INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Scott Everett of Eigen Innovations Tells Us How The Pandemic has Brought New Realities to the Factory Floor Forcing Manufacturers to Embrace Technology and Automation
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Scott Everett: We have been doing well. We are very thankful to be safe and healthy and have been learning to adjust to a different pace and lifestyle.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Eigen Innovations
Scott Everett: My official career began as a mechanical engineer, but growing up on a potato farm for the greater part of my childhood, my love of machinery and solving technical problems started very early.
I’ve always been obsessed with how to tune and tweak machines and processes to get the most out of them, and that took me into the field of engineering control systems. At the time, I was learning about the very new and exciting technology of machine learning. I started to believe this could be a game-changing technology for the world of engineering and manufacturing. I founded Eigen Innovations with my supervising professor from The University of New Brunswick to try and apply early versions of AI systems to common industrial problems such as process and quality control.
How does Eigen Innovations innovate?
Scott Everett: I think it is important to find a group of people that you can collectively get excited about problems.
As cliché as it sounds, you need to build a great culture first that gives you the courage to face the tough challenges and energy to see them through. It seems so important to me to iterate and experiment with as much agility as possible and give those ideas time to marinate so the really great ideas can emerge.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Scott Everett: We saw the effect almost immediately, being involved in manufacturing production lines, where factories slowed or stopped almost overnight. The encouraging thing is that the supply chain is figuring out how to operate under these different conditions, driving demand and urgency around adopting new technologies to de-risk current operations and setting them up to be more effective in the long-run. In the last 4-6 weeks, we have seen current customers indicating a desire to move faster with deploying our solution and inquiries from manufacturers in other industries such as textiles, flooring, and medical devices.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Scott Everett: We definitely had to respond in kind with the rest of the industry during the initial stages of the pandemic, but we found that it actually gave us an opportunity to look at our business with fresh eyes and challenge some of the current assumptions that we had been holding on to. I think the biggest lesson is the value of transparency and involvement with the entire team as we wrestled with the tough existential questions that all people and businesses were faced with. The process was good for our team to reset and recenter.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and Eigen Innovations in the future?
Scott Everett: Nothing helps you deal with stress and pressure like good relationships. One of the advantages of being grounded for a while from travel was to take more time to connect with family and learn how to connect in different ways with friends and colleagues. I think it has been a good test of our organization’s culture, given how people took opportunities to step up, help out, and be proactive in helping each other through.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Scott Everett: We operate in a big space of IoT and Machine Vision for quality control. There is a lot of attention to the advances in AI; however we are still just seeing the beginning of the potential for what can be accomplished and the true disruption of manufacturing, not just the incremental improvement of what’s already there. I think in the current climate, it is imperative to know what problems your technology is specifically brilliant at solving, and keep pushing until you unlock the full scalability of those solutions.
Your final thoughts?
The pandemic is bringing new realities to the factory floor that are forcing large manufacturers to speed the adoption of technology and automation. Companies like ours that offer advanced solutions with built-in explainability to provide added context and control are well-positioned to help manufacturers scale solutions quickly. We consider our solution to be an additional member of the manufacturing team, which helps with speeding adoption by fostering learning with the existing workforce.
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