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EMSNOW Executive Interview Part Two: Bright Machines’ CEO Amar Hanspal

Established in 2018, Bright Machines aims to provide a new model to “autonomously build the next generation of products.” Their global team consists of leading experts in applied science, software, robotics, process engineering and factory operations, with deep experience building cloud-based architecture, security and solutions. They say they are re-imagining what manufacturing will be in the future, grounded in the reality that exists on today’s factory floors. We wanted to know more about this business model and present an interview with Bright Machines’ CEO Amar Hanspal in two parts. Below is Part Two. Part One can be found here. 

EMSNOW:IPC is working with the industry to develop standards around factory automation to expedite implementation. How does Bright Machines fit into that?

DSCWe believe that standardization of industry communication protocols is critical to minimizing deployment cost and implementation time. Bright Machines is a committed supporter for industry standards such as IPC-CFX, OPC-UA and Hermes.

EMSNOW: What are the human roles that remain within the construct of the software defined microfactory?

Automation replaces tasks, not people. Jobs on the factory floor don’t go away, they evolve. Robots are replacing the repetitive, soul crushing tasks like screwing in the same screw 1,000 times per day with something more engaging. The downstream effect being that the factory can produce more products at a higher quality and at a lower cost. Many studies show that automation will create more jobs than it takes away. For example, automation may eliminate 75 million jobs by 2022, but it will drive the creation of 133 million new ones, that’s a net gain of 58 million. With the introduction of Bright Machines Microfactories and other software-defined solutions, we’ll see the creation of more software-related roles in the factory context such as programmers, designers, etc.

EMSNOW: Your management team mainly has expertise on the software side, except your COO Tzahi Rodrig who comes from FLEX. How will these backgrounds help Bright Machines’ products and services within the EMS industry?

Our seasoned team of software and hardware industry veterans offers a unique depth of expertise that is embedded in the software-driven analytics, machine learning and computer vision that defines our platform and drives our Bright Robotic Cells (BRC). Additionally, our more than 400 employees worldwide have backgrounds in robotics, software, and manufacturing – this diversity of experience is essential for serving the dozen or so customers we have around the world. It’s worth mentioning more than 200 of our employees come directly from the EMS or manufacturing industries. We believe we are uniquely positioned as the only company bringing together that much manufacturing horsepower at a software company. We speak the language, we know the players, and we have a passion for the challenges unique to the EMS world.

 

EMSNOW: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of the EMS industry as it applies to implementation of factory automation solutions?

On the plus side, the EMS industry has been receptive to the idea of automation for years. However, the industry has been tackling it the wrong way. The current hardware-and-labor based paradigm has reached its limits. Factory automation has continued to largely rely on fixed hardware investments that are better suited to the industrial age of making a lot of the same thing and ill-suited to rising customer expectations of constant innovation and greater customization. Despite all the investment in automation and digital connectivity, many factories are still populated by hundreds of workers engaged in repetitive tasks.  Processes are frequently managed using analog, paper-based methods. Factories like this are not set up to rapidly adapt to customer needs or implement agile processes that continuously address quality issues. Flexibility, scalability and manufacturing closer to the customer are becoming increasingly important. Software enables that flexibility, intelligence and scalability to manufacturing operations and by doing so, it transforms how products can be made and who can make them.

EMSNOW:The tariff situation has prompted some rethinking of global manufacturing site strategies, with companies moving from China to Vietnam and Mexico. Will this be an opportunity or an obstacle to the implementation of automation/industry 4.0 in your opinion?

Global corporations with overseas operations in large factories in low-cost regions have been good for consumers, but this approach may have reached its limits – aside from geopolitical disruptions that impact a business’ bottom line, low-cost labor pools in distant countries are being exhausted, and in manufacturing settings closer to consumers, the growing global middle class is proving unwilling to do repetitive tasks, fueling high turnover. Ultimately, we envision the next phase of Industry 4.0 as a move from the globalization we’ve seen in recent decades to a more localized approach. There’s a massive opportunity to shift manufacturing operations to match the increasingly high consumer expectations for fast delivery times and customized products. This can be realized through a distributed manufacturing operation – one that relies on a network of smaller, more nimble and flexible factories around the world located closer to where customers are. Corporations that think globally (in terms of emerging customer needs) but build locally (in terms of executing those needs) will be in a better position to withstand changing political climates and will be better able to respond to changing consumer demands.

EMSNOW: What other observations do you have about the EMS industry?

EMS needs to continue to be flexible in location to suit customers’ needs.  We believe that the Brightware and BRC Hardware Platform we have built can enable EMS to be more agile and solve for these challenges.

Typical automation deployed in EMS industry is custom, single purpose, and is not reusable. ROI requirements for this rigid automation are typically 24-36 months. In some regions, this short-term ROI target is difficult to achieve. In contrast, reusable and flexible equipment such as SMT equipment, wave solder, and XRAY,  has a longer usable life, and thus can be evaluated with a longer payback period. BRCs are designed from the ground up to be modular and reusable, providing EMS companies opportunity to evaluate BRC deployment ROI over a longer period of time, and a lower overall TCO.

Supply chain continues to be challenging, especially with EMS looking to relocate to other regions. Creating and maintaining tight control of those different supply lanes in new geographies is difficult. Our data platform could be very complementary in keeping a single, unified view of supply chain and production in multiple geographies.

Also, labor, freight, and compliance costs continue to rise in the EMS industry. At the same time, product life cycles are shrinking, and customer expectations are increasing. The companies that are investing now are the likely winners in the next downturn, as they will be uniquely poised to exploit the strengths and cost advantages the next generation that automation enables.

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