Featured interview - Lindsey Parker

Lindsey Parker is manager of business development for the Industrial Network Infrastructure Market at Panduit Corp., in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Lindsey Parker, Panduit

ADDEDWednesday, July 15, 2020

  • Q
    What makes Panduit optimistic about the future of the automation industry?
    A
    There are tons of data out there. This is a growth market and one of the fastest-growing markets for Panduit in our ecosystem. So ultimately there’s a lot of aging technology out there in industry automation and a lot of business drivers pushing manufacturing toward automation.
    
    COVID is probably the catalyst that speeds us up a little bit. If you think about trying to operate with fewer people on the floor or lights-out production, those types of things, automation is critical for making that happen.
    
  • Q
    In your opinion, what’s the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace today?
    A
    It comes back to that ROI. There are so many things that we could do and so many cool things that everybody wants to do. But getting the organization to buy in is critical especially when so many digital transformation initiatives fail. There are two main reasons for that.
    
    The first is they don’t have the right people in the place to drive the program. You need an internal salesperson to facilitate all those conversations, and then not having a solid ROI and a plan to get there.
    
    What are the business objectives we’re trying to achieve? What’s the data that we need to collect and how do we collect it to make those decisions?
    
    It’s very hard to get there.
    
  • Q
    What kind of trends and challenges are you seeing in the industrial automation industry right now?
    A
    The area that continues to be a problem is still that IT/OT convergence and getting those two stakeholder groups to sit down at the table and see eye to eye. 
    
    Digital transformation means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, and it encompasses so many different areas of the business. How do you wrap your arms around that and boil it down to this is what IT is responsible for, this is what OT is responsible for, and here’s how we work together?
    
    In addition to that, how do you calculate the ROI of that, that justifies the expense for all the technology that’s involved? It really comes down to identifying business outcomes that you’re trying to achieve. What data do you need to make the decisions around business objectives? And then figuring out what technology to invest in to get there.
    
    Now, when it comes to decisions around technology, that’s another challenge, right? There are some weighty promises that are being thrown around out there when it comes to things like augmented reality and 5G. 
    
    It can be difficult to wade through the marketing mumbo-jumbo and decide what’s best for your organization. Honestly, that’s where the system integrator comes in and could help make those decisions and say, “Hey, this is going to work with what you’ve already got,” or, “Nope, that’s absolutely not going to work.” 
    
    That’s the value that the system integrator community brings. Some of that technology is totally cool and provides a lot of value while others like 5G are really cool and could provide a lot of value but still so fuzzy about how we actually get it done, especially in a manufacturing environment.
    
    The good news is that the continued migration to Ethernet has become a lot easier. The question is how to do it in a cost-effective manner. A lot of legacy protocols are running off 18-gauge, two-wire copper, and the upgrade to four-pair Ethernet cabling can be a little bit expensive and cumbersome. 
    
    Panduit sees single pair as the path forward to really get Ethernet migration all the way down to the machine level. That’s going to be a game-changer for all of us.
    
    Then, finally, security. That’s the big one. It really goes back to IT versus OT; they have different definitions of security. Getting everybody at the same table and hammering out the requirements and how do we get it done is the challenge. 
    
  • Q
    Tell us about your SI Partner Program.
    A
    We have a great partner program called Panduit One. We have three tiers of partners in that program, Silver, Gold and Platinum, which is based on business dollars with Panduit. Everybody has a program around that. But Panduit also classifies and structures our program around competencies. What that means is that as a system integrator, for example, you’re getting a totally different experience with a program than a contractor would because we know that your business requirements are different and the relationship with Panduit is different.
    
    The program is structured in that way to enhance the experience for each type of partner.
    
    The other cool thing that we do within our system integrator program is we provide training on how to do physical network infrastructure assessments and designs -- this is a major gap in the market.
    
    This enables our partners to fill that gap for a customer where we have really strong engagement and a logical design and the system integrator really know the controls infrastructure and networks. 
    
  • Q
    Why do your customers return to you project after project?
    A
    It really goes back to the people element and that personal relationship. People know that Panduit gets the job done. But we’re also always looking for ways to help get it done easier, faster, better for the customer.
    
    People trust Panduit to provide quality products and then back it with that topnotch talent
    
  • Q
    How has Panduit grown or changed in the past year, and what do you expect for the company in the next 12 to 24 months?
    A
    COVID-19, aside, Panduit really is perpetually in a state of change, which may sound bad. But, it’s really cool. It’s a great place to work because of it. Not a day goes by where Panduit is standing still, waiting for the world to catch up with us. We’re always moving and changing and adapting and looking into new areas. The company has always been strong in the research and development space.
    
    The last 18 months or so, we’ve put a reemphasis on innovation. What’s most interesting about that is that there’s still certainly a strong effort around product and technology innovation. But we’re now looking at things like business innovation, which is a space that a lot of technology companies don’t necessarily look to.
    
    We’ve also recently merged our industrial and enterprise businesses, which gives way more ammunition to that IT/OT conversation because we now have those people who are experts in both the IT and the OT space, sitting together, working together day in and day out and working on those problems that exist between those two types of organizations.
    
    I really expect that to drive a lot of synergies out in the market in the next 12, 24 months.
    
    In addition to that, like everyone, we’re navigating this changing business environment, which includes finding new ways to communicate to our customers and continue to bring value.
    
    But ultimately, COVID is likely to be the catalyst that makes our jobs easier and requires less of the sales pitch than we’ve had to give in years past.
    
  • Q
    What suppliers does Panduit partner with?
    A
    We have a few strategic alliances. Rockwell Automation is one of our big partners as well as General Cable. We also have lots of technology partners through the different areas of our business, such as Epson and Axis Cameras.
  • Q
    Does Panduit specialize in any industry or product or discipline?
    A
    We have two main business areas. We have industrial electrical infrastructure, which is the electrical side of our house, you know, servicing the EPC world, oil and gas, control panels, OEMs, that kind of thing with cable ties, cable cleats, lugs, that type of infrastructure. Then we have our network infrastructure side of the business, which is where my team falls, and we specialize in data communications. So copper and fiber cabling infrastructure, racks, power distribution units, that type of thing, for the enterprise space, the industrial space, and the data center.
  • Q
    How did Panduit begin and evolve over the years?
    A
    Panduit has been around since 1955. We’re a privately, family-owned company. We were founded in the garage of Jack Caveney in Midlothian, Illinois, which isn’t too far from our current world headquarters.
    
    Jack’s first product was the Panduit wiring duct, which is where the name comes from. A panel conduit was the product. So if you combine the first part of panel and the second part of conduit you get Panduit. 
    
    We’ve really been in the automation space since Day 1. When it comes to the network infrastructure and industrial automation, we started our network business back in the ‘90s, and we were primarily focused on copper cabling infrastructure for data communications at that point.
    
    It wasn’t until the mid-2010s that we started to focus on industrial network infrastructure. This space really allows Panduit to leverage our strengths from our history in the electrical and OEMs side of the world, as well as our expertise in network infrastructure.
    
    It’s the best of both worlds for Panduit.
    
  • Q
    Let’s start with the basics. How did you end up where you are in terms of your career?
    A
    I fell into the space. I went to school for public policy, I had hoped to have a career in local government. But I took a job at Panduit to pay my bills after graduation while I was looking for something else and I ended up loving it.
    
    I’ve spent the last 8 years in network infrastructure but I’ve had various roles in product management, business development, sales, etc.