This presentation was originally delivered during the IoT Integrator Summit on Securing Edge Computing, which took place from July 14-16, 2020.
You can view the full event summary and as well as access additional sessions from the IoT Integrator Summit here.
Going fully remote may seem like an option for only a handful of industries. In actuality, there are many ways that companies across all kinds of industries can go fully remote. Benjamin Wald, founder of Very and the Head of Client Strategy, discusses the remote future of manufacturing and industrial IoT. Through rigorous security measures and the implementation of digital tools, companies in just about any industry can become remote.
Watch the video or peruse the notes from the session below.
Manufacturing and IoT remote work
There are so many benefits to remote work setups. One of the most notable benefits is that you get to hire employees without geographic consideration. There is superior availability of applications when you aren’t limited to location. Employers can choose from the cream of the crop, not just the talent within driving distance.
Another benefit is that you are allowing employees to choose the office setup that works best for them. A traditional office isn’t for everyone. Some prefer to work outside or in a coffee shop. Remote work gives employees the freedom to choose their work space, which in turn increases productivity.
Benjamin discusses how his team designed Very as a remote-first company. This meant that from the moment of conception, Very was meant to operate remotely. Benjamin and his team had to conceptualize ways to bring office culture to the home office. Through an investment in home network security and digital office tools, Very was able to foster a flourishing and productive remote office culture.
Remote work security and industry needs
There are, of course, some positions that just cannot go remote. As you consider moving your office to a remote platform, ask yourself if there are any positions within your company that cannot function remotely. Security concerns often go hand-in-hand with this question. Maybe you want to move to a remote office space but your company handles sensitive data or you are worried about employee home networks. You’re not the only one who has these reservations.
Here are some common concerns about remote work:
- Personal device usage
- Wifi connections and home network
- Eavesdropping or man-in-the middle attacks
- Sensitive data and regulations
Here are some steps that you can take to combat these concerns:
- Two-factor authentication
- Anti-virus software
- Taking care with remote desktops
- Data at rest encryption
- Use a password manager the right way
- Data loss prevention tactics
Remote implementations for manufacturing and IoT
Even if you don’t have your entire manufacturing or industrial IoT company on a remote platform, there are some ways to start implementing these important digital tools:
- Predictive maintenance: if you can lean on your data instead of on tribal knowledge, you are going to have long-term advantages. Make sense of the sea of data and start to utilize machine learning techniques, pattern recognition and anomaly detection.
- End of line testing: there are all kinds of tools and devices that can help optimize testing. One of these is a device that you load testing parameters onto and ship to the manufacturer. Now you can remotely see how your product or device is testing.
- Systems integration: build bridges between systems and equipment for better interoperability. You can reach a new level of manufacturing when you take the time to do this. One of the benefits of systems integration is the opportunity to reduce waste by making the equipment work together.
- OTA Firmware Updates: use a framework that can optimize OTA firmware updates. Nerves is a great example of a tool that allows you to remotely patch equipment with OTA updates.
- Digitizing: if you ditch pen and paper scrap reports, you may find revenue in the process. Once you start digging through the data, you may stumble on intellectual property. Or, by connecting to machines after they’ve deployed to customers, you may find an opportunity for service revenue.
Making it work
The first step to making remote work operate for you is to choose a few critical tools. For example, you may choose Slack and Google Docs as your main tools. Do your best to choose platforms, like the prior examples, that encourage communication and collaboration. These types of tools give you better capabilities than email alone.
The second step is to evaluate your current office tools. For example, your engineers or software designers may be using whiteboards as their main tool to plan and design. Maybe you still use printouts in your office to share information. These are the kinds of tools that you need to reevaluate and consider replacing with a digital solution.
The third and last step is to make investments. It’s truly up to the company to make remote work great. For example, you can use Volterra where your engineers can make print boards and prototype boards. Other platforms such as Holacracy or GetGuru can help you organize employee responsibilities or easily update company policies and values.
Investing in platforms like these make a huge difference in the workplace. Unfortunately, Google Docs and Slack alone won’t cut it for every business. You have to put money into a remote workplace just as you would into a physical office space. At Very, we purchase laptops for our employees and give them stipends to implement secure home networks. These kinds of investments ensure that a workforce is secure and employees are enabled to do their best work.
Keep it working
There are three things that you need to foster a long-term remote workplace: culture, transparency and a virtual watercooler. Let’s break it down:
Culture: the culture of a company needs to evolve to fully embrace remote work. Very has a Remote Commission that focuses on making remote work better for employees. You could implement this practice or find other ways to transform your work culture.
Transparency: when it comes to transparency, there is only zero or one hundred. To increase your transparency you should think about the things that are usually hidden from employees. At Very, they use something called Open Salary that modifies salaries based on cost of living, work responsibilities and other factors unique to each individual. All of Very’s financials are also available to every employee. These implementations allow employees to see their hard work come to fruition.
Virtual watercooler: it’s important that you transition “watercooler talk” to a remote platform. You could host virtual game nights or create workplace clubs to do this. If you are really unsure how to implement a virtual watercooler, ask your employees what they would like!
Q & A from listeners
Benjamin Wald answers questions directly from the listeners.
How well do digital tools scale?
There are some things that we tried that have not scaled well. The core tools (Slack, Google Drive, Google Docs, Zoom) scale perfectly fine. The larger your company is, the more you may have to shop around for other tools that work for you.
What do you think of audio-only policies on video calls?
Telling your employees that keeping your video on during a video call is distracting will send them running back to the office. It may take some extra work, but doing audio-only calls really puts a damper on effective communication.
Do you ever find that remote work slows engineers and developers down?
As a software engineering firm, I felt that we were especially enabled to go remote. You can make it work universally across just about every discipline. One of the things that you can do with software engineering is measure the metrics. Our quality of software coding has actually improved because of this.
What do you see as the biggest security risk of your current setup?
We’ve tackled a bunch of the low-hanging fruit of software security. As we work on this issue with other companies, I am starting to see how vulnerable home networks are. When people are putting more and more devices onto a home network it can become really dangerous. Make sure that you provide your employees with a second home network that they can use for work to combat this risk.
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As a Co-Founder at Very and having been involved in over 250 product launches in the last 8 years, Ben leads a team of over 50 full-time engineers, designers and data scientists that work with clients to understand challenges they’re facing and build custom software-driven solutions. Ben believes that attracting and retaining top-tier talent is a key differentiator, which is why he champions reinvesting profits into employee benefits and cultural experiments. Ben has also led the investment and development of several ventures that have spun out of Very like ReadyCart, which went on to raise additional capital and was acquired by Grapevine Inc in 2017.
Before founding Very in 2011, Ben served as the executive director at Ashoka Changemakers, where he spearheaded the software development of a suite of products to connect social entrepreneurs with global resources. Ben continues to pursue his passion for social impact by serving as a judge for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ annual Innovation Showcase (ISHOW), a global competition for hardware-led social innovation.
During Ben’s early career, he co-founded two successful startups. Ben dropped out of Babson College to pursue his first endeavor — an online education software company that secured more than $5+ million in seed capital, was later acquired by eCampus, and resulted in Ben being named as one of Businessweek's Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs. He also co-founded LookSharp, which secured $10+ in venture financing and was acquired by WayUp in 2017.
Very is a fully-distributed IoT engineering firm, partnering with our clients to build systems for smart manufacturing, smart energy & utilities, consumer electronics, and connected wellness.
Our clients come to us for answers to their thorniest questions. What we bring to the table is a world-class product team ready to deliver end-to-end IoT solutions.
Focused on speed, efficiency, and scalability, our product teams de-risk your IoT projects. Our partnerships are built on mutual trust, agile workflows, and easy communication. This makes it possible to deliver cutting edge tech to meet your most pressing challenges. Learn more at verypossible.com.