Powering the Digital Factory Future: Integrating an Increasingly Vast Set of Tools Reliably to Power Your Hardware Operation

Full transcript below:

Amy Bryson

Hello and welcome to another SME Media webinar. I’m Amy Bryson, Contributing Lead Editor of Smart Manufacturing Magazine. Today, we will explore Powering the Digital Factory Future: Integrating an Increasingly Vast Set of Tools Reliably to Power Your Factory Floor. This presentation is sponsored by First Resonance, a software company that has developed a modern factory operating system used by next-gen manufacturers building satellites, rockets, electric vehicles, and robotics.

We’re lucky to be joined by three presenters today. Karan Talati is Co-Founder and CEO at First Resonance. Rob Pakalski is CEO of Datum Source. And Heatherly Bucher is Director of Strategic Alliances for Arena. Now, before I turn things over to our presenters, I’d like to go over just a few quick housekeeping items for our attendees. If you look at the right-hand side of your screen, you’ll find a question-and-answer box. If at any time during the presentation you’d like to ask a question of our presenters, just type it into that Q&A box and we’ll get to those questions at the end of the presentation.
And if we don’t have time to answer all the questions, any unanswered questions will be responded to after the webinar via email. If you experience any technical issues like a loss of sound, please also use that Q&A box to alert us, and we’ll respond to you individually with a suggested fix.

If you’re not able to regain access to the live webinar, this webinar is being recorded and you will have access to this presentation after about 4:00 PM Eastern today, and you can watch the webinar as many times as you like. All you have to do is log in using the credentials that you used to join us today, and we encourage you to share this webinar and those credentials with colleagues who might also benefit from this topic.

Now, it’s my pleasure to turn things over to our presenters to kick things off and tell you a little bit more about their backgrounds. Welcome to you all and thank you so much for being here today.

Karan Talati

Wonderful, Amy, and thanks so much for the introduction. Hi, everybody, I’m Karan Talati, CEO and Co-Founder of First Resonance. I’ll actually give more of a intro here in a moment, but to start things off, these are the topics that we are going to be discussing today, related to connecting the factory floor and powering the digital factory future.

We’re going to recap what the current state is, take a look ahead to what the challenges and opportunities are, and we were going to talk about some specific approaches and solutions that come from the world of software and intersect at the factory floor, things like APIs and iPaaS. We’ll talk about the benefits, and then we will have some Q&A.

With that, like I said, I’m Karan Talati, CEO and Co-Founder of First Resonance. I’m being joined by Rob Pakalski and Heatherly Bucher who will introduce themselves momentarily. As CEO of First Resonance, here, I oversee the development of the ION Factory OS that is now powering dozens of companies, building some of the most leading-edge hardware in the world, including things like rockets, nuclear power plants, satellites, and more.

My background comes from a mix of manufacturing, data science, and machine learning. I spent a number of years at SpaceX, connecting the factory across machines and various subprocesses, and then spent a number of years developing machine learning in cloud-scale architectures, before starting First Resonance in 2019.

I’ll hand it over to Heatherly to introduce herself as well.

Heatherly Bucher

Hello, thank you, Karan, for that introduction to everything. I’m thrilled to be here. I lead strategic alliances at Arena, a PTC business. I’ve spent three decades in the enterprise B2B solution space, most of that time in the PLM and QMS area, starting as a customer, and then working almost all disciplines, I like to say, outside of sales in a software company.

As a connected PLM and QMS platform for discrete product manufacturers, Arena is used by 1,400+ companies worldwide to manage their product definition, their quality processes, and the design phase, and then critically share that data with other systems, particularly downstream systems like Datum and First Resonance.

One of my responsibilities for Arena is working with our partners, including Datum and First Resonance, to address customers’ needs for digital data flows in easy, flexible ways. We learn from our customers every day; what they’re doing in their businesses and what new technologies they’re using to produce products. We then work to bring them the solutions they need. This event, which I’m excited to be a part of, is part of that effort and we’re going to talk more about how you future enable your systems to support your business needs.

Now, Rob’s going to introduce himself, and then we’ll get going.

Robert Pakalski

Yeah. Thanks, Heatherly. Hey, everybody. My name’s Rob Pakalski and as Karan mentioned, I’m Co-Founder and CEO of Datum Source. As for my personal background or professional background, I suppose, I’ve spent my entire career in advanced manufacturing and supply chain.
So, I spent a number of years over at SpaceX as well as Virgin Hyperloop. And then the last few years here, I’ve been over at Datum. Each of those roles has really given me an opportunity to lead different critical supply chain projects, and I’d say that my area of expertise is really around the new product introduction procurement.

I’ll be very candid when I say I’m openly not very technical when it comes to software engineering, so a lot of the topics here today are on that, but what I can say is that over the past few years in particular through my work at Datum, being able to help advance the procurement workflows at a lot of hardware companies, is that I’ve been fortunate to see behind the curtain in a lot of space, defense, energy, robotics companies, and through that, been really able to see or do some pattern matching to identify what are the business processes and what are the certain software tools that these companies are using that helps them successfully build product fast, and for the most part, within budget.

So, I’m excited to explain today some of those topics that I’ve witnessed. I believe I will pass it back now to Karan for the intro here.

Karan Talati

Fantastic. Well, thank you both for the introductions. We are really excited to be working with both Arena and Datum. Let’s jump into the topic here. As I mentioned, what we want to do to start things off is really set the groundwork of what the current state is. Now, many people that are joining this webinar here today will be familiar with a lot of these three-letter acronyms. I’m not going to go into depth and describe all of the functionality, the CAD, computer-aided design, PLM, product lifecycle management, ERP, MES, manufacturing execution systems, QMS. For everyone that is in manufacturing, that there’s a whole suit of additional three-letter acronyms that we could talk about.

These are just a few examples. Notably here, you could see the left-to-right motion of what the traditional or typical technology stack would look like at a hardware business, at a manufacturing business, and in many businesses, this is still very much the case. Things move left to right from design, into the finance, coordination, into the factory, and then into quality, but of course, many people know that things are changing so fast these days that there’s a big shift happening right under our noses. And one thing to call out in this left-to-right motion is that, not so much if things go wrong, but when things go wrong, really, if any problems need to be handled, you really need to wait until the end of a lifecycle or the end of a program entirely and try again next time. The idea of fast iteration loops and dynamic feedback across these various components of the traditional factory stack just do not allow for that level of connectivity that’s needed in 2024, and I’ll actually talk about why.

Along with that left-to-right motion, some of the folks here on this call will be familiar with the standard ISA-95. It’s a well-accepted standard that layers out the various parts of a hardware business, including all the things in kind of the business system side, down to the manufacturing operations, into more of the OT layer or things like SCADA, HMI, PLCs. This is really when you’re connecting down to the factory stack. Really, this ISA-95 standard is more useful for manufacturers, zooming in from just a hardware business and definitely very much on the factory floor. We’ll talk about some of the things that are changing here and why this model might be up to change as well.

Let’s take a look at some data here. This is a chart that when I saw it, it really set off some alarms for me. I think it is pretty astonishing to see just how much manufacturing productivity grew through the ‘90s, early 2000s, but just how much it has stagnated since about the 2008, 2009 period or the great financial crisis. And you have to ask yourself why.

At First Resonance here, we do think about some of these macro trends that are driving the industry and some of the changes that are required there, but this one really set off some alarms and is really the genesis of why we started the company and have been building solutions for manufacturers since. This is something that we’re actually going to explore with some solutions and approaches here in a moment, but I wanted to motivate the audience here with just this staggering insight of just how much this has stagnated following a period of a lot of productivity growth.

This is all happening and as we’re a decade into the stagnation and manufacturing productivity, I would say that the 2020s in particular, and in many ways the pandemic, accelerated some of this very much culturally but also geopolitically, and when it comes to a supply chain perspective, really, we factor things in a way that there’s a huge amount of energy now being put into manufacturing and all the systems underlying it. I think a few in particular, such as the Inflation Reduction Act, pumping over $300 billion of incentives into the development of energy production, things like the CHIPS ACT, which touches the geopolitical side. Of course, we have an entirely new military branch, which is not something that happens every year or even every decade—the Space Force—sending a lot of energy into the market and a lot of satellites up into space.

So, while manufacturing productivity has stagnated, we have just this huge explosion of opportunity, and those mixing together really create some challenges for how manufacturers are going to be successful in the 2020s. We’ll explore some of those here. The good news is following the stagnation and in line with a lot of this boom in energy and demand for manufacturers, there’s been an explosion of tools to help various parts of the hardware development lifecycle or the manufacturing lifecycle.

This is a market map. We see many of these now every week, every month, whereas you used to see one every year. This one in particular is from Schematic Ventures. We really liked how they broke out complex discrete manufacturing, continuous process manufacturing. We’re not going to cover that topic here, but solutions and approaches to various methodologies and generative design, advanced PLM that connects to more parts of the quality process, things like real-time part sourcing, communicating with the supplier, not just over fax and PDFs or email, but digitally connecting devices on the factory floor, these are all areas that dozens, hundreds of companies are going after.

And as that rigid structure of the left-to-right, CAD to PLM to ERP motion and that refactoring of the ISA 95 stack happens, there is a need to rewire all these systems, such that they could connect and speak with one another because as we have these dozens, hundreds of solutions emerging, a disconnected landscape of tooling is going to leave a factory floor disconnected. It’s going to leave organizations having miscommunication, unless manufacturers really approach that problem with the systems thinking approach and some specific approaches and solution sets that we’ll actually cover here with APIs and iPaaS to get that right.

I’m going to actually hand it off over to Heatherly to talk about some of those approaches, and Rob will follow it as well. And at the end, I’ll come back and I’ll talk about the benefits that manufacturers can expect when implementing these types of solutions. So Heatherly, I’ll hand it to you.

Heatherly Bucher

Great. Thank you, Karan. It’s exciting, right? In some ways, it’s overwhelming to see that map of all the new opportunities, the new platforms that companies get to choose from these technologies that are coming about. In order to take advantage of these opportunities to create those digital threads across the business that companies need, we need to know that we have the right technologies that will make it easier or faster and frankly just more probable of success with your data flows.

I get to do the primer, the bit of one-on-one primer on APIs. So, if you’re not from a tech background and you’ve heard these terms and you’re wondering how do I assess the tech stack that I’m building, that my team is building, how do I know the right questions to ask about connectivity, we’re going to start with me, and then Rob’s going to talk about the evolution on top of it.

First, APIs, application programming interfaces, they’ve been around as long as computing has been around. As long as computing has been around, we recognize the need to connect systems, to move data or to share data across systems, but we really talk about modern APIs. Modern APIs really started in the early 2000s and with the explosion of the web and the cloud platforms, that began to grow on the web from private hosting, private clouds, into full multi-tenant public clouds. We had REST protocol was defined in 2000. Modern REST APIs use HTTP to access machine-readable data in things like JSONs or XML format devices.

What does that mean? That means, again, with modern cloud platforms, many of these tools that Karan showed on that kind of landscape of things you can choose to build your tech stack, many of them today are Cloud. They communicate via web services, HTTP, so you need modern APIs to support that. What else do we care about with modern APIs? You’re going to hear about things like open, public, external versus private APIs.

There are still private APIs out there in the world. Some of them serve a purpose. An example actually when I was researching yesterday for this is Netflix.
Netflix still has a private API that they utilize that they don’t make publicly available, and it’s necessary to basically just stream and connect and bring in all of the video content that they then share out in their platform to subscribers.

Public APIs though, open APIs, we use them every day in our everyday life. So if you use Google Maps, then you want to see what’s available near you on the Google Map, if you want to connect your Facebook to your Instagram, if you want to use PayPal and connect it to your financial provider, and then share that information and pay for whatever you’re buying on a Saturday at the market, these all use modern APIs, public APIs, HTTP, web services.
Why does that matter though in the space that we’re talking about in building your tech stack for product development and manufacturing? Modern APIs, these public APIs, they’re known and documented and they follow standards.

What that means is it gives you commonality of use and support. It gives you flexibility in swapping out different parts of your tech stack.
As much as we’d like to make decisions once and done with our whole tech stack in our company, things can change. You can grow, scale. Your needs, your requirements may change. So, you may migrate or change out parts of your tech stack. If you are connecting your tech stack and you’re using some of the methods that we’re talking about today, then you have flexibility to support changes in your tech stack.

Also, it’s ease of use and ease of support, right? If we use standard modern APIs, you’re going to find lots of resources, developers, support people who can utilize APIs and build on them. They’re agnostic to programming languages, as an example. So really, this modern standard API approach gives you the power of documentation, extensibility that you’re going to want.

But we don’t really stop at APIs. There’s buzzwords out there. You’ve probably heard no-code low-code. All of the software industry likes to throw these around, kind of marketing speak, if you will, and I can say that a bit tongue in cheek because I used to lead product and customer marketing at Arena.
So, I know the power of SEO terms, but they’re not just buzzwords. No-code low-code, these are also keywords to describe the new technologies that are built on top of APIs. No-code low-code methods give you those drag-and-drop UI experiences where you don’t need as much deep coding knowledge; you need business knowledge, to quickly build apps or to flow data across systems.

And what this really means is savings in time, money, and people, right? As we go up this tech stack that you’re looking at from modern APIs, to no-code low-code, and then further up, Rob’s going to talk about iPaaS in a minute.

One of the things that I like to talk to people about is really matching the solution you select as you connect systems across each other or bring data out of a system or move data across systems. You need to select the solution you use in this connectivity technology stack with the use case. So modern APIs are the foundation. It doesn’t mean that you use no-code low-code or iPaaS, and we’ll talk about it in a minute, for everything. It means that depending upon your use case and your need, you’re going to want to tap in across this tech stack.

But we are going to talk about really the exciting things you can do with kind of the top layer of that tech stack, which is iPaaS, and I’m going to turn it over to Rob where he’s going to share more about iPaaS and how you can leverage it to support process transformation.

Robert Pakalski

Awesome. Thank you, Heatherly. Yeah. iPaaS is an acronym to start, and it stands for integration platform as a service. I’ll start with the formal definition that’s up here on the screen, but it’s a centralized console to manage, govern, and integrate cloud-based applications.

How I describe that in my own words is that it’s a software platform that is going to allow you to rapidly connect the various software applications that are going to be used by your company right now. With that one platform, you can manage the maintenance of each of those integrations versus having to do that independently, which can be a total pain. So you can think of it as the singular iPaaS platform standardizes how data flows between the different systems. Even if they’re different companies that made these different applications that are used by different departments, divisions, etc., they can all become connected, integrated.

In my definition I just gave, I’d say that the keyword to really emphasize is “rapidly.” The time to really integrate the applications is dramatically reduced, as are the resources required to pull it off. I’ll speak on that more I think in a bit, but just to kind of talk more about the value of being able to connect all these applications in your business, by connecting all of the different fragmented applications, it allows an employee who’s, let’s say, working on one specific application, they can now leverage data from another application without having to manually go into that application, pull the data, and bring it back in.Right. You can set these rules and standards to be able to push and pull data as you see fit, or you can really streamline a workflow between applications. Right?

To execute something in a project, you might need, let’s just say to make it easy, two independent applications, and right now, user has to go into one, then go into the other. With the integration set, you can have certain trigger points where it feels much more of a cohesive experience between the two applications for how you set that integration up.

So ultimately, what we’re talking about here with the value of having an iPaaS system and drawing these integrations is you’re going to have increased operational efficiency and ultimately better decision-making because you’re going to have more data at those decision points throughout the process. So, when we look at how have these iPaaS platforms changed manufacturing, I’d say that they have, significantly. Certainly, I’ve seen it firsthand over just the past few years. What I’d say is that I think most people in manufacturing can relate to a situation of having one very large piece of software that’s kind of this behemoth that runs the entire operation of the company more or less.

These platforms are great in some ways, the main reason being that everything’s under one roof and there’s a lot of benefits to that. The problem that I think draws frustrations that I think people can connect to is that since it’s this very, very large piece of software, the company who built it can’t maybe give the proper attention to each of the modules that you have to use, and that leads to having poor user experience or just clunkiness, things like that. So as to kind of combat that and offer a solution, over the past few years, there’s been a huge surge of companies that are able to make much more pointed solutions.

Right? Less of being we’re in everything software, and we’re going to really just focus in on this specific process or this specific problem. And the benefits of that are obvious, where if the team is much more focused, they’re going to be able to produce better features in that process. They’re going to have a better user experience in that. The downside of course then, though, is companies will go in and say, “Cool, this pointed solution’s great for this. This pointed solution’s great for that.” Then all of a sudden, they look around and their company is just kind of Frankenstein together. Right? It’s very inefficient. Everyone has kind of a headache of how they’re operating between the applications and that’s been a huge problem. So iPaaS just really allows you to have your cake and eat it too, if you will.

You can find all of the nimble pointed solutions you like and allow you to integrate them without a lot of resources and do that quickly, such that it feels like your entire company has a cohesion that you’re really looking for. So, it’s a really, really significant development. I’d say, and I think I put here on the slide, that what’s really changed is that the word integration used to be a very ugly word I think in business and manufacturing companies. I know me personally, if I were sitting in a meeting in my career and someone says, “Oh, we’ll just integrate that,” I would have very negative feelings towards that initially. Right? I would think, “Oh, that’s going to be a lot of resources. It’s going to break all the time. It’s going to take forever.” And that has really shifted and we see it firsthand, and to really give you an idea just to kind of point a picture or paint a picture, we have numerous examples of customers that are already on, let’s say, ION for their MES, and then they’re on Arena for their PLM system, and they want to add Datum for their procurement workflow. We’ve been able to go in with one developer on our team and make both those integration points to both those systems in less than two weeks. That’s something that would take many, many months.

So hopefully, that gives you a picture of just really understanding just how much quicker everyone is able to draw these integrations, and then how you’re able to now have just one platform to actually govern all of those integrations and manage it. It makes maintenance much, much easier and more straightforward. With all that, I’ll send it back to Heatherly. She’s going to talk about how this helps create more a seamless factory floor.

Heatherly Bucher

Thank you, Rob. As I mentioned, I’ve been in the enterprise offer space for actually about 30 years and started back on on-prem systems, and then combinations of on-prem and hosted private cloud, and now of course into the full multi-tenant cloud environment. Really, what I want to share with you is building on what Rob talked about. Why was integration such a scary word before, and why did people have a negative gut reaction?

The reality is because in the past, we’ve approached most enterprise system integrations as a one-to-one. Right? We create a chaotic web or a Frankenstein web of integrations. They often were dependent on private APIs or pre-REST API standards. This approach really is expensive. It’s opaque. It’s fraught with failure risks. As businesses, processes, change and platforms evolve, people enter and exit the company. You lose the tribal knowledge of what was built. These challenges limit widespread use also, right? So usually connecting your most critical systems was the most that companies could do.

So, in my chosen area of expertise, PLM and QMS, usually to a chosen manufacturing system, originally ERP, now we see the wonderful rise of products like First Resonance in the MES space, but usually, that was table stakes. Connect your as-designed engineering builds and materials to your manufacturing, right? That was enough because everything else felt like it took too much time. It was too much risk. It was too hard. It was too expensive. But eventually, we had companies that, to Rob’s point, they would string together.

So, in this illustration, really, every single one of these lines indicates a separate one-to-one integration in the past. So, if you look at it, you’ve got six potential one-to-one integrations just with these four systems in different delivery mechanisms, duplicate efforts absolutely.

So, what does it look like if we use, example, an iPaaS built on those modern API? So, with the REST APIs, kind of the no-code low-code, support of iPaaS with all its transparency and governance and scalability that Rob talked about, we can build orchestrations of digital data flows across systems that are not chaotic. Yes, they can be complex. They could be simple, but they don’t need to be chaotic. They don’t need to be expensive. They don’t need to be overly time-consuming. And they certainly shouldn’t be fragile, right? They should be the opposite of all of the things that introduce inherent risk into your tech stack environment.

With an iPaaS as an example, and I use this example because this is what I know and this is what the three of us know, is Arena. We consider ourselves a single source of truth for as-designed product definition, but we are not the only single source of truth in the tech stack. We are a source of truth for that. We need to share that information. In this case, in this flow, usually it’s an engineering change release. An engineering change release and a system like Arena triggers a multisystem orchestration. We can use something like iPaaS, and we can put that whole definition within iPaaS and send that data that each of those systems need, to Datum, to First Resonance, to an ERP if you have an ERP, and you could even throw in other things, communication platforms like a Slack or a Teams to let everyone know that this data has flown from Arena and change has been released and these systems have been updated, as an example.

So, if we think about the tech stack of connectivity going from modern APIs, to no-code low-code, and up to iPaaS, why do this? What’s the benefit?

As you architect your tech stack to support your business processes, extensibility is a key requirement and that allows you to realize the potential of connecting your systems. It will greatly impact your ability to be successful. So, one of the things that I always tell people is know each solution’s connectivity options to determine what’s involved, the time and resources you’re going to need to build these digital data flows. The more your tech stack supports from modern APIs up to iPaaS, the less time and resources you’re going to need.

Why do this? Ultimately, you’re empowering your workforce. In addition to accuracy and speed, data automations make teams happier, frankly.
Right? Manual data entry, performing data verifications, teams with 14 spreadsheets or processes of exporting from one system to a spreadsheet, making changes and importing it up, not sure things are accurate in every system, not sure if everyone has that source of truth of the latest information about your product and each of the steps along the manufacturing journey, these are stressors. They’re non-value added activity that your highly paid people really do, but they won’t do it happily. So, it’ll drag on productivity.

It reduces the time they have for innovation. So I always focus, the reason we should spend time making our digital data flows be everything we need them to be is it will make your team happier, and ultimately, that means you will have an innovative team. You will have better products. You’ll reach your overall business goals.

I’m going to turn it over to Karan. He’s going to wrap up with outcomes for the factory, and then we’re going to, I think, move into questions.

Karan Talati

Fantastic. Thank you both. I mean, those are really inspiring tactical benefits to what we’re talking about here, with the opportunity of this slew of new solutions coming online in an internet-connected era.
Everybody is talking about digital transformation, industry 4.0, the future of the connected factory. What does that really mean? How do we take that on? That’s what we just discussed. I also want to talk about what that could look like, what that could feel like.

Now, this image here, I love sharing this one because it’s one that shows these two concepts of the industrial development that we have done over the past century, coming together with this new thing that has happened overnight really in many ways. Of course, in our daily lives, Heatherly talked about some of the examples that we’ve been seeing of how we are able to press a button on this device and get a car at your front door types of things, all powered with this development in the web.

What does this look like in the factory? Well, we think it looks quite amazing. We think that the benefits are huge of being able to take what has been structured as this linear format and overlay that with the power of interconnectivity and real-time information updates throughout the factory, to really make you as a manufacturer competitive in this increasingly dynamic and competitive landscape that has really scaled now globally, where the consumer demands more efficient and sustainable products, and as a function of that, the manufacturing of it, where the workforce, to Heatherly’s point earlier, demands less manual data entry and overhead types of workflows and clarity of accurate information and the ability to really spend time on innovating on what really matters, which is the design of the hardware itself, as well as the process, really being innovators to power the mission forward.

So, I want to talk about some of those benefits, and then talk about how we do that here with the ION Factory OS. I’ll start again with a little bit of a story. I recently completed reading a book called “Freedom’s Forge.” It’s a story about the industrial tycoons in the early 20th century that really took the tailwinds of the industrial revolution and powered the efforts during World War II.

I’ll save that story for another time, but there was one part of it that actually really stuck out to me and that was the importance of interchangeable parts. And having a background in mechanical engineering and spending a lot of time on the factory floor, I really thought about that as a function of all these challenges that we are now faced with as digital manufacturers.

The concept of interchangeable parts, Rob mentioned earlier, there might be some benefits to these very large systems that take care of everything for you, but if you actually project that to what ended up happening in the early 20th century with everything with the assembly line and just this huge boom in productivity for manufacturing, the key element of interchangeable parts, we’re starting to see that reflection now in the digital factory floor. And if you don’t have interchangeable parts, parts that can do the right job for the right task at hand, parts that you could swap in and out easily and scale up and down as needed, you really are in that same format with a huge steel slab trying to achieve a whole bunch of things that your competitors are going to be a lot more successful with, having standardization around screw thread sizes or GD&T tolerances and all those other analogs that the folks on this call will be very familiar with.

I think that was a really important concept for me in binding these two worlds of the physical and digital, which really, I think is going to be the future of what we see here in the 2020s and beyond.
We talked about democratizing access to data, making sure you have the right tools for the right job, continuously upgrading and scaling your factory. We really do think that we’re now entering an era where we’re not going to have industry 1.0, then 2.0, then 3.0, then 4.0. We’re really going to be able to continuously upgrade that to 4.1, 4.1.1, right? Make continuous improvements to your factory to achieve the task at hand, and for us at First Resonance, this is how we’ve structured the platform.

On the left, you could see a visualization of how we think about the Factory OS. We have the core ION execution layer. Really, this is to help manufacturers conduct the day-to-day operations, everything from getting good work instructions out on the factory floor and collecting that data, both manually as well as through the automated interfaces that we have all powered by that same standardization of the API that Heatherly was talking about. On top of that, in fact, we can even build and we have built more solutions here at First Resonance, things like ION Analytics and ION Autoplan. These are actually leveraging that same API layer that our customers are using and other client apps are using to build their own applications on top of. That API layer is the same API layer that we are connecting to Arena and Datum with through the iPaaS layer. So that foundational layer, I think this team here couldn’t understate just how important it is to get that right layer to emphasize in your solution stack that you do have that layer so on. This allows that connectivity into the supply chain, and then out into other things like the operational side. I’ll actually hand it off to Rob to talk about how Datum does this as well.

Robert Pakalski

Cool. Thanks, Karan. Yeah. I mean, I just want to say it’s my last leaving piece of advice to it. This is all connected into what Datum does, but the companies that I see that are really successful right now in building fast is they’re really able to take the process diagram that looks very granularly at all of the processes they have, from taking apart from design into inventory, and then the systems in place to re-trigger that cycle, the planning, et cetera, to move back through. And after going through and drawing that process diagram, which I think most do, what I think most don’t do is the next step, which is actually putting a software tool that’s linked to each of the process steps you have there.

First step there is you’re going to find some that you probably just don’t have anything for, and it’s going to be very rogue of how that process is actually executed. Then the second one are the ones that also need to be addressed, I’d say, and those are tools that you’re using that are not actually connected to the chain that’s linked to that whole process flow. So, you can think of spreadsheets and things like that. Companies that are able to identify both of those, and then find a really good pointed solution that really understands that process very well, and then make sure it’s integrated into the chain, I’m seeing a lot of success with companies who are able to do that and really just have a fully connected flow.

As it relates to Datum, we build procurement software. I can think of it as a procure-to-pay or source-to-pay system that’s tailored to hardware companies. And what we have found, and the reason we really started Datum as a software company, is because we saw that almost all hardware companies that we were working with were using things, a whole scattered toolset to facilitate how they purchase things. They might have Jira for requisitions. They quote with email. Their supplier list is on an Excel spreadsheet that’s in their OneDrive. Their purchase orders come out of NetSuite. And it ends up being a really messy process.

So, with Datum data, we built a tool that pulls all that into one platform, the whole internal procurement workflow mixed with your supplier portal as one tool, and then together obviously, that platform of course is then integrated into the rest of the production stack. So, we integrate in our case into the PLM system like an Arena, where when you say you need to buy a part, you pull that part in from the actual source of truth, which is the PLM. So, you’re buying the correct revision, et cetera. And then when a part is received, that’s linking into an MES system like ION to be able to have that inventory trigger coming back and forth. Need-dates for order tracking is also communicating to MES, as an example.

So, a lot of really granular examples through that, but a big suggestion of mine is to really go through that exercise and be very methodical about the types of pointed solutions that are needed and making sure everything is connected onto the same chain, so you can leverage the data and have a really efficient process.

With that, I’ll pass it back to Heatherly here to give some statements on Arena and some closing remarks.

Heatherly Bucher

Thanks, Rob. I don’t really have too much to say about Arena, actually. I think I said at the beginning what we do, but I will double-click on what Rob said about…

I say don’t stop questioning your processes. Right? Like product innovation, our business processes need innovation, and we see the most success with Arena customers who take the time to periodically assess their systems with a critical eye. Are they using the latest functionality, as all these fabulous cloud systems continue to grow? And then critically, where are people still doing manual work?

At Arena, voice of customer is incredibly important to us on where our platform goes and where we spend our resources and to bring new innovative solutions to our customers. And the partnerships with Datum and First Resonance both came out of that voice of customers, customers who said, “Hey, we have these systems.” And we sat down and talked to them about what are the gaps? So, I always tell people, “Go look for where are people still doing manual work.” Re-entry back and forth between systems spreadsheets, exclamation mark, is my thing to watch for. Where do you see people using spreadsheets connected to your systems? That’s a good indication that there’s a gap somewhere.

The last thing I wanted to share is kind of to highlight what Karan said about how excited I think we all are, our three companies, about the future and innovations coming. Technology changes in software spaces are significantly outpacing all other areas of technology change today.

This is a bit of my graph, but it’s from a 2021 MIT study that’s provided there at the bottom. But they really went to look at what is the rate of change year over year in different categories of technology advancement? What they found, and if you are of a certain age, about Moore’s law on chip technology advancement, and currently, it sits at about 42% a year with regards to chip technology advancement. In that study, technology changes related to data information sharing. All things integration was 216% year over year in the study, the highest rate of change of all the technologies that you looked at.

So, we’re in a space right now that isn’t an exciting moment, all the more reason to think outside of the bounds of what’s been done in the past with regards to integrations and data flows, and really look to how do you future-enable your tech stack. That’s what I want to leave you with, and I think we are moving to questions.

Amy Bryson

Wonderful. Yeah. Thank you so much, Karan, Heatherly, and Rob for sharing all of those insights and how everything is woven together to really talk about use cases. I know it’s of interest to our attendees and I just want to remind our attendees, we have a few minutes left here. We’re going to run through some questions, so if there’s anything on your mind for these three subject matter experts, make sure you get those in. And as I mentioned, if we run out of time, those will be followed up via email, so get your questions in.

Let’s start off with if someone could explain the difference of an iPaaS and creating a data lake of data from all the systems.

Heatherly Bucher

I guess I can take a go and anyone else can follow along. Yeah. I mean, for those who don’t know, a data lake is a central repository that is designed to store, process really large amounts of data in its original form. Data lakes can be structured. They can be unstructured, data of any scale, and they’re really designed for analytics and machine learning purposes, so that you can find actionable insights across multiple sources of data that you bring into a data lake.

An example might be you want to pull certain information from say a PLM like Arena or PLM, QMS from your ERP, from your MES, from procurement, maybe from finance, and if you’re a consumer product company, maybe some of your frontline web like Shopify-type retail systems, and you’re looking to do data analytics or machine learning. It’s not where work is done on the data. Right?

So integrations using iPaaS to flow data for the purpose of integrations, what we were talking about today, is about making sure that all of the systems in your process of getting product from design out the door and into service even and end of life, that they are accurate across for the information that each system is kind of the source of truth or controls, and then needs to share data to the other systems, so work can happen in those systems as well. Right? Now, I will say you could use an iPaaS actually. For the purpose of pulling data out of a system like Arena or First Resonance or Datum or all three, you could use an iPaaS to much more quickly build a process to pull some data out of there and put it into a data lake for data lake purposes as well. So iPaaSes can be used to feed data lakes, just like they can be used to orchestrate multisystem data flows that we’ve been talking about.

Amy Bryson

Wonderful. Did anyone else have anything to add on that or you want to jump to another question?

Karan Talati

I’ll just pull the thread on it. Spending a number of years as a data engineer, I very much agree with Heatherly’s points, and one key thing is data lakes can allow for this open loop or offline analytical process, whereas iPaaS, that’s really what you need for your real-time transactions, and in many cases, releasing a part.

The expectation for manufacturers now is that that part is immediately available to order in the case of procurement or immediately available to work and build on the factory floor, which is very different than having it in the data lake, and then waiting until somebody performs a set of manual transaction to get those into those systems, so different tools for different use cases.

Amy Bryson

Great. Karan, why don’t we stick with you on this one. What really controls the data flow between apps? For example, SSO. What really controls the data flow?

Karan Talati

Yeah. I think this question might actually be related to how do we control the data flow from a security standpoint, things like SSO? As Heatherly was talking about the standardization of APIs, one of the parts of the standardization, of course, there’s the spec. There’s things like REST or GraphQL, gRPC, a number of different flavors, but at least they have standards. What also has been standardized in this API movement is the authentication mechanisms, specifically things like OAuth or client token credential exchange.

It used to be a while ago, and this is where people would actually shy away from integrations as well is, “What do you mean, open APIs? What do you mean, public APIs? Does that mean that all my data is open to the world?” In fact, it’s everything. But the API is well understood and well documented, but the security is actually way better than anything that you’ll get actually in a closed system counterintuitively. So, the integrations that we have, the iPaaS platforms that we use, we integrate with other systems using OAuth 2.0.

We integrate with other systems using client token credential exchange. For those that are integrating at the cloud level, AWS, Microsoft, and Google, they have other methods for some of this intra-cloud secure data exchange. It’s going to be very important to use the best-in-class security protocols like the ones that we just discussed.

Amy Bryson

Wonderful. We got the ding, ding, ding from the person who asked the question saying, “That is correct. That is what I was after.”

Someone else would like to know if you could provide maybe some brief examples of specific processes that benefit the most from enhanced connectivity. Maybe some of your customers seeing productivity gains. Do you have any real-world anecdotes about that?

Karan Talati

Rob, I think you’ve seen some great stats on this. You want to maybe take that or…

Robert Pakalski

Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I think that really the benefits are really going to depend on what the requirements are from your customer a lot of times, right? A lot of times, what we see in the space and defense ecosystem, for instance, is a lot of requirements flowing down on the security side. So, customers now or companies rather, are not being as maybe careful with their IP as they need to be with new contracts that are coming through per ITAR Regulations, DFARS, things like that.

So, we’ve seen a lot of benefits of being able to, in our instance, to use my biased experiences, but to be able to have a platform that’s a portal that you can exchange files that is in an ITAR compliant fashion through a GovCloud is a big win from what the customer asks. But then oddly, I think typically, you have to usually kind of compromise speed when you go through adding security, but what’s unique by using a portal is that you’re actually able to be faster while having that security. We’ve seen things as much as 153%, I think, is the latest stat we put up of the amount of output a team has been able to push out on the number of RFQs, while actually being secure versus when they were using email quoting.

So that’s a big one for us is just really the amount of output, and that operational efficiency is a big thing that we see. And then I’d say that the other one that we see a lot of is just the amount of errors that get produced. Typically, we see companies buying in the, well, six figures of the wrong part, the wrong revision or something of that nature. So, we’ve seen in the hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings recouped, or cost avoidance is probably a better term, by having the connectivity of a two-year part library, and then through into inventory. Right? Being able to really trace the whole lifecycle of a part through really prevents those errors in the multi six figures.

Amy Bryson

Wonderful. Okay. We have time for maybe one or two more. Someone would like to know about work in progress, quantity, and value. Is it instantly available to the parties involved? Karan, do you want to take that one?

Karan Talati

Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great question and I can pull the thread on the benefits, as well as what we talked about earlier with respect to iPaaS versus the data lake question.

The answer to that is yes. This is the benefit of these modern standardizations. I’ll take two technologies in particular, a system that has webhooks that can immediately send signals out to multiple systems that are subscribing to any change events there, and then have the APIs to bring those in.
Webhooks plus APIs allows for that, a change happening in a procurement tool such as Datum. This is actually a real story, as in Datum signaling out availability material right on the factory floor, getting work moving, again, very, very rapidly.

That’s really just a terrific benefit compared to what we’ve seen in some of these traditional stacks, where you have to wait until this refresh job that happens maybe once every 12 hours or 24 hours. It’s a nightly thing. So, you can imagine and I think we’ve definitely felt the pain of, “Okay, data exists in one system. We’ve made the change. Now, we have to wait until the next morning, until that change is affected into the other system,” simply as manufacturers do not have the time for that anymore.

So, the good news is with this standardization, yes, you can have that instantly available, not in just the next system downstream, but multiple systems that are subscribing to that change then.

Amy Bryson

Wonderful. Well, we have made it to the top of the hour. I know we could talk a little bit more about this stuff, but I want to thank our presenters again, Karan, Heatherly, and Rob, as well as our attendees for your participation today.

We hope that you found today’s content really valuable and you’ll join us again soon. Until then, make sure that you visit us at advancedmanufacturing.org to find links to podcasts, webinars, publications, and news. Until then, take care. We’ll see you soon.