By Keith Larson, Smart Industry Editor in Chief
The Smart Industry 50 program was created in 2016 to recognize and honor individuals across industry who were making a difference in their organizations’ pursuit and embrace of digital transformation. Nominations for this year’s class of 2018 were solicited from the readers of Smart Industry, from past recipients of this recognition, and from more than 20 editors across the Putman Media family of industry publications—journalists and engineers who have developed deep relationships with the various vertical niches and functional swaths that their communities of readers represent.
The full list of our fifty honorees is spread across the pages that follow, along with more in-depth profiles of many of them. We hope you find their personal stories as inspiring as we do, and join us in congratulating them on their accomplishments.
A PASSION FOR PROCESS
AGCO’s Peggy Gulick took an interesting path to her current role as director of digital transformation for the global leader in agricultural equipment and solutions. She started out studying English and art, but ended up in information technology. From there, she landed a job not in IT architecture or application development, but in the midst of an SAP deployment. It was there that she found her passion wasn’t for IT itself but for the processes that IT was created to support. “Studying processes and making them more efficient—I loved it,” she says.
A series of roles in IT and process followed, including global business process responsibility for Pure Fishing, a sporting goods manufacturer. “When I came to AGCO, it was a new position that merged the IT and lean teams,” she says. And now, with a new responsibility for global digital transformation, she’s working to spread the culture she helped develop at the company’s Jackson, Minn., facility across the company’s more than 40 manufacturing locations around the globe.
“We are extremely proud of the ‘informed reality’ tools we’ve developed for our assembly lines,” says Gulick of the company’s pioneering use of (Google) Glass hands-free headsets to convey electronic work instructions to operators who spend their days on a low volume, highly custom product mix. “Our assembly line is rolling four to six tractors a day—none of them the same,” Gulick explains. The wearable tools offer value immediately, Gulick says, crediting them for allowing faster training, the smoother introduction of process changes, and the ability to flag quality issues at the point of execution. “We use these technologies every day in production, making employees excel in all they do.”
But if the technology implementations are leading edge, the real secret to AGCO’s success is its focus on skilled workers. “It’s how we acclimate and embrace them,” Gulick says. “The successful application of new technologies is all about the adaptive culture we’re building. And once the culture transitions, our technology folks won’t be moving fast enough,” she predicts. “People who visit our Jackson facility find the projects are brilliant, but come away saying, ‘Wow, what a culture.’”
NEXT-GEN PROCESS TECHNOLOGIST
With responsibility for driving the implementation of new technology within Dow’s manufacturing organization, Billy Bardin is among those digital innovators who today are defining the future of process technology.
According to Bardin, “Digitalization and the IIoT represent a new generation of process technology advancement, much like the pneumatics that gave way to distributed control systems several decades ago. The difference is that 35 to 40 years ago we were automating manual processes with new control technology, but with today’s digital and data science capabilities, we are in the position to advance process technology even further to deliver operational performance and products previously unconceived as well.”
Bardin’s no stranger to seeking out faster, more efficient ways to effect positive change in the organization, having helped steer the company’s efforts to bring the pharmaceutical industry’s “high throughput” research methodologies to the commercialization of new catalysts and materials. Advances that in the years since have yielded significant results not only in profitability but in energy savings and sustainable operations, too.
Looking forward, Dow promises to build an increasingly Digital Dow, with a digital thread across the company’s entire value chain. “The fun part of my job is setting us up for successful value delivery in the near-term, while establishing a path for the next 20-30 years that optimizes our manufacturing assets, data, and connectivity,” says Bardin.
From a production perspective, increasingly data-driven decision-making, together with plant optimization in real-time, top his future predictions list. His crystal ball also indicates the increased use of smarter, low-cost sensors and robotics—both of which promise to increase productivity and worker safety. Think sensors that can not only eliminate or reduce operator rounds but serve as an effective and reliable means for assessing potential equipment failures, and robots that can eliminate the need for hazardous and time-consuming confined-space-entry practices. “If they can use robotics for exploration of Mars,” Bardin says, “we can do it here, too.”