Bruno Wilson, Encoder Products Company PostedTuesday, October 15, 2019 Q Why did you chose a career at an organization that manufactures devices for the automation industry? A When I went in for my interview with Encoder Products Company (EPC), I saw a huge opportunity for growth. I was surprised to find such a thriving organization in a rural location, and the location was very desirable to me. And then as I walked around and learned what they did, I could see why the device was needed in the industry. And I got excited to apply my education and grow in other areas that I consider necessary for success, being that EPC is still a privately held organization, relatively small company in terms of employees. I saw that I might have the opportunity to experience job duties outside your typical engineering job description. Q What is the biggest benefit CSIA membership brings to EPC? A The biggest benefit of the CSIA membership was immediate exposure to a particularly complicated segment of the industry, the integrator. There are no two integrators exactly alike. They all have their own needs, their own requirements, their own customer base and their own area of expertise. So, it was necessary for us to join CSIA so that we can address our learning and understand what it is they want and need to be successful in their jobs. Q What kinds of trends and challenges are you seeing in industrial automation right now? A The industrial internet of things in their protocols, what we are finding is that every manufacturer has their own flavor and supporting those protocols is a challenge, of course. Then there’s the data collection and interpretation. Big data is huge right now, it’s trending if you will, to gather this data, even though a lot of companies don’t necessarily use every bit of data they are gathering. They just store it, say in the cloud, because they don’t know what they will need later to be able to make a statistically driven decision. And that’s where the challenge of interpretation comes in. You have all these data points, and then you need to understand how they connect and what they mean when you are looking at them, and that’s something integrators have become good at. Another one that we are noticing is extended lead times, and this kind of falls back into that data collection and interpretation as well. Lead times are getting longer, and your MRP processes must be able to accurately predict months, maybe even years, in advance what your needs are going to be to continue to support your customer base. Another challenge I would say is marketing and noise filtration and access to the decision-makers in order to present them with the solutions they need. I’ll give you an example. Recently, we had a relatively large company come to our facility to evaluate our manufacturing processes and just understand who we are as a company before they placed an order for a large quantity of encoders. And one of first things they said when we sat down was, “How have we never heard of you?” And this surprised me. Just because – well, we are Encoder Products Company, and they needed an encoder, and they have been buying encoders for years, but they never heard our name. And this is a challenge for decision-makers in that there is so much information so how do you wade through all that information and figure out who you need to be talking to find the solutions that you need? CSIA helps us with this by putting us in contact with the decision-makers at the various integrators. Q What is EPC doing to keep up with these trends and overcome these challenges? A As far as IIOT protocols, we are trying to support as many of them as we can. In terms of data collection, we work to identify the most useful information upfront, and then we invest our resources accordingly. We don’t harvest mass amount of data and then hopefully look to find an application or a scenario where we can apply and analyze that data and decide based on it. We look at what decision do we need to make and then what data do we need to make that decision. The lead times, well, lean manufacturing and Six Sigma would tell you not to hold inventory. But that’s exactly what we do. But we do it for a reason. We hold the inventory because when our customers need an encoder, they really need that encoder. If their system is down because they had an encoder failure, hopefully not ours, but if their system is down because they had an encoder failure then they need that encoder stat so that they can get it up and running again because they are losing money every minute that that machine is not running. And then as far as marketing noise and filtration, well, we are members of CSIA and the Exchange and actively engage in both. Q What challenges are your customers facing right now? A Options overload. The decision matrix complexity has just blown up in the recent years, not to mention just the sheer quantity of decisions that are made daily with all the different possible encoder variance and solutions that they could choose. They just find it difficult to figure out how to weigh each variable and then drive the decision toward the most pragmatic and practical or the best solution for the application. Q What makes EPC optimistic about the future of the automation industry? A Well, in terms of the industry itself, we are just excited about the level of creativity that the industry and these integrators are applying to the applications and the solutions they come up with. You would be impressed by some of the applications companies are automating today and where our products are being used. Q What advice would you give to a perspective customer who would be researching you versus your competitors? A I would say, first step, understand your needs and differentiators that add value to your operation. After that, if you can maybe identify someone or you know someone that has used a manufacturer before, ask them about their experience. Lastly, I would say call and email the manufacturer and just see how responsive they are. Eventually, you are going to need some tech support. The project can’t get delayed because you can’t get hold of someone. So just see how responsive they are. Q What’s unique about how you approach a project? A Well, as an organization, we just get right in there, very hands on. We ask questions. If it merits, we get on site to look at the application. We will even point out possible pitfalls just to help educate our customer, and we are always willing to modify for the application, which I think is sort of unique to Encoder Products Company, because we are so adaptable in that way. But it’s all to make sure that our customer has the best possible solution. Q Why do customers return to you for project after project? A It’s our differentiators, our quality, our consistency, our responsiveness, our adaptability and our lead times. We closely monitor our quality matrix, and we are 99.5% of the time sending quality product out the door, which then goes into our consistency. Our customers can expect to get the same product over and repeatedly. Then our responsiveness, go ahead call Encoder Products Company, listen to the automated greeter and press a few buttons and you will get a person on the phone. Or send an email, and someone will respond to that email or we will call you. And our lead times, we have standard 4 to 6 days. Any standard variant out of the catalog, 4 to 6 days and the option to expedite as many as 10 pieces, same day, one day, or 2-day, which is saying something in the encoder world just because every product is built to order. There is no such thing as a standard encoder. Q Where do you see yourself in the future? A I see myself helping drive decisions in industry, having really listened to the experience and knowledge base of the automation community and integrating that wisdom in with my own experience as an observation as I grow as a professional.