Barry Lynch, manufacturing solutions company Factora Solutions, is well-versed in the language of manufacturing and Industry 4.0, having spent many years with General Electric before joining the Factora team as VP, sales and marketing in 2017.
Lynch took over as chief executive officer last month, and is primarily focused on one key area: growth. That means growth in customer profitability, delivering on the larger promise of the industrial IoT platform and growth for Factora’s team, in both numbers and development.
Chief Executive caught up with Lynch to talk about managing growth, what he’s most excited about as CEO of Factora, how manufacturing CEOs can make sense of digital transformation and IoT, and more. Below are excerpts from the conversation.
What he focuses on when managing growth
Number one is the people. We are a people company. The people are our business, so we focus a lot on our people and the culture that we have amazing. We already have a culture committee and somebody who focuses on culture across the business—about learning, helping the employees grow, but also learning from the employees.
The second thing is when you’re in an area that requires a lot of expertise, we’ve always struggled with how we can find some really, really smart people, but they’re not necessarily experienced in the technologies that we use. We focus on two or three technologies in manufacturing, so a big game changer for us was we implemented our own onboarding process a year ago. We would hire smart people and then it may take them a year or two years to get up to speed to be really good at doing what they’re doing, being mentored, and then they were only as good as the mentor that you put them with.
So we basically took a year to 18 months worth of experience and boiled it down to a full month onboarding program where people get trained on the technologies that we use. We also put them on what I would call a pseudo-project, which is managed as a real project. So that given a given an RFI and we say “go build this,” they are scored and if they pass, then they’re offered a job with Factora. So it really allows us to develop our own set of people who have the right skills, the right experience.
What manufacturing CEOs should focus on moving forward
I think the key thing is being agile when adopting the new technology. If you look at manufacturing 10 years ago your cycle of adopting technology in manufacturing was 10 to 15 years. You put something in, then it would be good for 10 to 15 years because the new technology that was coming out was coming at a much slower pace. You look at consumer technology today and what’s happening with that, years have turned to months, so there’s new technologies coming that can really make a competitive difference. That can be an advantage, but it’s how are you able to adopt that more quickly and more cost effectively, as opposed to the what I would call the old school thinking of “We’re buying something and that’s it. It’s not going to change for 10 or 15 years.”
For us, IoT platforms have been a game changer—and don’t think of it as a product, think of it as an enabling platform where you can install applications of value, and as these things drop on every three, four or five months, they become available to connecting to the platform.
I wouldn’t say we’re solving a lot of different problems to what we were doing 10, 20 years ago. We’re just doing them in a more agile, faster and more cost-effective way because these platforms, you know, I’m talking like things like augmented reality, um, assisted reality. You’ve got the advanced analytics, the cloud stuff.
And for manufacturing, some things are coming, but they’re not quite ready yet for manufacturing. Things like augmented realityؙ—it is a great tool on the shop floor, it’s just the hardware that’s holding it back, once we’ve got a hot hat where something that can be hands free with glasses on there with a battery that will last for a full shift without charging, then that will move forward. But there’s some physical limitations that aren’t quite there yet for the software. And then there’s a number of IoT platforms that were really cloud-only. And you’ve got to understand in the manufacturing world, not everybody’s ready for that. You really need to have a hybrid approach where you can have on-prem versions and cloud versions and use the tools where it makes sense. So if you’re going to do some advanced analytics and do some deep dives, then the cloud makes sense for being cost effective, more power, elasticity of the cloud. But if you’re going to be managing your recipes and your secret sauce and the things you don’t want to share, then you want to keep them in the factory, safe and secure, let’s put it that way. For us it’s really been having flexibilities from a manufacturer’s perspective, investing in something that’s going to give them longevity, give them agility and the win really is the velocity that these things are coming out and the technology change given the competitive advantage over other people in the industry around adopting this stuff quickly and cost effectively to make a difference.
How his leadership style has evolved
I think I’ve matured. I spent 15 years at GE and that’s a great school of learning, because you get to be exposed to a lot of challenges and see what the leaders are doing. For me, it’s really come down to things like focus—focus on what you do and be good at what you’re doing and don’t try to be a jack of all trades. Really focus on where you have value in the industry. Focus on good people. At the end of the day, you really want to surround yourself with the best, smartest people because they are going allow you to deliver on the promise that you offer.
Be close to the customer. If you lose focus on the customer then you lose focus of everything. At the end of the day it’s about listening and being able to adapt and to understand what they’re trying to do. And how my leadership changed the changed over 10 years was really when I started, I was trying to be in control of everything. Call it micromanaging or call it what you want. I thought the only way it’s going to be successful is if I manage it, and what you learn over time is by surrounding yourself with good people and having a real focus and a vision in the organization is that people do a great job.
So my job is less around managing the day to day of what’s happening. It’s more around being there to assist, and it’s more about looking at the big picture and where are we going and what are we doing. So I’ve become more strategic and less tactical over time as I’ve learned these skills and learned to appreciate having the right people, having the right strategy and focus, and being close to the customer.