In today's episode of the Digital Supply Chain podcast my guest is Jason Hehman, who is the vertical lead for Industrial Innovation and IoT at TXI.
Jason shared with us some fascinating stories of how digital transformation is reshaping industries. Our discussion began with the story of Dixon, an organization over a hundred years old, which transitioned from individual environmental monitoring systems to a comprehensive cloud-based solution.
Then, Jason walked us through a project with Motor City Systems where a mobile messaging app was developed to alleviate the paperwork load for truck drivers, thereby enhancing job satisfaction and reducing turnover rates.
One of the key takeaways from our conversation is Jason's approach to change management. He outlines the significance of aligning stakeholders, defining the purpose of innovation, and integrating teams. These insights are invaluable for anyone navigating their digital transformation journey.
Jason also highlights how new technologies such as generative AI are influencing how organizations approach their innovation strategies. It's all about being on a journey, not being caught up in the hype of the latest technology.
To wrap up, Jason and I exchange some final thoughts on the future of digital innovation.
This is an episode filled with practical insights that you won't want to miss. So tune in, listen, learn and let's continue our journey on the digital supply chain together! And don't forget you can catch the video version of this episode at https://youtu.be/c5tUGzlYxDM
Until next time, stay innovative, folks!
I'd like to sincerely thank this podcast's generous supporters:
And remember you too can Support the Podcast - it is really easy and hugely important as it will enable me to continue to create more excellent Digital Supply Chain episodes like this one.
Podcast Sponsorship Opportunities:
If you/your organisation is interested in sponsoring this podcast - I have several options available. Let's talk!
If you have any comments/suggestions or questions for the podcast - feel free to just send me a direct message on Twitter/LinkedIn.
If you liked this show, please don't forget to rate and/or review it. It makes a big difference to help new people discover it.
Thanks for listening.
In the case of AI, it's something I think everyone needs to be thinking about. But if you go back through, the recent hype cycles, whether it's blockchain or augmented reality, we like to think that the right question shouldn't be, again, what's my blockchain strategy? But more along the lines of how might blockchain advance or expedite this innovation journey that we've already begun?Tom Raftery:
Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening, wherever you are in the world. This is the Digital Supply Chain podcast, the number one podcast focusing on the digitization of supply chain, and I'm your host, Tom Raftery. Hi, everyone. Welcome to the digital supply chain podcast. My name is Tom Raftery. And before we introduce before I introduce our guest today, I just want to address the elephant in the room or the bandage on my nose. So for those of you who are watching this podcast on YouTube, you might be wondering what is going on? No, I didn't get into a brawl in the pub last night. I actually had a surgeon do a quick minor operation on a cyst that was on my nose earlier this week and hence the bandage and the bruising and stuff. I'm told it'll all settle down and go away in the next day or two. Absolutely, definitely, by the time this episode goes live, all will be hunky dory back to normal once again. So, with that out of the way, let me bring on our special guest today, Jason. Jason, welcome to the podcast. Would you like to introduce yourself?Jason Hehman:
Tom, thank you so much for having me. Yes my name is Jason Hehman. I'm the vertical lead for Industrial Innovation and IoT at TXI. TXI is a consulting firm. We specialize in custom software development and product innovation. For what? For companies of all types and sizes. Like I said, I lead our work in Industry 4. 0. But we also work with organizations across digital health and life sciences and also cultural institutions.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And who would be typical customers and what kind of problems would you be solving for them?Jason Hehman:
Yeah, that's a great question. So we work with organizations that have a specific need to speed up their development of digital products, digital services, right? So it's organizations that are building tools for their internal teams from a decision making standpoint, and or they have large SaaS platforms. That they sell to support all manner of support services across manufacturing, again, supply chain and also helping organizations in life sciences and in, in healthcare. We'll talk about two of those today. One being Dickson which does environmental monitoring and another client of mine, MotorState Systems which provides a management platform for small to mid sized trucking fleets in the United States.Tom Raftery:
Cool, and so, tell me about those, the first one you mentioned was Dickson. So, who are they and how have you helped them?Jason Hehman:
So, Dickson's a really interesting organization. They are over a hundred years old. And for... The entirety of their history, they've worked in environmental monitoring. In the early days, their primary customers were labs and people in sciences, and they had chart recorders, which were basically, you know, pens on rotating pieces of paper, almost like a seismograph, right? They'd be connected to a refrigerator or refrigeration unit. Over the course of advancement they started getting into digital versions of these environmental monitors. So USB based temperature recorders but they realized that the fundamental problem that their customers were struggling with was the labor involved with checking individual chart recorders or individual data loggers across a wide ranging factory floor or across multiple factories, across multiple units and all the time that was spent trying to collect this data. So our engagement with them really began with bringing them to a cloud based solution for this technology, right? So you have a deployment of hundreds or even thousands of these environmental monitors by pushing that data up to the cloud. Not only do you improve the workflow aspect of what you're doing, but there's so much more you can do with that data. And things you can do in terms of setting alarms and understanding what's happening across your operations and across, you know, truly the operations of key partners. I know that's where it ties into the supply chain aspect of their business.Tom Raftery:
Okay, and I'm assuming if you are now suddenly cloud based as opposed to lots of independent systems, you can start cross comparing objectively how one organization is doing versus another or how one plant is doing versus another and things like that.Jason Hehman:
Yes. Yeah, absolutely You know, it's funny. I'll actually tell you a bit of a cautionary tale because I picked this up in the news last week. Rensselaer Polytech, which is a big technical institution here in upstate, New York. They are currently going through a rather unfortunate legal battle. They had one of the labs on campus had been doing 20 maybe 30 years worth of research into photosynthesis and had all manner of samples. They had local monitoring of the refrigeration unit and all sorts of alarms to let them know when things were going awry. But alas, during COVID, when there were fewer people in labs, the device started beeping, giving off its alarms. But there was no one around to hear said alarms. And unfortunately, a, a local, a local person who works with facilities thought they could stop the alarm by unplugging the refrigeration unit. And alas, years, years of scientific samples were, were lost. And I don't mean to make light of it, because it is truly a, a devastating loss. But to the point of having a remote or a cloud based solution for these types of situations, you know, all manner of folks involved with that project, involved with the lab could have had a notification as close as their phone once they started to see the temperature going outside the acceptable ranges. So, yeah, to your point. there's so many more ways that you can not only compare data across organizations, but it's the speed of knowledge that we can move within an organization and also just facilitate better decision making and allow for better outcomes.Tom Raftery:
Okay. The other example you alluded to earlier was Motor City. I think you said the name was?Jason Hehman:
Yes, that's right. So Motor City Systems is a technology company based in Michigan. And they specifically service mid sized fleets with SaaS platforms that help them decouple from large on prem all in one solutions and have more nimble, again, SaaS based cloud solutions for everything from telematics to the tracking of individual orders and shipments. The thing that they have seen as a critical need within their customer base is just the stress that's been placed on drivers in today's environment. I'm sure that all the listeners of your podcast are aware of the crunch that the supply chain has been under over the last three years. And some of these small midsize fleets, they're experiencing over a hundred percent driver turnover in a given year. So if you think about just the disruption that that is from a training standpoint, from a dependability standpoint it's, it's a true cost burden for these organizations. The work that we did with Motor City was focused on finding a better way to support the driver in cab with a mobile messaging app, right? Telematics obviously are effective in terms of bringing information into the driver and back to the dispatch. But we found that there was a better way to provide more real time communication between the driver and dispatch to support the driver at pickups and drop offs, and specifically to better facilitate a big part of their job, which is the paperwork, right? So, arriving on location, having bills of goods that need to be processed quickly, with the app, they're able to very quickly scan those documents, have them immediately ported into the ERP system. That allows for better confirmation timings and turnarounds for the fleet dispatcher, and also expedites payments on their side. And, you know, if you think about the challenge any of us face trying to fill in forms on our phone, you know, the fact that we can kind of scan and have that data automatically inputted so there's not as much fat fingering happening on the driver's part when they're trying to enter this information that creates just greater, greater satisfaction. So the, again, the opportunity that was really kind of focus in, in a new way on the needs of those drivers and bring a new product to market that supported them. Give them a better connection to their dispatch and also just made their job more satisfying, more possibly easier.Tom Raftery:
And I'm sure if these are professional drivers, they're more interested in driving than they are in paperwork, for example.Jason Hehman:
You couldn't be more right. I think, you know, when you think when you're talking about dealing with a challenge of turnover, any little advantage a fleet can offer their drivers in terms of making it more attractive to work there, letting those drivers feel more successful, helping them feel, as you say, that they're doing the things that they're great at and that they've gotten into that profession to do. That's a win. It's going to help keep greater longevity within their pool of professionals.Tom Raftery:
I don't suppose you have any metrics on reduced turnover of drivers as a consequence of the rollout of that project.Jason Hehman:
Unfortunately not yet. As they're still trialing with just a couple of, of individual fleets, so we haven't seen it yet at scale. But we're also in a place where we're getting ready to roll out some additional features which we're gonna be pretty excited about, which I think are only gonna improve the, the satisfaction there. So it's still early days. They've only started to distribute the app at the beginning of 2023.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Okay, cool. We'll check back. In the meantime, the whole culture of change it's always tricky to, embark on any project which requires change because very often people push back. So, how do you... work around that or work with that and help organizations embrace change because you are, you know, you said the first company was over 100 years old, we're talking significant change in their organization. And similarly, I guess the drivers are more likely to buy into it if there's a, if they're getting rid of a significant amount of paperwork, but still this change is happening there too, no?Jason Hehman:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So it's that change management is absolutely a key a key part of it. And I think a big part of what we embrace when we begin working with a new client is trying to understand like what organizational structures they've had in place and what ways of working we can bring to the organization that can help them be nimble, help them adapt and innovate in ways that are meaningful and helpful to their, to their business. So, you know, we often think about, three ways that organizations can overcome some of the barriers to change. I think one of the first things that we talk about is, aligning stakeholders, right? Making sure we have a clear sense internally of who's most going to benefit, who is most likely going to have to bear the burden of some of this change. And how cooperation across the different stakeholders can ultimately create the spirit of cooperation that we need. And we'd like to see this all to be, this all to be successful. The other big part of it is helping organization understand its purpose and what's trying to achieve with this with a significant change. Getting to the why for like a better way of putting it. It's rarely this simple but in many cases you can think about purposeful innovation around increased revenue and growth, right? You're bringing a new product to either an existing portion of your customer base or to a new customer base. You can think about it in terms of reducing cost, right? So, expediting decision making allowing organizations to have, a more timely or more informed decisions. Or you can think about in terms of decreasing churn, increasing loyalty, either in terms of your employees or in terms of your customer base. Bring greater consistency and loyalty to that relationship, right? So defining those whys is actually a really great way of starting to understand the purpose of change, right? And it helps to figure out how we're gonna make decisions. I think the third piece of it that we emphasize whenever we engage with clients is truly integrating our teams. And that was in the case of Dickson. It was very much the case at Motor City, whereas they had a strong engineering culture already. And specifically in the mobile development we were doing we teamed two of our developers with two of their developers. And truly had like an integrated group working on the each release. And the integration process involved us learning from each other to a large extent, right? There were some aspects of agile that we were very familiar with, that I think rubbed off on and were embraced by the Motor City team. And I think what we understood very quickly was just how deeply they understood the needs of their users of the drivers. A lot of times we started a discovery process and there's a lot to be done in terms of verifying assumptions and ingoing expectations. We realized really quickly that we were dealing with the professionals who were deeply engaged in that driving community. And so what we were able to do was focus on verifying some of their hypotheses, which went very quickly, but then building a structure for the project, whereby we were consistently pushing thin slices and updates the app so that we were getting quick feedback on that got us much more quickly to a minimal viable product. And that speed, I think, is a outcome, hopefully of all those three things that I just said, because the speed helps to show results, helps to keep stakeholders aligned, helps to verify that the why that you've chosen is the right why? Right. And it helps to instill or provide positive feedback right for those for those changes and those those compromises that you're making in your working styles you bring two teams together.Tom Raftery:
Right? It's also got to make people feel that they're being heard. I mean, if they make a suggestion and you managed to turn around quickly, right? Yeah. It's going to be gratifying for them to feel that they're being listened to, no?Jason Hehman:
Absolutely. I think there's there's no better lubricant for teamwork than the momentum, right? And when you can build momentum around those types of shared successes, when people feel like you said that they've been heard they are also then more open to accepting other suggestions, right? It kind of builds on itself in terms of creating that spirit of camaraderie and team commitment.Tom Raftery:
Okay. And if you've got a situation where you've got, you know, two teams integrated together, how do you, how do you work with that? Because, I mean, you mentioned working closely with them, so you've got to have been collaborating together. Are there issues around clashes of culture or things like that? Or if there are, how do you, how do you manage those?Jason Hehman:
Yeah, I think there's always going to be speed bumps, you know, pardon the trucking joke. But a big part of what we worked into the process, and this is not new for anybody who works in Agile, but we really prioritized the importance and the value of doing retros on a bi weekly basis. And I know for a lot of people, the retros can feel like... You know, maybe you'd rather go to the dentist than spend an hour talking with your team about what's going wrong and what's going right. But we're lucky at TXI. I feel like I'm lucky at TXI that our delivery professionals really understand the process and the ways of making those retros not just informative and helpful from a team building standpoint but fun to the extent that we can, right? So. We'll often build a retro around a theme, right around you know, coming with different names for so like we do, but one of the racing theme, right? And you know, where things that helped you go faster, where things that slowed you down, you know, what went wrong in your pit stops, like those types of things, just to kind of stimulate conversation, get people to think about things in a different kind of way. So the consistency with which we've conducted those has, I feel always been a big support around getting issues to the surface quicker, right? I have, there's one delivered professional who I work with quite a bit, who has a very fond saying of like, say the thing, right? The making the, making the implicit explicit is one of the best things that you can do in terms of generating positive momentum within a team. And with the right consistency and approach to retros that tends to come through.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Is there not a danger of, for all intents and purposes, hurting someone's feelings?Jason Hehman:
I think in the, I think in the professional, in the professional context, when you're talking about not necessarily individual behaviors, but right, but talking about outcomes and talking about how, as a team, we could support different ways of doing things. Removing the personal aspect of it is kind of really central to making those making those effective. It's certainly not like a sitting around a circle and pointing finger, but more about having that kind of shared responsibility because fundamentally, if something does go a bit awry, I think, as the team, you have to look at yourselves as all jointly responsible for having gone down that way. And if not having been able to prevent it, working together as a team to just solve it going forward. I think staying focused on those aspects of it, helps it not feel personal or not feel like anyone is, is under attack.Tom Raftery:
Fair enough. Fair enough. What's next for TXI? I mean, what kind of interesting projects are you looking at rolling out or interesting technologies, are you looking at employing?Jason Hehman:
Yeah, there's so much, there's so much exciting stuff happening. The, I think everyone obviously is talking about the impact of generative AI. That's coming up consistently. I think the reason that we're excited about it is that it's not as much about the technology itself, which is obviously important. But I think what we appreciate is that it's getting organizations to think differently now about their innovation agenda. By that, I mean, there are consistently going to be these new technologies and new opportunities that kind of come to the surface, right? It's in the context of having a organizational alignment around your innovation agenda that really allows you to take advantage of it, right? So in situations like that helping our partners get to a place where they're not suddenly asking themselves or asking us what's our AI strategy, but rather thinking about how are they going to leverage AI as part of this journey that they're already on, right? Yeah. Again, in the case of AI, it's something I think everyone needs to be thinking about. But if you go back through, you know, the recent hype cycles, whether it's blockchain or augmented reality, we like to think that the right question shouldn't be, again, what's my blockchain strategy? But more along the lines of how might blockchain advance or expedite this innovation journey that we've already begun? And so, again, I think AI is creating an excitement that's going to be positive and contribute to some of these really interesting conversations around what we can do with with digital product.Tom Raftery:
And have you seen any interesting projects with AI in mind and in this space?Jason Hehman:
So this caught my attention this week, and it's a little bit of a tangent, but hopefully let me take you on this little journey. I think many people are aware that Wimbledon is happening as we speak. And they've employed a technology that's allowing them to capture video footage of the matches as they're happening. And they're applying filtering techniques to cuts of the footage to help identify what's exciting and what's interesting, right? And so they're merging multiple data points from the crowd noise down to players expressions and gestures on the court. And using that to cut to, like, what's interesting and what's cool and what's interesting. So, tying that back to supply chain something that kind of fascinates me has just been the extent to which we're moving in IoT types of implementations from sensors that capture vibration or temperature and moving towards having the scale to process video footage at near real time capacity. When you start to think about overlaying the functionality of gestures, movement other factors that can be captured through audio. You start thinking about again how you can support the workers and supply chain, identify fatigue, identify all sorts of other ways that they can be supported. And again, ideally make decisions or bring support to bear in a way that's gonna help those, you know, frontline workers be more effective, be safer and just generally improve the work, the critical work that they're doing in the operations and manufacturing process.Tom Raftery:
Okay. Okay, cool. Cool. Jason, we're coming towards the end of the podcast now. Is there any question I haven't asked that you wish I had or any aspect of this that we haven't touched on that you think it's important for people to be aware of?Jason Hehman:
No, nothing, nothing you haven't asked. I'm hoping that like what came through, you know, we have a, we, this one thing we like to say at TXI, it's that this idea that building the right thing is harder than building the thing right. Right? So the idea that having the right vision for your digital product, having the right intent with your innovation strategy is really where 90% of the success comes from. And then the rest of it in terms of the design and coding and development is much simpler when you have that right idea of what it is that you're trying to build and what user it is that you're ultimately serving.Tom Raftery:
Nice, nice, cool, cool. Jason, if people would like to know more about yourself or any of the things we discussed in the podcast today, where would you have me direct them?Jason Hehman:
Oh, thanks. Yeah, please check us out at txidigital. com. That's where we publish our white papers and case studies on all the innovation and technology work we're doing, again, across manufacturing, digital health, life sciences. I'm pretty active on LinkedIn, so I always love to make new connections there. I also never turn down an invitation for a factory tour. That's like my favorite thing to do. So if you've got a place that I can come see, I will jump on a plane.Tom Raftery:
Okay, fantastic, fantastic. Jason, that's been really interesting. Thanks a million for coming on the podcast today.Jason Hehman:
Tom, I really appreciate the invite.Tom Raftery:
Okay, we've come to the end of the show. Thanks everyone for listening. If you'd like to know more about digital supply chains, simply drop me an email to TomRaftery@outlook.com If you like the show, please don't forget to click Follow on it in your podcast application of choice to be sure to get new episodes as soon as they're published Also, please don't forget to rate and review the podcast. It really does help new people to find a show. Thanks, catch you all next time.