First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Willemijn Schneyder: Thankfully, my family, friends, and colleagues are doing very well despite these crazy times. Thanks for asking! I’ve spent a lot of time in nature and reading a lot, which has actually been very relaxing.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SwipeGuide
Willemijn Schneyder: Before becoming an entrepreneur, my international career in digital transformation and experience design took me through the world of food, fin-tech, water, manufacturing, energy, and utilities.
In 2016, I jumped at the opportunity to become a startup founder after I met Daan Assen, a serial entrepreneur who’s an expert in educational and instructional sciences. We felta mutual frustration with the current state of knowledge management and work instructions – the industry was stuck in the last century, and there was a lack of technological innovation. Coming from a home of engineers, I strongly believe that creating, using, and tracking manufacturing and field service procedures should be intelligent and effortless. I also think that empowering shop floor workers with digital tools is the way to closing the skills and performance gap in manufacturing.
Our software company SwipeGuide is the new industry standard for digital work instructions and standard operating procedures. The intuitive SaaS platform makes it effortless for manufacturing companies like Heineken, ABB, and PepsiCo to create, share, use, and track scalable instructions and standards to reduce errors and continuously improve processes. With SwipeGuide, the machine operators and field service engineers can execute their tasks flawlessly with the help of digital instructions on mobile devices and smart glasses.
How does SwipeGuide innovate?
Willemijn Schneyder: SwipeGuide transforms procedural knowledge capture and sharing on shop floors into the future workforce digital twin.
Our AI-enhanced instruction software makes on-the-job training seamless through combining our three areas of expertise: emerging technologies (wearables, motion, and machine learning), educational and instructional sciences, and experience design principles.
We use machine learning to analyze data and recognize patterns in order to create the optimal instruction experience and reduce human errors on the shop floor. Capture tribal knowledge at the frontline, share and collaborate on crowdsourced standards globally with a few simple clicks.
We want to connect man and machine with augmented technologies. SwipeGuide improves operational efficiency through live collaboration across locations.
The platform allows companies to build and continuously improve a central repository of critical operational knowledge.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Willemijn Schneyder: It goes without saying that the virus has hit our industry and our customers’ industries. However, we’re lucky enough to work with resilient companies that value innovation and digital transformation.
New technologies provide crucial support for the manufacturing workforce to collaborate effectively. Actually, this has become an even more urgent requirement during the COVID-19 lockdown, according to McKinsey & Company (2020).
Digital collaboration tools for a connected manufacturing workforce has experienced a rise in urgency and importance, especially in the past months, for factory workers to collaborate safely and effectively. Digital capabilities – including digital work instructions, skills matrices, mobile and wearable devices – offer essential support as companies adapt their operations to become more resilient and future-proof.
Even though experts have long predicted that the Industry 4.0 revolution would dramatically decrease the importance of human workers, especially in labor-intensive industries like manufacturing, the opposite seems to have occurred. According to the World Economic Forum, leading factories worldwide, also known as ” lighthouses,” have actually invested more in their employees’ development than automation. So, in fact, the importance of people has only increased since COVID-19.
Tech skeptics say that it’s not possible to drive both human success and technical innovation at the same time. However, we think they’re absolutely wrong. As one of our customers put it: more tech doesn’t necessarily mean less human.
We believe that digital transformation in factories can empower factory workers to contribute to the way of working and make processes even more efficient through collaboration and innovation.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Willemijn Schneyder: We’ve had to make some difficult choices under pressure. Especially our inclusive culture took a hit from these cut-throat decisions we had to make, and we definitely had to pay a high price: we had to let go of some brilliant people who also reflected badly on the team spirit.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and SwipeGuide in the future?
Willemijn Schneyder: I unwind by spending time in nature. I especially enjoy a physical challenge, and I go outdoor swimming in the Dutch seaside. Also, I love a glass of good whisky.
We’re very positive about the future, and I think we’ll benefit from the swift technology shift that has been intensified by the pandemic. We’ll keep on empowering the blue-collar worker with the help of digital work instructions.