A challenging year for industry to say the least – and one that has forced companies to adapt by re-evaluating their existing practices and technologies. Over the last weeks we have caught up with industry figures to discuss how leading companies have reacted to and mitigated the global Covid-19 disruption in 2020 and how they will approach 2021 with a renewed mindset.
Kirsty Hazlewood interviewed Michael Frederickson, Co-Founder, Insituware
Firstly, how did your company initially react to the crisis?
At Insituware, we immediately informed our employees and shifted as many of them to remote work as possible. We ordered face masks and implemented new social distancing requirements for those whose work functions still needed to be conducted in-person, such as our R&D labs.
Supply chain challenges affecting production were a major consequence of the pandemic – what areas of the supply chain both regionally and product wise were worst hit and how did you overcome the disruption and manage supply chain risk?
Early on, the effects on our supply chain caused us some delays and setbacks. Fortunately, however, in concert with our parent company, Systems Innovation Engineering, specializing in supply chain management, we were quickly able to get things up and running again while establishing a supply chain plan moving forward, ensuring that we are ready and prepared for any future supply chain issues.
How did your operating procedures change regarding staff absenteeism and health and safety? Did you implement a work-from-home policy? What did this mean for normal business operations?
As with most companies in the electronics industry, we have had to learn how to adapt to this new environment with Covid-19. By integrating our materials R&D lab, engineering design, and software development, using both telework and in-lab working environments, we were able to meet or exceed the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidelines to keep our employees safe. Our Insituware family is the essence of this company. Our core values are centered around family and taking care of them.
With exhibitions other face-to-face sales opportunities cancelled, how did you adapt the marketing and sales of your products?
Insituware has participated in multiple virtual conferences and created new videos as well as marketing materials for our reps to stay connected with our clients and customers. We’re adapting to this new shift in communication with customers and have been able to meet through video meetings for demos, trainings, etc.
How did you support your existing customers during the lockdown and how successful was this?
We have an excellent distribution network set up worldwide with our representatives and shifted immediately to offering online support to our customer base. We also invested in creating new tools to help our distributors and clients better understand the power of our Vision MARK-1 solution such as product video overviews and demonstrations.
Do you believe the COVID-19 pandemic has forced companies to adapt and invent and in fact accelerated innovation?
The electronics industry has experienced many challenges including economic downturns, shifting manufacturing geographies, pandemics, material bans such as CFCs and lead, etc. Each time the industry finds solutions to overcome the impact and does so with increased efficiency and novel, nontrivial solutions. As we look to the long-term impact of the pandemic, we believe that material characterization and material control will be critical to optimizing the manufacturing process. Real-time understanding of the materials used on the production floor, for any given product, is the only way to provide objective evidence, complete traceability, and achieve improved efficiencies and quality with minimal resources.
How do you foresee technologies such as IoT, artificial intelligence, robotics, and 5G future-proofing the industry against possible future disruptive events?
The multi-tier supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic resulted in greater uncertainty in the storing, handling, and shelf life of materials. At times, EMS companies had to shut down their production floors at a moment’s notice and did not know if their materials, such as solder paste, would be useable once they ramped up again. Both disruptions resulted in materials not being controlled as much as they should be.
Electronics manufacturers need improved control of materials to be better prepared for future uncertainties and disruptions. The machines and equipment on the production floor won’t change, but the materials will. It is critical to reliability and quality to control materials. Our Insituware Vision MARK-1 tool, the first smart measurement solution enabling rapid assessment of materials’ fitness for use on the factory floor, can safeguard these materials against uncertainties in the ENTIRE supply chain.
For industry 4.0 to take human dependency out of the loop, you have to control materials. Our revolutionary portable tools enable rapid, real-time inspection to increase throughput, reduce costs, and improve reliability directly on the factory floor. The Vision MARK-1 enables EMS companies to take the next step on the Industry 4.0 pathway and get closer to zero defects.
Has your business model now irrevocably changed and will you continue with some of these changes, even once the world returns to a new normal?
Insituware is a capable, nimble company which allows us to navigate the consequences of Covid-19 while still delivering solutions that improve our customers’ processes. Moving forward into 2021, we are taking this time to develop new material characterization methods so that when manufacturing companies are back to full production, we will be ready with our mobile technology solutions for optimizing materials control.