The Executive Interviews were an important part of this year’s virtual ARC Industry Forum that focused on accelerating digital transformation initiatives in a turbulent COVID world. In an informal interview, ARC’s Craig Resnick, Vice President, Consulting, spoke to Don Pearson, Chief Strategy Officer, Inductive Automation, about how the company responded and helped its customers during the disruptive pandemic. They also discussed strategic initiatives, IT/OT integration, and the importance of strong ecosystems. This blog captures the highlights of their conversation. To view it in entirety, click here and/or watch it below.
Responding to the Pandemic
Mr. Resnick’s opening query was about how Inductive Automation responded to the pandemic and helped its customers tide over the challenges. Mr. Pearson said that just before the pandemic hit businesses, the company had ordered 40-50 laptops for the staff to start working remotely. This was fortuitous as after that it started getting harder to get laptops, and the staff became more productive working from home, and this benefited the customers. “This digital revolution got accelerated in terms of digital transformation in the industrial space, maybe by several years, because across multiple industries, people were forced to use digital technologies,” he said. Further, he spoke about Ignition 8.1 that builds upon Ignition’s unlimited licensing model, cross-platform compatibility, modular approach, and use of open technology standards. The platform gives a lot of power for mobility and remote control of processes “and that played well in terms of response to this pandemic and a lot of the challenges that occurred for many companies.”
The pandemic is a huge disruptive force that accelerated a lot of digital transformation programs, commented Mr. Resnick. But speaking of disruption, Inductive Automation is known for being on the leading edge of disruptive technologies.
Mr. Pearson summarized the disruptiveness in the following manner: “The most disruptive thing was the Ignition’s unlimited licensing model.” Ignition was started as the new SCADA, and then it evolved into this industrial application platform where people were trying to get HMI, SCADA, MES, and IoT solutions all in one place. So, it was a big deal when the company introduced one central platform, interoperable on any operating system. That was the time when competitors sent out CDs to distribute and install their software, and Inductive Automation was doing it entirely through the web. Other minor disruptive trends were that the company’s tools were integrator friendly, and the prices were transparent.
Type of Edge Devices and Solutions
Mr. Pearson said that it’s become extremely important for organizations to go from the edge to the cloud and do as much at the edge as possible. He said that the company’s edge offering allows the customer to have one source of truth for its data. In this context, he spoke about Ignition Edge that was released a few years ago; it is lightweight, low-cost, and designed specifically for field devices. It was a good year for the company’s Ignition onboard program, which allows manufacturers to upgrade to smarter devices that connect to the enterprise, with Ignition’s pre-licensed and pre-installed software.
When asked about the key initiatives to improve the value proposition to customers, Mr Pearson highlighted the following:
- University engagement: An initiative that supports academic institutions to have Ignition available as a way to transfer knowledge to their students. This support continues to grow and expand to dozens of universities across the world and is a value-add to the next generation of industrial engineers.
- Empowerment with Ignition 8.1 for enterprise deployment: The company’s objective is to provide the tools for digital transformation across the entire enterprise, globally.
IT/OT Convergence and Ecosystems
IT/OT convergence has become a critical component of building an enterprise, said Mr. Pearson. Going back to its roots, he said that the company’s CEO started with the goal to connect IT and OT to get bi-directional data. He called this the Swiss Army knife for an integrator to really help customers get IT and OT working together.
“Ecosystems are a super important part of allowing companies to really succeed with digital transformation, and the Ignition platform provides a core technology around which you can build an ecosystem that addresses the needs of industrial organizations,” he said. Further, Mr. Pearson emphasized that strategic partners with expertise in different domains are critical, because “there’s no way one company can do it all.”