just say, go build this thing and there's no clarity aboutyou know other relate to of problem you're having very hard to tie us twothings together and that's why things are met with resistance it, why theclouds like people, when you say we're just going to do the cloud it doesn'tmake sense right like unless someone's like hey, I can't work with manufactureX, because we're sharing files like this and Oh okay, well process is goingto be. We need to do x too. We need is a cloud base solution. That does why,and that's like okay. Well, that's why we need. The solution is not aboutgoing to the cloud it's about fixing something that's tangible and, for youknow manufacturer, it might just be like so denot to pull their hair outtalking about what changes people are requesting were getting discrepanciesfrom a trile from a bomb from a drawing like there's, there's a million thingsthat are there and it's to starting the problem. If you start there make a babystep like anything, the next one will come right and that's and that's whatyou're looking for. I think in true that's what true digital transformationis, because otherwise you're going to pay literally tens of millions ofdollars for some of the beer companies, probably hundreds to implement thesemassive strategies to take five or ten years, and then what happens whenCovici around there's a real problem? How long did it take less than a monthand every company did it, because there was a real problem and that's all theytalked about there is no digistion strategy falls. Think about it. Nowthat's going to go back to their digistion strategy of people, be morebout, individual tools, people accepting not printing stuff out andusing it in the actual software and like if they started there, and so wereit started with yourself teams because gives people comfortable. That's goingto change everything, and if you look at the way you know generations comingout university in high school are now they don't know a world where theyweren't connected on social media text message and all the rest from day wantlike they do not know or at coach kids, who are like three and four and fiveyears old with cell phones. And I I'm thinking back when I was a kid I had. Igot a cell phone when I was like sixteen or seventeen and like thatwasn't that long ago, but it's changed and that's going to become more andmore and more and the companies who can get ahead of that now are going to bethe ones that advantage. Because I know, if we told our team today call lot, wewere going to go back and communicate over email and no slack like you can'ttalk each other. I think a lot of them would leave pretty much immediately andit's the same thing and yeah baby steps is the biggest Park Ana. So hat for youwell said I agree a hundred percent with your mind, set on this Adam. Isthere anything? I did not ask you today that you'd like to touch on now. Ithink the the last thing I kind of leave people with something about youknow their strategies its first, but just like you literally going back to Ijust said he o an to go on the ENA, what's important to your business andwhat are the problems and like anyone and one of or our leaders here Jack.She really changed my monse on this and just in the question in mind, Sid- andwe actually do this with customers and say you know- we're not going to tellyou what we do, because that doesn't matter right now, as if you don't havea problem, we can help with or waste your time to do the same thing foryourself, like literally, ask yourselves the hard questions I've beenaware. Where are these pain points? If...'re trying to like win more businessas a manufacturer or you know, build procs for less more or less money forenerny company like fear their goal? What that is, you know where you'regoing and then ther other problems are just start there and then figure out.Technology actually fits, and I think it'll start to see the gears turning alittle bit faster. I want to do that. Well, Adam great conversation. Can youtell our audience how they can get in touch with you and where they can learnmore about colup yeah now, and I appreciate it Joe and to get in touchwith me, you can find me on like Dan, just Adam Keating. There more ontwitter, I think it's Adam Keating it out in the find out more be calib. Youcan check us out at cove software COM, but yeah. I love that conversation,even if you just want to have pick my brain on how to go about figuring whatproblem tackle first. This is pretty much what I do all day, long, whetherit's for our team or for other teams so happy to do it. But Joe. I want to saythank you for having me. I really appreciate it. It was my pleasure. Ireally appreciate you taking time out of your day to do this cool, thank youand, as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode of theManufacturing Executive. You've been listening to the manufacturingexecutive podcast to ensure that you never missed an episode subscribe tothe show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn moreabout industrial marketing and sale strategy, you'll find an ever expandingcollection of articles, videos guides and tools, specifically for B, to Bmanufacturers at Grilla, seventy SICOT FLASH WAR. Thank you so much forlistening until next time. I.

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