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AiThority Interview with Rajeev Gollarahalli, Chief Business Officer at 42Q

AiThority Interview with Rajeev Gollarahalli, Chief Business Officer at 42Q

Know My Company

How do you interact with the new-age technologies like Cloud Computing, AI, Machine Learning and Mobile Applications?

Over the past several years, these technologies have become a part of our DNA at 42Q. We were the first organization to move our manufacturing execution system (MES) platform to the Cloud to reduce total cost of ownership for manufacturing organizations. Now, we are leveraging technologies such as AI, Machine Learning and Mobile applications as they mature, embedding them into our platform to enhance the execution of manufacturing operations. We’re also providing capabilities that are new to the manufacturing arena, such as proactive monitoring of maintenance systems and testing processes that rely on Machine Learning to predict and prevent failures of machines or products.

For example, AI and Machine Learning are used to perform the maintenance of assets. Manufacturers may have a motor or a pump on the factory floor that is required to go through maintenance after being in operation for a certain period of time. Traditionally, this maintenance was scheduled in an on-premise Computerized Management Maintenance System (CMMS).

Now, manufacturers can monitor these assets in real time using the Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors on the factory floor measure speed and other factors. Over a period of time, they can collect the data and correlate the historical information to a machine’s performance via the cloud-based MES, so that events such as failures can be quickly predicted and prevented. Prescriptive maintenance factors in at the right time to avoid machine downtime, ensuring the most efficient production line possible.

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How did you start in this space? What galvanized you to start working at 42Q?

I’ve been in distribution, logistics, and manufacturing for nearly thirty years. What we now call the Internet of Things (IoT) was actually prevalent quite some time ago in various aspects of these operations, particularly on warehousing and distribution. For years, there have been temperature sensors in freezers that monitor certain materials that must stay in cool environments or measure currents on motors that operate conveyor belts. In addition, Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs), or driverless vehicles, have been used for quite a while to pick up materials in warehouses and deliver them to packing stations and shipping docks. These early aspects of technology innovation got me interested in IoT technologies.

When I got into Manufacturing, it became apparent that an MES was essential to managing a factory floor more efficiently. Whether you’re scheduling maintenance work on machines, trying to reduce changeover times on the production line, or ensuring that your products go through the right routes, undergo the proper testing and are worked on by the right operators, all of these moving parts need to be orchestrated in a highly coordinated fashion.

Over the years, manufacturing processes have become even more complex. The only way to manage all of this complexity is through sophisticated MES software. When Cloud technology arrived, it was clear that moving MES to the Cloud could more effectively reduce failures by providing real-time data. It could also dramatically reduce costs by virtually eliminating expensive on-premise hardware and software. The security aspect of the cloud was also very appealing to me, as approximately a quarter of cyber attacks are targeted at manufacturing companies.

Moving to the Cloud is a much more secure approach than using on-premise software because it’s always backed up and has built-in redundancy to ensure disaster recovery. As all of these trends evolved and matured, I became more heavily involved with 42Q and most recently took on the role of a Chief Business Officer.

What is 42Q and how does it make Cloud-based EMS readily accessible to customers? How does eDHR fit into this offering?

42Q is a Cloud-based, multi-tenant MES that operates between an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system and the manufacturing equipment in a factory. It automates and streamlines all of the complex processes essential to a manufacturing operation.

When manufacturers choose to deploy 42Q, there is no initial capital expense – no hardware or software licenses. 42Q is purely subscription based, so it can be deployed out of the box and customers only pay for what they use. If they only have 10 manufacturing machines using it in month one, that’s all they pay for. If they ramp up to 100 machines in a few months, they only pay for 100 machines. If for some reason a customer’s business takes a turn or the economy slows, they can scale back because they’re not locked into a licensing contract. The subscription model is very attractive to our customers and is becoming tough for on-premise MES providers to compete with.

For comparison, traditional on-premise MES software systems take many months, if not years, to implement and cost several hundreds of thousands to a few millions of dollars to roll out in a single factory. These systems require expensive hardware and are limited in their capabilities. Manufacturers have to make a big investment up front for on-premise licensing and spend a lot of time setting up hardware, configuring it, and installing the software.

eDHR, or an Electronic Device History Record, is a core element of medical device manufacturing. Complex medical devices must be manufactured compliant with Current Good Manufacturing Practices (CGMP) requirements found in 21 CFR Part 820 of the FDA’s quality system regulations. Manufacturers must maintain a complete record for every device that is built. This includes tracking and recording the materials, suppliers, lot numbers, when and where it was built, who worked on the device, and all of the test results. Everything must be collected and stored for several years.

Historically, all of this was handled with paper-based record keeping. Any time a product was touched, someone had to record the activity on paper. Like any other paper-based system, it was prone to error. An operator may forget to add something or make a mistake on a record.

An electronic device history record, or eDHR, eliminates manual record keeping by electronically recording everything that happens with a device throughout the manufacturing process. Machines that interface with a device on the production line automatically send data to the cloud-based MES platform that records it and associates with the entire history of that device.

During an FDA audit, our Rapid EDHR solution provides instant online access to medical device history records. This allows manufacturers to respond to any emerging compliance issues very quickly because they have secure and instant access to the status of all eDHR activity from the cloud. This can be extremely advantageous if an event such as a product recall occurs. Manufacturers can quickly access the online eDHR and find out details about exactly where a component was used, reducing the risk of faulty products ending up out in the field.

How do you enhance Multi-plant visibility and Compliance Management?

From the onset, 42Q was designed for global manufacturing organizations that have multiple factories. Using 42Q, manufacturers can aggregate information from multiple factories and display benchmark reports in real time. Depending on your role at a manufacturing organization, whether you’re a factory manager, a divisional/regional manager or a C-level executive, you can look at a region, a particular factory, a production line within a factory, or even at a particular asset on a production line and understand its performance. Manufacturing executives can see if a line is down and why it’s down. Metrics such as throughput, efficiency, and product shipping timeframes are instantly accessible via desktop or mobile device. All of this data is right at their fingertips so that they can be more responsive, increase efficiency and minimize downtime.

42Q was originally designed for highly regulated industries and we have both medical and automotive customers using the platform today. All of the prescribed processes and regulations for particular markets can be built into the cloud-based MES platform, helping these organizations mistake-proof their operations and ensure regulatory compliance.

Who are your customers and how do they leverage your products/services?

Our customers range from small to medium-sized businesses to some very large companies. We support customers across industries that include the electronics, telecom, automotive, medical, aerospace and mining markets.

Depending on the role of the person, customers use the system in different ways. The shop floor supervisor uses it to control the manufacturing route. The scheduler monitors and adjusts production schedules, the quality person oversees data for quality control, and the compliance officer tracks data in the eDHR or uses the forced quality framework to enforce routing for the product build. Maintenance staff could be using data from IoT-connected sensors to monitor environmental parameters (humidity, temperature) during the production of products. There are many use cases, depending on individual responsibilities and the modules that that customer has licensed with 42Q.

What is the role of the Digital Factory Starter Kit and how can it transform traditional manufacturing plants?

Our Digital Factory Starter Kit (DFSK) allows our customers to deploy an MES in anywhere from 4-6 weeks, which is unheard of in manufacturing. Traditional MES implementations can take one to two years in order to get just a couple of production lines up and running.

The beauty of DFSK is that for a few thousand dollars, a customer can deploy it in a factory on a particular production line or lines, see how it works, experience the benefits and modulate their use case. After three months, which is what we typically recommend for a proof of concept, it gives them a good understanding of their needs and requirements with minimal financial investment. This is disrupting the MES sales model.

To date, we have not lost a customer after they have tried DFSK, so it’s definitely something that’s working for them and for 42Q.

What is the biggest challenge to Digital Transformation in the market you cater to? How does 42Q contribute to a successful digital transformation?

Digital Transformation means different things to different companies. The biggest challenge to digital transformation is not about technology – the technology is there. It’s about culture change. It’s about going from an operation that may be based on tribal knowledge to a data-driven operation. It’s about making decisions based on data and proven results, as opposed to relying on intuition or guesswork. Digital Transformation can only take place when there’s mindshare around how a factory and a business are run. It really starts with culture change.

The other important aspect of Digital Transformation is the quality of data. This is critical, in order to have a successful transformation effort. It’s also about getting the processes right. Manufacturers must ensure that the processes are correct before they automate them. They must ensure that they’re collecting the right data that is high quality and help their operators understand the advantages of using data to manage their operations.

Deploying technology for digital factory transformation is much easier if these factors are addressed up front.

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What is your opinion on “Weaponization of AI and Machine Learning”? How do you promote your ideas in Digital Economy?

The weaponization of data, in my opinion, is leveraging AI and Machine Learning to gather a high volume of data for improved decision making, so that you’re not basing a decision on a single point of information, but on many points of data. Whenever this happens, the outcome is almost always guaranteed to be better.

Manufacturing is one of the most suitable areas for AI and Machine Learning technologies. When you have processes that can collect from many data points, you can then use that data to diagnose, prevent and prescribe corrective action. An adjacent example would be the healthcare industry, where data from thousands of doctors and their patients can help decision-making regarding a preventative or prescriptive approach for a single patient.

The Crystal Gaze

What digital technology start-ups and labs are you keenly following? 

Obviously, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft have invested a lot in Analytics and Machine Learning, so I follow their progress.

Smaller companies that provide interesting capabilities are focused on specific industries like oil and gas, medical, aerospace or telecom. They are coming up with some very interesting models.

What technologies within your industry are you interested in?

I’m personally following companies focused on Machine Learning, Data Science, and AI – we’re still in the beginning phase with these technologies and there’s a lot more to come. The use cases for these technologies are going to grow at a much faster pace as the technology matures.

As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting AI in car-making with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?

I think AI will not just be used for automotive manufacturing, but you’re going to see a lot of AI applications embedded within car applications.

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

I’m a big proponent of collaboration and I use the Google Suite of products. It saves me a lot of time when I’m collaborating with my teammates and sharing ideas. I can’t really imagine not having these tools anymore and I rely on them every day.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Satya Nadella. I’d like to understand his opinion about Machine Learning and AI and where they’re headed since Microsoft has invested a lot into these technologies.

Thank you, Rajeev! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Rajeev Gollarahalli is the Chief business officer at 42Q, responsible for driving continued business momentum at the organization. Rajeev most recently served as the Vice President of technology strategy for a global manufacturer and was responsible for all strategic I.T. initiatives across all of their production facilities worldwide. Prior to this role, he served as the Senior Vice President of online and digital for a leading industrial thread company, headquartered in the UK with a presence in 50 countries. He was responsible for the digital transformation of their manufacturing facilities, as well as the development and roll-out of next-generation cloud-based customer, online and ERP applications.

42Q is a leading provider of cloud MES solutions, implemented in over 65 manufacturing facilities. Their mission is to deliver scalable, flexible and easy to implement manufacturing solutions to our customers. 42Q’s management team has extensive experience with the architecture, development, and implementation of advanced MES and manufacturing automation systems deployed across a broad range of vertical markets. 42Q is a business unit of Sanmina Corporation.

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