The Manufacturing Executive
The Manufacturing Executive

Episode · 1 year ago

Problem-Solving Digitization w/ Adam Keating

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

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

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

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Most technology roadmaps are actually aren't really scary. I'm like be completely candid. They are like their big, massive changes. You need to know where you're going, but it is more important to have gotten started with like a tangible problem, like a small problem that you can fix. Welcome to the manufacturing executive podcast, where we explore the strategies and experiences that are driving midsize manufacturers forward. Here you'll discover new insights from passionate manufacturing leaders who have compelling stories to share about their successes and struggles, and you'll learn from B tob sales and marketing experts about how to apply actionable business development strategies inside your business. Let's get into the show. Welcome to another episode of the Manufacturing Executive podcast. I'm Joe Sullivan, your host and a CO founder of the Industrial Marketing Agency guerrilla. Seventy six, as my guest today will remind us, not a lot of good came out of this pandemic of two thousand and twenty and two thousand and twenty one. But one positive is this. We've broken down a number of technology barriers out of sheer necessity that have in turn opened up the doors to all kinds of new ways to communicate and to collaborate. Today we'll be talking more specifically about how this acceleration of digital transformation has made collaboration among engineering teams in the manufacturing sector more accessible than ever. So let me introduce my guest. Adam Keating, is a mechanical engineer who co founded Colab out of sheer frustration when he saw how engineers were being held back by inadequate tools for working together. Adams background includes leading development of one of the world's first hyperloop vehicles, taking home second place internationally at SPACEX's two thousand and seventeen competition, inventing an electric propulsion system for large scale aircraft, designing systems for biology guided radiotherapy and managing elements of multibillion dollar energy projects, just to name a few highlights. As collabs CEO, Adam now leads a growing team of forty plus people were setting the new standard for engineering collaboration. Since two thousand and seventeen, Adam has spent countless hours talking to engineers, manufacturers and industry leaders about the barriers to effective collaboration. Those conversations guide collabs software development and have allowed them to shorten customers design review cycles by more than fifty one percent. With the launch of Collab in March of two thousand and twenty one, Adam and his team are well positioned to help even more teams around the world who want to build the future faster. Adam, welcome to the show, and Joe, thanks for having me. Well, Adam, the first thing I have to do here is ask you about how you got involved in hyperloop and also if I could get Elon Musk's cell number. Yeah, so the cell number. I don't know if we're going to get that paradigm. I've heard even on the emails that he rotate the emails, and I mean, you know there's only so many combination you can guess. You must have something pretty good. We keep that inbox clear. But hyper loo for me was actually starting point and basically his entire journey. COLLAB would not exist had I not done hyper loop. And hyperly only happened because a friend of mine, I went through mechanical engineering school with, really get fixated on kind of what was happening in self and valley. But what was a hardware guy, I really wanted to get involved and you know, at this point his dream was get the apple and we saw this thing come out about Elon musk talking about hyper loop, but this point was a sketch. It was just like a Napkin. There was no way you google hyper loop. You got this one picture Elon Musket sketched out and his white paper. Anyways, that was two thousand and fifteen. He convinced me to join this team. At that point I was like really focus on energy, like never really thought about creating new technology. That I thought about it, but never really seriously considered it. And anyways, fast forward two and a half years later and I was leading that team. I think I was probably doing it more than anything else.

I basically eat, breathing, sleeps hyper loop and we took together a group of people from Newfoundland and these coast of Canada and then a group universities in the US and actually competed in space ex hyper loop competition, which I could tell you the whole story. We probably need three or four podcast to kind of go through, but long story short, we actually end up coming sacking globally building this ridiculous vehicle like it are prototype. We were really resource constrained. We didn't have the same budgets of their teams. So in the second competition we actually had a twenty foot long, two thousand pound vehicle that floated on an air cushion go a hundred kilometers an hour in this to. That was our first time ever. Like on national TV the last day of the competition, we had somehow made the top three, which was we didn't expect. Every guy kind of get there. We knew we could do it, we didn't expect to happen. We're on national TV trying to get this like you know, this was the first high speed, you know, grand hundred climbin our move for an air bearing hype gluepot ever anywhere, professionally or amateur wise. And all I can say as I was really happy when it stopped in the vehicle didn't crash into the back of the tube and we got to the end and it worked. And you know, for me, what I really really is is it was sort of a vehicle in a metaphorical sense as well. It kind of showed me what was 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 start. I from that team. Most of the rest have gone on and worked at like super cool places, whether it SPACEX or test law or building their own thing, and I think it is really encouraged. Like this new school of thinking as actually a coup started. COLAP started because we were frustrated with tools we had while doing that, both as students and as working internships. And Yeah, I don't think my life, my life be completely different had I not accepted my friend's request to join that team back in two thousand and fifteen, although I gave him a hard time time about it. What an experience. I mean, congratulations on on what you were able to do there and and what you were able to take from it. I I can't imagine being a part of something like that. It must have felt surreal. It was, if many parts of it that were surreal. And like, just to give an example, once you get into the stuff, everything is connective. We show up to La, we're trying to compete in this competition. We had a really she was during budget, like at this point when we were manufactureright time. That perspective, we couldn't even afford to pay other people manufacture for us. So we would take a luminum out of recycling like whatever was left or from someone else's projects and like mill our own parts. I like turn our own parts, and we were doing that kind of stuff and we show up to La and the vehicle we have was really big compared to other teams because we didn't have the money to restart and we got the vehicle stuck in a storage locker. We couldn't get it out because the trailer got stuck with the walls like the vehicle. Or the trailer was ten feet wide. stors locker was ten feet wide. It was stock. So this this guy from Boeing, saw stuck there and brought down in Canada. Forty the walls let us out, helped us out and then gave us as a dry, covered driveway for three days. We didn't know the guy and that's play one up the tenzero things that happened on this journey. But yeah, whole different perspective by manufacturing and building stuff after going through that. That's really cool. Well, it sounds like it was a launch pad for you, obviously, to into what you are doing now, which is running this company colabs. So could you tell us just a little bit about what collabs all about, how it came to be? Yeah, so coup for us. Initially it was it was the states times we wanted to take to say now we need a better technology for engineering teams and all their partners. Well, that's a supplier, manufacturer or just someone of help doing codesign. And we felt that firsthand just trying to build things a students. But then saw it in industry at you know, most innovative startups all the way through to Fortune five hundred, and realize that software teams were literally twenty years ahead when it comes technology and agility compared to teams in the manufacturing world. And arguably the manufacturing world you're physically building something, so making mistakes there is very, very costly and, I'm going back, is very, very hard. And that's where Jeremy, and I'm a CO founder, said, you know, we need to build something that helps teams work better together, but in a way that, you know, takes him to...

...the next chapter what engineering is going to be. So today colab provides the the fastest and easiest way to share and review D D Cad with anybody, doesn't matter if it's your company or supplier manufacturer. We break down that barrier for teams to sort of adopt the technology and where we're going long term is helping teams move towards more of a practical version of agile for hardware manufacturing and then also introducing the value of what you know a model based enterprise actually looks like for these teams. And you know, if you really built back, we're trying to help teams work together with all the data they're spending all this time creating and make better products faster. That's really what we're trying to do today. We're good for you guys, for recognizing a problem that you experienced in your own world and figuring out how to act on it and create a product around it. Adam you I heard you comment, so I can to go here that. You know, you said industries twenty years behind the software world in terms of, I guess, Utilizing Cloud Technology and collaborative productivity tools. Talk a little bit more about that for me and how's that going to start changing? Yeah, it's really interesting and I'll talk a little bit about how covid had a large impact on I think the trajectory of that change. What we saw was the problems we described no matter what type of product you built in the mechanical world or the manufacturing world, everybody had the same flavor. Communication was poor. Things slip through the manufacturing floor and then game costly changes, like things areaving Delton and you look at one and it was always comes back to the communication layers. Something Sup through the cracks or requirement wasn't met, but that would never recorded. Something's lost in a note like there's always some part of the system as following apart. And then you look at your mark. Our counterparts and software developers have a whole bunch of other problems, don't get me wrong, like they're they've got so much going so quickly that there's other challenges there now trying to find the ticket that they're working on or trying to find the history of how decision was made. That was never something they struggle with alongside of us and they're moving really fast, like we're talking about a true agile, not a waterfall based approach, and that wasn't roblem and that's that's when we started really looking at what tools we had. And if you look out the engineering world, like in design, you think you about like a cat tool applm, like there's sort of your bread and butter when you've got an analysis tools and maybe specialized engineering tools, but you know, really that's what you have in the creation side. If you think about everything else, how people communicate, primarily email. And if you talked about how they community externally, like to a manufacturer from a design firm or company, almost exclusively email. How is something tracked almost exclusively some kind of a homemade excel tool? How is like DFM, for example? How is the event communicated between the company and manufacturer? Most Times is the powerpoint deck with screenshots a model. That model cost you like millions of dollars to make and then you spend weeks or months, I'm back and forth over markups in the powerpoint deck on changes that are probably cost a lot of my in the future. And that's where we started saying with this just doesn't happen in the software world and there's good reasons why has it is the way it is today and hardware, and you mentioned a couple good examples, like cloud adoption being a barrier is a huge limitation that I think covid has changed. A year and a half ago we would talk to companies and they were all hesitant to move to cloud, very, very few were saying, you know, we're cloud first, but we're seeing now is that a lot want to move cloud first and even more or in the kind of like you know, the center bucket, are cloud accepting. But that's a huge change. They we went from having conversations with know fortune five hundred defense contractors who would say like, no way in hell are we ever going to the cloud, to talking to one right now who is telling us they're only going to do it if it's in the cloud because that's the way they're moving right and the power of that for the manufacture on the other end is if you can catch that wave, the cost of the way you do your business and the way you can do your business with your customers becomes much tighter. You can be much closer to customers. Now I'm wearing a asometry sweader hair today. Just got it in the mail. That's kind of what they're thinking about right is, you know, how do you create that amazing experience, not just for your team but for all the people that you're working with? And they're doing some really cool stuff and bringing clients and their partners together, and that's really what it's all...

...about. I think covid now is kind of broke down that barrier. Giving people a taste of Microsoft teams, for example, was like what this could be like to actually work more closely, and I think the next five or ten years you're going to see a massive adoption of tools that, you know, in the last two decades we hadn't seen. Yeah, I think the last year just forced so many companies to take steps that, you know, they probably knew were coming at some point, but they didn't have a choice. They were somewhere on the digitization strategy or a road map and then one day someone said, Oh wow, we're all stuff from home. What do we do tomorrow? And they just accelerated all the approvals. But that really was that was one positive thing that came out of the pandemic. There's not a whole lot of out theirs, but that is one positive that a lot of things that were, you know, years and years behind or now they're which which sets a new precedence, I think, which is going to change the way a relationships build between these companies. I think in the future. Adam, you mentioned a couple of your own customers in an email to me. I think it was JCI and Genoa. Design were the ones I think you referenced. Whether them are or others that be interested in hearing you sort of touch on you know, how have companies like these that have acted on actually making the right technology decisions been able to kind of move their businesses forward or what's been the impact? Yeah, and I think it's a broad conversation that you're seeing sort of across all technology now and with our particular customer base it could be something as simple as the decisions Noah made. So back in March of two thousand and twenty, we were applying to work with Genoa coming coming May. That was like the plan. We then get the order that everything is work from home. You know, walk down a new fromline Labrador and I get a phone call saying hey, we need to be able to do this sooner, and we agree we're going to do the next morning, because they wanted to be able to, you know, they had to go through tens of thousands of drawings over the course of next year and they didn't want to be having their team with the print out all that kind of stuff at home or send it around a pdfs and like. Communication for them then became their competitive advantage. On a very tight project deadline. We ended up rolling solution out. They started doing every single drawing review that they were doing for an entire ship through the platform and I think we're what fourteen months later? We just found math last week and they've done almost thirty one thousand drawing reviews through Golab and saved, I'm was, eightzero hours. That eight thousand hours they've saved has made the difference than being, you know, not even just being like standard, quote, that is quote, with what they did in the office, but actually being better than they were when they were in the office, all being completely remote and a whole the new world and that. And that's the type of thing that we're seeing now is a teams who are willing to take that jump, willing to take that risk. They're the ones that are having this competitive vantage going forward for you know, you know the on the other end wherevers of I had that Shit building contract to award. You know, budgets have gotten tighter, so people need to be more competitive and bidding as the same thing for manufacturer. If you can make it easier for the manufacturer to actually work with the engineer and there's less of that friction you know, people are a little less sensitive to the price. Might be a little bit more on the manufacturer side becase you're getting a better service. And I think I told you we were chatting before that I'm in the process of a billion house and 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 one consideration and you know, I almost missed out on the best quality because that was my top consideration. It took getting a couple of quotes that I wasn't happy with to actually go to another builder and look, keep looking and keep looking, but you know, in most cases that quote to come back when I look for the first or second time. I would never even got down the line to the ones that courn't quite technology ready because I just wanted something easy and that's that's I think coming out of Covid a lot of people are going to expect act just be able to get on to a zoom call, send something have it there immediately. That's what's going to change. You know, you mentioned John's controls as well. I think they done some really innovative stuff when it comes to how they do their products that they came to us with a challenge that they used to do these like walkthroughs of their products in factory to do value added you know,...

...how you actually reduce the cost is probably make this probably better, and their beavy events or in person, and they were tryingpare to do that during covid with no flight capability or thinking about, you know, maybe stream the event or whatever it might be, and we just turned that into a virtual event in D in Our APP and they actually saw twice as many people participate and obviously cost a lot less because they didn't fly people anywhere, and they actually had twice as many ideas come out of the out of the whole event in like three hours versus, you know, what would have taken, you know, several days plus travel time, and that's become something now that all their teams are doing inside of these groups and something that I think a lot of the industries didn't want to do it and that was like not even something we had thought about as a solution. They actually came to us like as a customer we're using for other purposes and sign review and they just use the same tool to have a completely different news case. And you know, I think there's more and more in the manufacturing world people getting clever now and saying, you know, we want purpose built tools, like we don't want to be saying screenshots around, we don't want to be flying people for the sake of flying people. And the ones, the ones who kind of craft something for their business and kind of get that competitive advantage in terms of their angle, it's going to have an outsize impact three to five years from now. So this is this is sort of the window. Is like the window kind of get ahead, I think. Yeah, well said. I mean seems like there are hard cost advantages. They are. There are also piece of mind things like the ease of working with someone like you touched on. It just seems like sometimes there's this barrier, this hurdle, like this intimidation with new technology, but once you can get through that, there's so many benefits to be realized. Yeah, one of the piece of advice that we give people too, is like, you know, technology and most technology road maps are actually are really scary. I'm like to be completely candid. They are like their big massive changes. You need to know where you're going, but it is more important to have gotten started with like a tangible problem, like a small problem that you can fix, because that's the that's the difference here with US versus you know, a lot of things that you would see a market. We're not trying to do, you know, change everything at once and fix everything on once. We're trying to influence behaviors that people are accepting of technology so that when, you know, a new feature comes out, our new solution comes out, a new product integrades with what we do or, you know, not even related us at all, people are not as their risk to do it. Like we just rolled out a piece of software internally to help with one on ones and performance management and goal setting and communication, and that's will started rolling out two days ago. We took a step on day one say we're just going to be one on ones. People like so much on day one that they literally went and grabbed the next piece and said, okay, now we're start doing reviews, now we're sitting goal. This is three days. Three days we've had this progression. But the reason that worked is because we said, okay, we're just starting with one piece out of the like fifty things it can do. So people were accepting to making that stuff, whereas if we tried to the whole platform only one you know, it's sort of terrifying. I think manufacturing is, you know, exponentially worse than not, because you look at digital planning and model base enterprises and all this kind of stuff like that is hard. Like anyone who says are a true model based enterprise today, there's no. There's no work in the world who is truly fully modelus enterprise? That there is not. There's some kind of leading to charge, but no one's fully that mean you have no drawings on paper, nothing print today out really, you know, everything is in one system, or at least connected together, and we're getting there. But you know, taking baby steps is really important, but progression. Adam, I'm going to read something that you wrote to me in a recent emails. We prepared for this conversation and I'd like to hear you comment on it. So you said typical digitalization strategies often run countered a true continuous improvement. In our constant conversations with engineers and manufacturing teams, we've found that the most successful companies are the ones who begin with their people and apply a true problem solving mindset to define what needs to change. You talk about that a little bit and tell us kind of what you're getting at there? Yeah, I think it's for important one too, because if you look at most engineering teams or manufacturers, they all have continuous improvement departments or someone in charge of that, and it's something very tangible. But you know, oftentimes when we talk...

...about the digitization strategy, we talk a lot about the big picture and not about what the actual problems are for the end user, and that disconnect creates lack of buying and if you're not bought in, this thing's not happening. But it was, doesn't feel practical, this thing is not happening. So you know, there's really two ways look at it. oftentimes you see tool, process people, and that's why typical digit I say digitization strategy. You know, we want to be here, we're going to use these tools to do it, these processes in place and the people use this way. But that's really counter what it needs to be and and something that, like you know, we've I was bad at this in the beginning with collid but I would always talk about tools and tact and features and whatever. None of that actually really matters. Right like there's lots of great examples of people buying book bags and you know, how do you go about that's not with the feature try it's but what the person's looking for. So if you flip that around and start with people know what is the actual problem they have, what processes need to be met, what tools can help them. As long as you know where that goal is, you you will make better progress go in that direction and you'll have buy in, and that's something that I think that applies everywhere. It's not even just technology adoption. It could be setting a goal. It could be created a new line of business. We create a new product. If you just say go build this thing and there's no clarity about you know how they release the problem. You're having very hard to tie those two things together and that's why things are met with resistance. It's why the clouds the people. When you say we're just going to do the cloud, that doesn't make sense right, like unless someone's like, Hey, I can't work with manufacture x because we're sharing files like this and Oh, okay, all process is going to be we need to do X. Tool we need is a cloud based solution that does why and that's like okay. Well, that's why we need the solution. It's not about going to the cloud. It's about fixing some as tangible and for you know manufacturer it might just be like so don't have to pull their hair out talking about what changes people are requesting or getting discrepancies from a D model, from a bomb, from a drawing. But there's there's a million things that are there and it's about starting the problem that you start there, make a baby step, like anything, the next one will come right and that's and that's why you're looking for. I think, in true that's what true digital transformation is, because otherwise you're going to pay literally tens of millions of dollars, some of the beer companies probably hundreds, to implement these massive strategies that take five to ten years and then what happens in covid comes around, there's a real problem. How long did it take? Less than a month. And every company did it because there was a real problem and that's all they talked about. There was no digitization strategy. But think about it now, that's going to go back to their digitization strategy of people being more bought indigital tool, people accepting not printing stuff out and using it in the actual software and like if they started there. And so we're starting with yourself, teams, because, guess, people comfortable. That's going to change everything. And if you look at the way you generations commit at a university, in high school are now, they don't know a world where they weren't connect, did on social media, text message and all the rest from day one. Like they do not know a world. I coach kids who are like three and four and five years old cell phones, and I don't think back when I was a kid, I got a cell Phonhen I was like sixteen or seventeen and like that wasn't that long ago. But it's changed and that's going to become more and more and more on and the companies who can get ahead of that now are going to be the ones that advantage. Because I know if we told our team today, I call lot, we were going to go back and communicate over email and no slack, like you can't talk to each other, I think a lot of them would leave pretty much immediately. And it's the same thing. And Yeah, baby steps is the biggest part. Nation hint have for you. Well said. I agree. A hundred percent with your mindset on this. Had Them. Is there anything I did not ask you today that you'd like to touch on now? I think the the last thing. I kind of leave people with some thinking about, you know, their strategies. It's first but just like we literally going back to I just said a moment to go and think. But what's important to your business and what are the problems? I'mlike anyone, and one of our leaders here Jack, she really changed my mindset on this and just in the questioning mindset, and we actually do this with customers and say, you know, we're not going to tell you what we do because that doesn't matter right now, because if you don't have a problem, we can help with or wasting your time to do the same thing for yourself, like literally ask yourselves the hard questions of you know, where...

...are these pain points if you're trying to like win more business as a manufacturer or, you know, Bill Products for less more or less money for Engineering Company, they figarout their goal what that is. You know where you're going and then few other problems are just start there and then figure out what technology actually fits and I think you'll start to see the gears turn a little bit faster. I want you to do though. Well, Adam, great conversation. Can you tell our audience how they can get in touch with you and where they can learn more about Coleb? Yeah, no, and I appreciate a Joe. And to get in touch with me you can find me on Linkedin, just Adam Keating there, or on twitter, I think it's Adam Keating and nol and to find out more about Colib you can check us out at Collab softwarecom. But Yeah, I love that conversation, even if you just want to have pick my brain on how to go about figuring out what problems tackle first. This is pretty much what I do all day long, whether it's for our team or for other teams. So happy to do it. But, Joe, I want to say thank you for having me. I really appreciate it. It was my pleasure. I really appreciate you taking time out of your day to do this co thanks, Joe. And as for the rest of you, I hope to catch you on the next episode at the manufacturing executive. You've been listening to the manufacturing executive podcast. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast player. If you'd like to learn more about industrial marketing and sales strategy, you'll find an ever expanding collection of articles, videos, guides and tools specifically for BTB manufacturers at Gorilla Seventy sixcom learn thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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