We talked to Danilo Halla, COO of I.Systems, about artificial intelligence solutions for industrial processes, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Danilo Halla: These days have been quite challenging and I´m glad all family members, friends, colleagues are healthy. Regarding the work environment, since the beginning of the pandemic, we moved our teams to a 100% remote working model and intensified communication and care for everyone’s health, which is a fundamental point at this moment. We also reinforced HR programs to create open conversations. In addition, we have adjusted our technologies to allow remote operating models as much as possible.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded I.Systems.
Danilo Halla: I graduated from Unicamp, in Software Engineering and have always pursued the application of AI in the real world, in a time when these technologies were still seen as a failure in delivering useful results. I started working in a research institute, with some of my graduate colleagues who had the same interests. Our CEO’s girlfriend at the time (now his wife) worked in a bottling company that had some difficulties in the process that I thought could be solved with AI. From that problem we decided to find the company and provide a tool to solve that control challenge, that tool evolved to be our main product today.
How does I.Systems innovate?
Danilo Halla: We apply state-of-the-art AI technologies to continuous process industries. All development is made in-house, by a team of AI scientists and software engineers. We already were granted patents in 4 countries, related to our main product.
The four AI-based products in our portfolio allow companies to integrate the production chain and help companies to move forward to Industry 4.0. Through the application of Artificial Intelligence algorithms, our customers can solve important challenges in their industrial operations, including optimization of manufacturing lines, increased efficiency, and productivity of equipment, improvement in the quality of the final product, greater accuracy in forecasting demand, and more assertiveness.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Danilo Halla: We had a brief sales slowdown at the beginning of the pandemic, with many clients uncertain of the future. However, our market is considered essential business to our economy didn’t suffer from the restrictions and saw steady growth through the last year.
This scenario aligns with some conclusions presented in a worldwide Mckinsey study published in January 2021 that shows the Industry 4.0 technologies have played a decisive role in responding to the pandemic in many companies. Agility, flexibility, and manufacturing efficiency were common priorities and top strategic priorities for any industry across the globe.
In Brazil, a similar survey was developed by the National Confederation of Industry (CNI). This study identified that industries that integrated up to three digital technologies in their industrial processes were more efficient and had a profit equal to or greater than the pre-pandemic period. We have also switched to remote work to cope with the travel restrictions and our clients have accelerated their digitalization to minimize human contact in the factories. With all that, we are experiencing an increase in efficiency in our operations with a remote work approach.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Danilo Halla: No, we did not. We have learned to work 100% remotely and now we are worried about maintaining company culture in this way of work.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Danilo Halla: All kinds of communication tools (zoom, meetings, chat, WhatsApp), one on one meetings, and other team-building routines became more necessary to keep the team motivation.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Danilo Halla: Our main competitors are the incumbents of the market, players like Siemens, Rockwell, and ABB. We are able to bring solutions to the market with instantaneous ROI, thanks to our lean deployment model and cost structure. Our competitors will take time to reach us and we’ll have to keep our level of innovation and focus to get ahead of them.
Your final thoughts?
Danilo Halla: When we think about the future of the industry, there is a journey to be taken and it is important to define the strategy for this evolution. As McKinsey’s report on the topic rightly pointed out, Covid-19 brought a turning point in the market: on the one hand, the need to evolve and on the other, the need to prioritize efforts.
The 2020 crisis forced companies to rethink the direction of their operational strategies, changing both the business issues they want to address and the Industry 4.0 technologies they use to do so. Unsurprisingly, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, agility and flexibility in operations have emerged as top strategic priorities above raising productivity and minimizing cost, which used to be the primary objective for most.
For industry, the coronavirus crisis is changing the rules of the digital game. The pandemic has reinforced the value of industry 4.0, but it has also exposed the limitations of today’s implementations and set a higher bar for success. Organizations will want to be ambitious, but pragmatic. Research emphasizes the message that digital solutions have more impact when they extend beyond the walls of an organization and span more of its value chain from end to end.
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