Featured Interview | Dan Barrera of Bosch Rexroth

Dan Barrera

Dan Barrera of Bosch Rexroth

Dan Barrera, Bosch Rexroth

PostedTuesday, November 1, 2022

  • Q
    Did you choose your career, or did your career choose you?

    The career chose me. I went to USC University of Illinois for computer engineering. You know, it’s just one of those things where I saw myself doing engineering and something related to computers, learning how they work, learning more about the microchips, the programming of them.

    As I was getting closer to graduate, I started to think about companies that I could work for. And obviously, the big ones came in mind -- Intel, Dell, IBM, or similar. Right before I graduated, I had three job offers. One of them was from Intel. And then there were other two companies that were more into the communication. And one was related to industrial automation, a competitor to Bosch.

    When I was looking at the job offers, I was looking into the one from Intel. I was going to be doing certain tasks. I was going to be doing a lot of microchips and wafers, design testing. But when I look at this other company, which is an automation company, I was looking at the job that they were offering, they sold it very well.

    I remember seeing in there things like you get to do pre-sales, project qualification, proof of concepts, writing proposals, programming, doing integration, working with the integrators to help them out, be a consultant to them, doing commissioning and training. I saw a variety of experiences, skill sets that I could add to my portfolio, to my tool bag, and I saw that as an advantage.

    This company, like I said, did a very good job selling the position. And you know, I recognize the name of the company, just like I would recognize Bosch. But little did I know that I was going to get into something, or into a job that was going to get me into industrial automation.

    In fact, I remember when I accepted the position, my first day, I was asking questions to my colleagues. What is a PLC? What is ladder? Because these are things that they don’t teach you in school, at least, not back then.

    Now, fast forward, 18 years later, I never expected it to be part of the Bosch Rexroth family, you know, being the product manager for one of the latest controls platform that we call that ctrlX AUTOMATION. So yes, I did not expect all these, so I would say my career chose me 100%.

  • Q
    How was Rexroth grown or changed in the past year? And what do you expect for your company in the next 12 to 24 months?

    I’m brand new with the company. I’ve been with the company since early this year, 2022. But I’ve known Bosch Rexroth for a long time, and I’ve seen their growth. So, I can tell you personally that we have grown a lot more since 2020.

    Most people would say COVID happened that year. We had a plan. We had a mission. We had a strategy. And then yes, since 2020, our company has grown. I am part of the growth. With this release of ctrlX AUTOMATION, we need people that can help us manage the products, sell the product, you know, grow it, the product, break into new markets that we have never been before.

    So yeah, so there has been growth at all levels. Not only here in the US, but globally.

    What’s going to happen in the future? Let me put it this way. I hope that I’m going to meet new people within the organization within the next 12 to 24 months. Now, let me just say, when it comes down to technology, how is Bosch different? What have we done that is different? What are we going to do different in the future?

    The smartphone business model. That is what’s different about us. ctrlX AUTOMATION is based on that model. It’s based on, you know, I buy the hardware, I have an app store, I download the apps, and then I modify, or I customize my unit based on the needs that I have.

    And that right there itself brings a lot of benefits to us as a company and a lot of benefits to our customer. Why? Because we now have this ecosystem built of technology, technology that will meet today’s demands, and then will meet the demands of the future.

    So yes, the hardware itself, plus the ecosystem will require a lot of work to maintain and to grow. And for that, we need more people in our company. For that, we need to grow as a company. So yes, in the future, we’re not only going to expand our portfolio or technology, but also the partners that we work with, so we can be ready to meet the requirements of the future.

  • Q
    What would you say is the smartest decision your company has made recently?

    The change in technology, the change in strategy, the way we approached the market. I was at a conference this week, and during a keynote, there was a phrase: “If you are going to follow your competitors, you’re always going to be behind.” It’s like teaching now, that actually makes sense.

    So that was worth mentioning here. But I would say we change or complete a product portfolio. Many companies don’t do that. Many companies don’t scratch what they have, and it’s not all new. It’s difficult. It’s a challenge. But it’s, from my point of view, I would say that is a smart decision.

    Why? Because that just says that we’re able to see what’s coming in the future. We’re able to realize that our current offering is going to take a lot of work to be future ready, to be ready for the future demands, the digitalization, the cyberattacks, the AI. All these predictive analytics, we saw that with the current portfolio. We can update it, but we’re not able to meet the future demands that we see common with the trends.

    So, we made the decision to take the, what we call the G1, the current generation and then put that aside, and then create something new. A new product is called ctrlX AUTOMATION, and again, that’s all based on building an ecosystem, bringing partners in, thinking about the IoT, the AI, cyberattacks, thinking about predictive analytics.

    So yes, we’re able to offer all the hardware, we’re able to offer cutting-edge technology, the latest microchips, the latest CPUs, the latest connectivity, TSN, 5G, you name it, we’re able to do that.

    But on top of that, we’re able to offer the ecosystem that is full of technology that is able to give you what you need as a customer, as an OEM, as an integrator to build a system that meets the requirements.

    ctrlX AUTOMATION, not, because I’m the product manager. But to me, ctrlX AUTOMATION, it is one of the greatest decisions, was the smartest decision that we have made as a company.

  • Q
    Why do your customers returned to you project after project.

    Quality. Quality. Quality. Quality. I remember when I first started in this industry, walking into a plant, and I was there to do something else, but it happened to be the system that I was working on was full of Rexroth equipment.

    I was there to do different type of work, different programming to a different unit, but it was just impressive to see all this equipment from Rexroth in there. And then listening to people talking, all I can hear from the maintenance people is these products from Rexroth are quality, they’re reliable, they’re user friendly, they don’t break often.

    To Bosch Rexroth, quality is very important. It really doesn’t matter if it takes us longer to go in the market. We’re not going to go in the market with a product that is not quality. Even if it takes us more time that we estimated, we’re going to release a product when we know is ready to be in the market, and it meets the quality standards of Bosch Rexroth.

    Another thing, I would say that the product life and the good migration path that we offer is another benefit. And it’s another reason why customers come back to us. Let’s just say that we put in place a machine 20 years ago, back in 2000. Now, customers are ready to migrate. Well, we have plans for that. We know that this is going to happen at some point in time, and we have a migration path that allows you to go from system A to system B. B being the latest.

    We have a system integrator program that we bring in to teach not only about the latest products that we offer, but also to teach them “Hey, when you’re talking to an end user, let them know that we can actually migrate that all equipment into the new one.”

    We’re trying to make it a lot easier for the customer. Easier, meaning less downtime. Cost, we try to keep it down. And then, also, the training. When you’re going from system A to system B, training is really important.

    So yes, we do have training in place that teaches people how to not only do this migration, but also how to operate the latest and greatest systems that we have.

  • Q
    What kinds of trends and challenges are you seeing in industrial automation right now?

    I see challenges with cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance, 5G connectivity, traditional versus additive manufacturing, and being ecofriendly.

    Implementing a robust cybersecurity plan to protect networks and data is no longer an option. It has become a challenge. In our industrial automation environment, we must protect our networks. We must protect our data.

    It’s no longer an option to keep our systems disconnected. We need the data, we need to be able to take production data out to the cloud to be able to do the analytics, to be able to do the monitoring.

    At Bosch Rexroth, we recognize this issue. We recognize this as a topic. We take it very seriously. That is why when we’re talking about things like cybersecurity or hackers, at Bosch, we have addressed this in our latest control platform, ctrlX AUTOMATION.

    When we advertise our controls, for example, we call our controller, ctrlX Core, we say that it is secure by design and by default.

    Go back 20 years ago, and you think about security, you would say, “Huh, it’s not really that important. This system is not going to be connected to the internet. Nowadays, 2022, my system will be connected to the internet.” It is an important topic.

    Now that we have the network security in mind, now that we know data is important, now we know that disruption at the production level is an important topic, another a trend or a challenge comes in place, which is artificial intelligence.

    Let’s say you have a secure network, you got data up and down. Now, what do you do with the data? Well, a human being can only do so much with data.

    It takes years and years to analyze the data to be able to do something good with it, to be able to create efficiency, increased quality, reduce costs. For a human being, it’s almost nearly impossible to do that.

    That’s where you start getting into artificial intelligence. This artificial intelligence is not it’s not a new topic. It’s been around since the 1950s. This is referring to smart computers, computers that can do the traditional jobs that human being used to do, or we still do, in some cases.

    The AI will come in place and do those jobs for us. For example, taking extreme amount of data, going to it quickly, and generating. It’s an output based on that data. It could be a report, it could be even something that says, “You have a bottleneck in this area” or ‘You’re going to have a problem in this area.” AI will help you out with that.

    Having said that, one form of AI would be predictive maintenance. That’s what we take this AI module. And then we can apply it to analyze the data, and then start doing predictive analytics or predictive maintenance. How is that? Well, you got all these sensors, you got all this data coming through. And then now, you send that data to the cloud, you put it on a database, and now you apply the AI to it.

    The AI can review the data, not only the non-real time data, but also the real-time data. And they start understanding how your system is behaving. And it will find the anomalies, the ones that are not common, and it will start detecting where is it coming from.

    For example, this model was running at a certain speed, it was running at a certain temperature, it was requesting X amount of current. And then suddenly, you see those signals spike up. A human being can tell you there is a problem there. But a human being cannot read all that data at a fast pace and tell you that answer. It will take time.

    The AI will come in, see all the data and actually tell you, “This motor is about to give up. You better replace that, otherwise, your production is going to go down.” And that’s where you can become proactive and say, “I’m going to schedule a shutdown, replace the motor, and then restart my production.”

    Rather than being reactive, also, when your production goes down, and then now you got to deal with the headaches, the stress goes up, people screaming and yelling, and you know, customers are disappointed.

    So yes, the AI is a trend in the future, the predictive analytics is another trend, and then cybersecurity is a challenge. All these things are something that at Bosch Rexroth, we know, we understand. And we can help our customers or OEMs and integrators to address these challenges and these trends in the future.

  • Q
    What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace?

    Industry 4.0 is one of the biggest challenges. We know this is the fourth industrial evolution driven by data collection. We know data is a challenge, and then adding the artificial intelligence on top of that.

    One of the challenges I see is not so much on the collection of the data. We know we must do it; we have the ways of doing it. Keeping us safe, cybersecurity is the one challenge. Understanding and developing the AIs is another challenge. And then applying the functions like predictive maintenance is another challenge.

    But that’s not the biggest. The biggest is making people deliver. How do you tell someone to invest in this digital technology? How do you break away from the traditional thinking? From my experience, I’ve seen many people saying, “I understand what you’re talking about. I understand these buzzwords, big data, Cloud computing, databases, artificial intelligence. I just don’t see how that translates into an ROI.”

    So, again, I’m thinking of breaking away of thinking about the data or science and just see more of the value. This is where a lot of us in the industry must come together and start preaching about the cost reduction, the time reduction, the quality improvement, and equate that into data, and then coming up with all these business cases, so management executives can actually see the value of it.

    More important, we must become the experts and the project partners to a lot of our customers to let them know, “You’re not alone. We’re here to support you.” And in fact, trying to put our vision in their minds. That is extremely difficult. It is a challenge.

    In fact, when me and my colleagues in the industry talk about cloud computer and artificial intelligence, executives start thinking about the faucet. It’s like they’re opening the faucet and then dollar signs are just flowing away. Breaking away from the traditional thinking is a big challenge

  • Q
    What makes you optimistic about the future of the automation industry?

    When I came into the industry, in  2004, things like IoT, 5G, TSN, AWS, predictive analytics, these words were not very popular, probably didn’t even exist. I don’t think AWS was a thing back in 2004.

    So fast forward to 2022, all these topics, all these words that I just mentioned, they are now day-to-day professional, and even personal life. I guarantee you, that you have some sort of an AI in your home, either an Alexa or a Google device, Nest device. All those devices, they have IoT, they all have artificial intelligence in it.

    We have done a tremendous amount of development in a relatively short time. Look at the smartphones. All the advances that we’ve made since the flip phone. Yes, I used to have the flip phone back in 2004. And nowadays, I have this phone that can do it all for me.

    This makes me optimistic about the industry, specifically our automation industry. I heard something this week during the conference that I went to, “If can be measured, it can be automated.” I can tell you that most things nowadays can be measured.

    Take for instance, AI, all industry is putting a lot of investment into AI. Why? Because a lot of the things in our industry can be measured. And this AI can look at all this data, and then analyze it, create outputs out of it that will help us do our job better, that makes it more efficient.

    AI systems in the future, from my point of view, are going to make healthcare better, will be embedded into a car where you don’t have to any longer drive your car. The car will drive you. But this is not only applicable in our personal life, but it is also applicable in industrial automation.

    For example, let’s just say you have a production shop floor. The production shop floor is running, and suddenly, something breaks. Well, imagine if now the AI can realize that something happens, send a robot, understand what’s going on, see the problem, go back to a 3D printer, print the broken part, and then replace that, and then go back all automatically.

    That is amazing. And you know what? We’re not far away from that. So, what makes me optimistic about the future is the fact that we’re investing a lot in the right technologies, AI, data, connectivity, cybersecurity, things that actually are real now, and then actually, things that not only are going to make our lives easier.

    I don’t want to be the guy loading and unloading things from a truck. I want to be doing the smart job. I’ll let a robot, I’ll let an AI handle the unloading and loading of the truck.

    From my point of view, the future in industrial automation looks bright. We’re investing a lot in the right directions, and we’re definitely expanding a lot in the right technologies.