For the past twenty-two years, the MassTLC Leadership Awards have celebrated the best and the brightest of the Massachusetts technology ecosystem. The sixteen award categories, including a newly added category for the Massachusetts Growth Company of the Year, highlight the vitality, innovation and importance of the region’s internationally respected technology industry. In addition, for the first time, MassTLC will honor the visionary organizations that are pioneering digital transformations to innovate and re-imagine the future of the Commonwealth’s leading industries in the form of the newly created Digital Transformation awards category.
Winners will be announced at the All Stars of Tech Winners’ Celebration on November 6 at Fenway Park.
In the meantime, let us introduce you to the finalists and the incredible work that they are doing here in Massachusetts – and how they are changing the world.
In the words of their nominators, meet the 2019 “Digital Transformation in Manufacturing” finalists.
Transforming What: Flexo Concepts manufacturers TruPoint Plastic Doctor Blades for various metering, cleaning and specialty applications. In October of 2018 Flexo Concepts went live on FinancialForce Accounting and Supply Chain Manager software solutions and transferred all critical business operations to the Salesforce platform. The company is now a 100% cloud based, digital platform to run the business; all marketing, lead/customer management (CRM), sales order management, procurement, inventory control, invoicing, shipping, general accounting, and other essential functions are performed on this unified platform.
How Technology is Used: The list of software applications used by Flexo Concepts as part of it’s three year digital transformation is long. All technologies are cloud based, and many are native to the Salesforce platform, thus allowing the team to add applications that leverage common data objects and process automation tools that can be used to build business automations, make work error free, create efficiency, improve customer service, provide quicker response times, do capacity planning, put customers on email journeys, track digital engagement, estimate shipping lead times, forecast inventory, and more. When team members have ideas for new ways to leverage these tools, they are able to implement them themselves. Gone are the days where software code writers must be brought in to customize code.
Why it Matters: Flexo Concepts is an example of how a small, global company has used technology to redefine it’s business and offering to customers, create a fulfilling work environment, and drive revenue and profits. The impact on the business is widespread. The company is able to do more business, more efficiently without having to dramatically increase overhead. Because of the focus on technology, the work the staff does is very rewarding, and Flexo Concepts has been able to retain a very young, dynamic, driven group of employees who are deeply engaged.
Transforming What: Blacksmith is the first AI-powered software that makes manufacturing machines “self-aware” so they can automatically adjust programming to ensure every part is produced as designed. Blacksmith analyzes a design, compares it to the scanned part, and automatically adapts the end-to-end process to produce the perfect part. Blacksmith continually learns and adapts to variations in the process over the lifetime of your machine. This technology is a breakthrough advancement in smart factories and the first example of “adaptive manufacturing,” which will help reduce the cost of production, accelerate time to market, and reshape the industry as we know it.
How Technology is Used: Blacksmith takes the inspection and manufacturing technology the world already knows and closes the process loop to repeatedly and reliably produce the perfect part the first time, every time. The first of its kind AI solution continues to grow and learn with every part printed across the fleet of machines. This means that Blacksmith learns at the speed of global production and users continuously benefit from its improved knowledge. Markforged brings this powerful AI solution to 3D printing first but its technology will expand to additional manufacturing equipment. The software allows physical equipment to rewrite its own code, which enables the technology to improve upon itself.
Why it Matters: With this software, Markforged has enabled a new form of manufacturing known as “adaptive manufacturing.” With the help of AI, a machine can know what it’s doing, and the capabilities it holds, at any moment. Adaptive Manufacturing closes the loop on manufacturing and brings companies a wide range of benefits. When businesses get the part they designed for on the first try, they reduce waste and increase yields, and Blacksmith’s AI is a powerful additive expert so the learning curve for employees is very short. Businesses save time from designing their part to final inspection, because they don’t have to go through many iterations to perfect their part. Ultimately, all of these benefits lead to improved profitability for businesses.
Transforming What: Merrow Manufacturing is comprised of Merrow Sewing, the 180 year old manufacturer of sewing machines; Merrow MFG designing, developing and producing soft goods; and Merrow Incubator investments in arts & entrepreneurship. The continued investment in technology updating the 6 acre campus will result in energy efficient manufacturing, employee services, open spaces and large format art exhibition spaces.
Merrow currently employs about 200 employees. Our goal is build a model of manufacturing efficiency for the development and production of instrumented soft goods and the equipment to manufacture them.
How Technology is Used: Among the many technologies deployed, Merrow leverages state of the art MRP & ERP, the Force.com platform, real time shop floor technology, a variety of open source systems, and artificial intelligence to scale and create strategic advantages. Artificial Intelligence creating real business value has been a focus for Merrow in 2019. The company is leveraging AI systems in all facets of its business and expects to evolve technical systems to further leverage the opportunities with AI.
Why it Matters: Over two years impact at Merrow Manufacturing can be measured in improvements in efficiency of production (22%), faster delivery times and employee retention. Merrow has grown its force 180% over two years, decreased lead times by 30% and improved lot quality.
Transforming What: Nye offers approximately 1000 lubricant formulations with product lines that consist of fully synthetic, high performing, specialty or custom formulated oils, greases, and gels. These products enable some of the most demanding applications used in a wide variety of industries, including the Automotive, Aerospace, Defense, Medical, and Semiconductor Equipment markets.
How Technology is Used: For our most technical products, Nye uses Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) technology which uses sensors within our kettles to track key mixing process data such as temperature, pressure, motor RPM, vibration, etc. This data is then reported to an online dashboard where technicians can track the progress of various batches and receive alerts when process abnormalities occur.
This IIOT technology has helped us improve our first pass yield and lead times and is also helping Nye’s management focus on data-driven decision making. The data has been able to show discrepancies between practice and procedures, trends in process times, machine overall equipment effectiveness, and has been able to help engineers focus on opportunities for improvement.
Additionally, Nye trained staff in depth on LEAN principles, with operators leading teams on the manufacturing floor. The LEAN philosophy has inspired many of our technological advancements, including the implementation of new processes for packaging, small-batch manufacturing and raw material storage.
Why it Matters: Production and inventory can be challenging when you are dealing with a high-mix and low-volume product portfolio. Despite these challenges, Nye has been able to: increase on-time delivery to 99%, improve inventory turns by 35%, reduce the amount of total capital that is tied up in inventory, optimize batch sizes and reduce manufacturing variance to less than 2%.
Transforming What: Vecna Robotics created Pivot.al, the world’s first AI-based orchestration agent, which directs and redistributes work among resources based on the capabilities, location, and availability. It’s Lyft’s carpooling algorithm for material goods, but instead of cars, it is self-driving vehicles, humans, and other automation systems. Pivot.al coordinates and distributes real-time tasks based on capabilities, location, availability. It also helps organizations navigate both everyday challenges and unforeseen events by putting each human and robot in the best position for maximum productivity.
How Technology is Used: Pivot.al’s technology is so advanced that it can dynamically map value streams to prevent future challenges and capitalize on current operational trends and tailors solutions to meet a business’s exact needs through performance testing and adjusting workflows to efficiently run through seasonal, market, and operational changes. This technology comes standard in all of Vecna Robotics’ fleet of self-driving vehicles. Pivot.al ultimately creates a more transparent operation by sharing information across people, robots, and associated systems with intuitive user interfaces.
Why it Matters: Many robotics providers today just drop robots into customer sites ready to automate one step of the process and fail to consider the entire workflow or take into consideration the roles of other players, such as human workers and stationary machines. Vecna Robotics understands long-term productivity gains come from refining the entire material handling workflow – which involves humans, robots, and other AI resources. The logistics market is set to grow to $12.5 billion by 2022. This growth is affecting the way logistics operations are managed. It is imperative that autonomous solutions stay relevant and adapt to meet new and fluctuating business requirements brought on by the Amazon effect.