Opto 22 and Matt Newton

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Matt Newton, OPTO 22

ADDEDTuesday, July 12, 2016

  • Q
    Without naming names (unless you want to or are allowed to), tell us about a project that was very challenging and what you did to solve the customer’s problem.
    A
    One of the most challenging applications I was involved with recently had to do with remote monitoring and control of oilfield skids in very remote locations. We had to figure out a way to make sure communication to the skids wouldn’t be lost; we needed a method for them to always be able to dial back home into a mission control location.  We ended up running the system in such a way that it functions autonomously but still reports in every day. We had to use several different cellular service providers and backed those connections up with a satellite feed.
  • Q
    Do you specialize in any industry, product, or discipline? Why or why not?
    A
    Because Opto 22 products are so flexible and so easy for customers to quickly ramp up to speed with, we get involved in a very wide breadth of applications. From breweries to water management to oil rigs and cell towers, and everything in between, Opto 22 is installed just about everywhere.
  • Q
    Why do your customers come back?
    A
    People continue to use Opto 22 products because they know they can count on our high-quality products and guaranteed-for-life I/O. Our stuff just works and has earned its reputation for reliability. And it’s easy to use. Customers also like the fact that when they call us, a real person answers the phone.  
  • Q
    What’s unique about how you approach a project?
    A
    Opto 22 has a unique approach to support customer projects. Since the majority of the company is made up of engineers, we enjoy helping customers think through their applications. You can call us and we’re happy to help talk you through designing and supporting your system.  I would say you get more of a personal touch from Opto 22.
  • Q
    How do you describe to lay people what you do?
    A
    I typically find it’s easier for people to understand what I do when I give them specific examples of where Opto 22 products are used.  For example, our I/O is used to control the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel. Or I tell them about how our control products are used to make Fat Tire beer at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, CO. Once they understand where our products are used, it’s much easier for them to understand what Opto 22 does.  
  • Q
    What advice would you give to a prospective customer researching automation/controls engineers or “system integrators.”
    A
    I would definitely focus on CSIA members and certified integrators. Those integrators are business owners who have taken the next step in increasing their professionalism and services by becoming certified.  
  • Q
    What’s the best advice you could give your younger self, just getting started?
    A
    Take more risks.  
  • Q
    What makes Opto 22 optimistic about the future of the automation industry?
    A
    Opto 22 is optimistic about the automation industry because companies are continuing to invest in updating their manufacturing technology, constantly looking for new opportunities to increase their competitiveness. 
  • Q
    What is the smartest decision your company has made recently?
    A
    The smartest decision Opto 22 has continued to make since its founding is to keep manufacturing in-house at our factory and headquarters in Southern California. While other vendors have moved manufacturing off shore, in the long run the predicted cost savings for doing so haven’t added up. With increased delivery times and reductions in quality, sending manufacturing off shore hasn’t made sense for many vendors. We’ve avoided those problems and continue to believe that the close ties between our engineering and manufacturing staff lead to much higher quality products.  
  • Q
    Share the history of how Opto 22 began and how the company has evolved in the automation industry.
    A
    Opto 22 started over 40 years ago as a privately held business focused on the development and manufacture of high-quality solid state relays. Soon after, we developed I/O components with plug-in racks for microprocessor-based control. The company has always designed products based on open standards, and that continues today with our use of Ethernet and open Internet protocols. Over the decades Opto 22 has continued to manufacture all of its products in the U.S. and still provides free technical support, guaranteed-for-life I/O, and software that’s easy to use. 
  • Q
    Tell us about your OPC Foundation involvement.
    A
    Opto 22 was a founding member of the OPC Foundation. OPC was a very important advancement in industrial automation technology. For example, it allowed HMI developers to focus solely on improving their HMI products and provided integrators an opportunity to use hardware from one vendor with software from another.  This increased flexibility allowed for faster system development time and lower support costs. 
  • Q
    Tell us about your SI partner program.
    A
    Opto 22 has a great systems integrator partner program. Once approved, integrators can advertise on our website, download brochures and product presentations, access training resources, and be eligible for project leads.  
  • Q
    Why should a prospective customer hire a CSIA Member?
    A
    Prospective customers should definitely seek out CSIA members because those integrators have demonstrated a commitment to meeting the highest standards for business and management.
  • Q
    What challenges are your customers facing now?
    A
    I believe the control system integrators industry is about to experience a pretty serious shift in customer expectations. As the Internet of Things continues to roll out, integrators are being forced to learn about new technologies that previously were outside the scope of traditional projects, but that customers now want. It will be helpful for integrators to position themselves with an industry partner that understands these new requirements and can help them smoothly transition into these exciting new opportunities.  
  • Q
    In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing the automation marketplace today and in the future?
    A
    What we’re seeing right now with the Internet of Things is that IT and OT convergence may represent a significant challenge for the automation industry. IT and OT professionals will need to blend their skillsets to effectively support their customers.  This means professionals on both sides of the business will need to get a better understanding of each other’s technologies and functions within the organization. 
  • Q
    How has Opto 22 grown or changed in the past year and what do you expect for your company in the next 12 to 24 months?
    A
    Opto 22 continues to be at the forefront of advanced technology adoption for the industrial automation and control industry. We were the first manufacturer to add Ethernet connectivity to automation controllers, and we developed the industry’s first operator interface specifically designed for mobile devices. So we offer customers the latest technology to connect machines and systems to the Internet of Things. Our focus for the next 12 to 24 months is to provide simple, cost-effective products to control and visualize systems from anywhere, and to create actionable data that businesses need. 
  • Q
    What kinds of trends and challenges are you seeing in industrial automation right now?
    A
    One of the biggest challenges the industry is facing right now is the convergence of IT and OT disciplines to increase productivity, profit, and safety. As businesses continue to invest in technology advancement, IT and OT professionals need to use each other’s technology strengths and implement new projects together, with visibility into each discipline. 
  • Q
    Why did Opto 22 become a member of CSIA?
    A
    The company became a member because CSIA offers so many opportunities to network with other industry manufacturers and system integrators. CSIA membership helps us stay connected to the market and in touch with what our partners and customers need from us as a manufacturer.  
  • Q
    Tell us how you got started in the business (or market) of control system integration.
    A
    I’ve been in the industry for about 15 years now.  I came from a technical background supporting integrators and value added resellers. Most of my time in the industry has been spent in the field, working directly with customers and partners on their automation projects.  I have a strong background in IT (information technology), which has helped me support customers in operational technology (OT). 
  • Q
    What is the biggest benefit of CSIA membership for Opto 22?
    A
    Networking at conferences lets us stay engaged with our customers and inspires us to continually improve the products and solutions we offer. Personally I find the opportunity to share market information and trends with other members is invaluable. 
  • Q
    Why did you choose a career in control system integration? Or did your career choose you? How did you get here?
    A
    Choosing a career in control system integration was a natural fit for me. I’ve always been fascinated with making things and systems that work. It’s one of the few fields where we leverage both hardware and software technologies to increase productivity.