Innovation Nation
Innovation Nation

Episode · 1 year ago

3 Spaces for Innovation in Manufacturing w/ Jeff Wurzbach

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The velocity of innovation has ramped up in the manufacturing space. Today’s guest explains why. 

In this episode, I interview Jeff Wurzbach, Founder and Engineer at Wurzbach Electronics, about 3 spaces for innovation in manufacturing. 

What we talked about:  

  • Software management techniques don’t go down well with hardware 
  • Distributed manufacturing has embraced innovation and creativity 
  • A plug for more vertical integration 
  • Innovation isn’t a step function but a continuous function  

To stay connected with Innovation Nation, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or our website.

Innovation is all around us. In fact, everyone innovates, often unbeknowntes to themselves. Many mistakenly assume the innovation is either a big capital project, a figurative bolt of lightning that brings inspiration, or the province of some exceptionally gifted person. This is the myth of innovation. But you can innovate as well. You are listening to innovation nation, the podcast where top executives and industry experts are sharing their insights on harnessing the power of innovation. We're here to help you stay ahead of the curve by driving your own innovation. Here's your host, Jasmine Martyr Rosen. Hi Everyone, I'm happy to welcome Jeff Quartz back to our podcast today. Jeff is joining us from California. He runs works Bok Electronics, advising some of the world's biggest manufacturers on how to innovate, and he describes himself as a stage manager behind the scenes if you don't often see the work that's being done. But if he stops the work, the music on the stage will stop. So with that, Jeff, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me. So tell me a little bit more about this work that you're doing with manufacturers around the world, like how does it detail? Innovation? What does it involves? A lot of things that are going on right now in manufacture. We're seeing so to this industry. Four Point, oh, and and and what I'll called buzzword compliance things going on. And we're companies have previously had paper driven processes or manual manually driven processes. You should be switched over to automated process or. We have a lot of situations where companies are switching from we buy a big card of parts from, you know, McMaster, car, Amazon, it distributors like cdw, so on and so forth, and they're now consolidating that down into a into their own custom piece of hardware, so like a customized circuit...

...board. So it's a mix of packaging, it's a mix of processes, it's a mix of making sure that products are being tested when they go off the line so that the customers getting good quality product. It's making sure that product goes into when it goes into Amazon or it goes into best buy or goes into distribution, basically that it has all the appropriate documentation and and certifications and compliance records with it so that it's a seamless transition for sales. So you know when sales goes out and makes a deal and you know gets a customer assign on the line. Now Manufacturing, logistics, engineering and the software engineering teams are all able to push successfully push that integrated product out to this this new customer. Thank you. So over the past couple of decades in particular, software has been evolving in an innovating with lightning speed. Yeah, it's hardware kept up with that. It has to a degree. A lot of software management techniques are based around sort of these very, very short, and you know, integration and test and design cycles. This is where you see your scrums and your leans and your agile movements. Hardware has tried to adopt those as best it can. I've seen cases where companies have successfully adopted everything and I've seen cases where companies have failed to adopt okay, and can you share some examples with this? Sure. So I worked for some autonomous vehicle manufacturers. Is Primary Industry at work in we've seen cases, or I've seen cases, where you know these companies will bring in a bunch of venture capital money and then the management that comes with that is oriented and trained for software systems, software, you know, specifically APPs, software to service things of that nature, and they will start to try to push sort of a one week at racition cycle in hardware land and that that turns into a very extensive, very quick way to burn out a lot of really good talent,...

...because you basically to build a circuit board, for example, you've got minimum process times due just to straight chemical etching process, of like twenty four hours by the time everything's summed up and totaled. And so by the time you add in your Fedex time, your basic process time, you're back and forth with the sales engineers to get all the specs dialed in so that they can build the correct specifications. Your two days, you know, right there. Then it's got to go through SMT assembly. That's another day, day and a half. So right there you only have one day to do a design. Well, if you take just a basic, very simple micro controller would be found in like an engine control unit, for example, and you run that on a compact package like an PGA, just doing the routing, the circuit board routing on that's going to take a day or two for that particular part and block to get that done right set upright. So on smarre. So you end up with minimum design times of like two weeks, you know, and then you end up with a manufacturing time of two weeks. You up with this about four week cycle and there's a lot of software people that find that. Are Not soccer people, but it's management folks who want to drive that down to one week because that's what all the literature they've been been reading says you should be doing. But then you hit the realities of Hey, this is the tact time in the land of making real things and not not producing a product that's based on bits interesting. I can see where people would be challenged and initially thinking of that Rus Because Development Day's development. Yeah, and there's also a lot of issues where you you look at something and it looks simple on the onset, when you get down into actually implementation, it's turns out to be a ridiculously complex problem and you'll see a schedule estament go from, say, two weeks to two months to twenty four months, and that's not on common to see an especially in advanced hardware design. Well, isn't it a true is and that if things appear to be too easy, they probably are not. Yeah, then there are days where you're like...

...this is going to be really hard and then you open up the softwaing like Oh hey, the last guy that worked on this left a whole bunch of extra space here and boom it's done. So yeah, there's so there's all sorts of variability and hard word design, especially if you're in a contractor based economy or you have a lot of, you know, freelancers coming in and just doing specific sections of a project, and then we have to put all that together, you end up with some some challenges, a lot of times with integration of those those piece parts or pieces of design work. So it's covid becoming a reality and actually affecting the entire planet. Have you seen any shifts in innovation you approaches? Anything inspirational out of the box? I've seen a lot of adoption of distributed manufacturing. So we saw this with the face shield three printing of face shields. You had guys that are, you know, they run a D printing sort of a hobby business, if you will, dprinting. I don't know, brackets to hold a plug on the bottom of your car so that you can plug in your winch in the front of the back. This is random. Example, guy on Australian etc. Sells those that guy can retool in like twenty minutes to start building components for face masks or components for some of these open source ventilators. I think the interesting thing, you know, from a point of view of an organization like TV and and and similar, is what happens when medical devices become open source to have to be manufactured extremely fast. How do you sort of do that wartime production style ramp of producing a highly regulated medical device? And at what point do we say, okay, the the probability this is going to hurt someone is, you know, significantly lower than the probability that, you know, people will die for lack of a ventilator, for example. Then you also saw a lot of the the other thing that I thought was quite interesting. You saw the repurposing things like snorkel masks, like this full mask, snarkeles. MMM. They People D printed adapters to make those works so you could...

...split a ventilator to serve two patients at once, and I thought those are some of the really interesting things that we saw as a result of the pandemic. I think the shock to supply lines as passenger air travel was stopped. You know, at the end of the day, passenger are travel really is a significant contributor to freight volume. For Air Freight. I mean I had air freights going we were going up into the two to four times normal pricing for, you know, a small, you know, non rigid parcel like just a pouch of wire harnesses being shipped from Hong Kong to the US. You know, is paying a hundred dollars to that. That was a thirty to fifty dollar shipment previously. So there are huge surges in in costs on manufacturing, you know. And and also you saw as blocks of the world shutdown. The interesting one that I saw was in China. Those shuts down to do it's it's pandemic controls. China reopens, the US Shuts Down and then as I'm trying to get material in to the US from, you know, the various suppliers that are that are scattered around China, Koreas on and so forth, now all of a sudden the manufacturing shops here are having trouble getting material from, you know, the port of entry to their floor because Fedex UPS Postal Service Amazon. So logistics. All those all these shops are completely overwhelmed with people who used to do their daily shopping and, you know, weekly grocery run by getting in a car and going to the supermarket. Now they're being told Thou shall buy from an APP or buy from the Internet and, you know, have that delivered, and that put a very interesting amount of strain on the logistic systems that we have. You also saw a lot of sailings getting blanked because the container ships were turning out to be another reports of container ship crews basically being spreaders. I thought that was quite entertaining...

...and then magically it seemed to have disappeared. Because the container I imported about two months ago got here and I think it shipped on the nineteen of June and I think I took possession of the items in the container no later than the I get took the possession of the like the tenth of July, and that included all customs both ends going out and coming in, and and transport by ship and all the truck logistics on each end to get it to port. So there's a lot of weird stuff. I saw with the logistics. There was a guy on on Reddit, who had a really good supply chain newsletter that he would post almost daily, used from the UK, and that really helped me with a lot of the businesses I was working with plan ahead and be ready to say, okay, we need to order this now and we need to plan for schedule slip here, here and here, and that that, I think, really was was critical as knowing that you're going to have schedule slipping in places. So the pandemic definitely through a lot of wrenches in the works and I think it's also created a lot of interesting opportunities and challenges for, you know, the regulatory world. And then, on top of that, I think the the pandemic also is going to effectively cleared out a lot of dead wood, if you will, from the trees of business and now that that dead wood is clear, the resources that were being used to support that dead wood, you know as a metaphor, are going to be freed up and I think we're going to see a lot of small businesses appear out of the pandemic in manufacturing and Boutique and niche markets, and I think that that's going to be ultimately a very long term that positive from these situation you know, and whenever want to see. You know, hundreds of thousands of people fall ill and you know, a substantial fraction to them perish from this. But on the other hand, it did give impetus full or a lot of things to change very, very quickly, because it was literally do or die. So I think it's kind of the pandemic has turned into...

...this mixed bag of mixed results and outcomes, and I think navigating that in real time it's been a real challenge for not just in the engineering community but also for they'll just supply chain, community regulators, customs saw on and so forth. Any way, it's the biggest social engineering experiment imposed on humanity. Yeah, and we have to do it live right, navigating in real time, you said, at best. So you have a very unique vantage point in that you see innovation across many different organizations, across working with different manufacturers. What is one thing that you thing is very often overlooked or that people could consistently improve and get more mileage out of your observations? Think one of the things that I've seen a lot of lately and that I've been trying to implement in my own practice as vertical integration. You know, we have a lot of this idea of outsourcing, has been phenomenally beneficial for for, you know, the financial world, to do to businesses. And when I look at that situation I see things a little bit differently in that I'm watching when, when, when I worked in the company where we did outsource our production line and we we outsourced it in that we had a subsidiary in Mexico go and we were in San Diego. We went from being able to get a circuit board, you know, the physical printed card docks at are our shop at nine am on a Monday morning and I have a circuit board on my desk for test evaluation to bring up by four PM Monday to the Circuit Board arrives on Monday and I might get that board for test and evaluation next Monday. So I think vertical integration and having your engineers near the prototyping supplies or your engineers on the manufacturing in the same facility as the manufacturing world, I think will become increasingly more and more important, because what I'm seeing is the...

...economy is becoming the business to business economy is becoming a little bit less tolerant of schedule slip and they're a lot more tolerant of budget slip. And so I think things like vertical integration in housing of certain critical manufacturing operations, I think these things are going to going to be trends in the next few years. I think also you're going to see companies starting to bring in prescan operations. I think we're going to see ten cells and spectrum analyzers come in engineering operations that you wouldn't have seen them in previously because, you know, post pandemic, if we were going to see a plethora of additional manufacturing businesses come out of this, those products are going to have to go through product safety valuation, EMC, so on and so forth, and those things are going to put strain on the existing resources of labs and and expanding a ten building a second ten meter Semiana coach Chamber is not a simple task. You know, there's a real estate problem, there's permitting problems, so on and so forth. So it's something where, you know, ten cells can be scaled up very, very quickly, and so I see some some interesting opportunities for you know, on site testing to be done or you know testing, you know, packages to be put on site for companies to perform all the pre scans before they go to formal test. This is just within the scope of like a you know, compliance valuation. Within the scope of prototype and manufacturing. I think we're going to see, you know, SMT lines being brought into into house again. I think we're going to see light machining operations. I don't think we're going to see like finished molds being necessarily brought in house, but I think, you know, prototyping molds or being able to machine the equivalent park that would come out of the mold being brought in house, especially as the cost of five actss and sea machines are going to come down. I mean you have on the low end, you've got the pocket and see which like. I think it's less than to significantly less than tenzero and five access machine tool on your desk. Done and Hass and other big C...

...and C manufacturers. I think you're going to bring, you know, bigger but still significantly lower cost than than we've seen over the last fifteen years five access tools to bear and I think a lot of businesses are going to take that and bring bring certain operations in the prototyping world in house. So you're seeing a trend towards insourcing going forwards? Yeah, I think. I think part of the the reasoning for that is I can tell someone who works for me as a w two employee to do overtime more easily than I can convince a vendor to tell their staff to do overtime, and I think that that will be one of the largest drivers of it. That goes back to this sensitivity to schedule and desensitization to cost. Also, with automated tools, the amount of human babysitting that needs to be done, of like having a person standing in front of the machine, is is going to drop dramatically over the next five to ten years. I think machine tending robots are are really going to help drive that. You also have to have, yeah, I think you're still going to have to have programmers. Still going to have to have, you know, really really skilled machinists coming out who can, you know, set the machine up, but the the standing there and, you know, pushing the foot pedal to open and close the chuck, you know, and pick the fifty pound blank and put it in the lathe. That's all going to be replaced by some form of robotics, I think in the very, not too distant future. And I think the other interesting thing that you kind of see for that is you go watch youtube and you can see guys like Titan Titan, Gilroy, John Saunders, the these guys that are really making a public push to discuss making things, and I think that's breaking down this barrier, this this sort of nebulous barrier to well, making things is hard. Well, it is hard, but it's an achievable goal and if you can make it in house, you own all that expertise and it makes it that much harder for a competitor to go use some of these tools that are now coming out. So there's a tool called import yettie that makes a...

...very easy way to search import records. So now if you've developed a relationship with a supplier in another country to do the machining for you, now your competitors can see that very easily and so I think that's going to push some of the insourcing. You know, will raw material still be outsource, you like, to a steel mill? Yeah, you know, I'm still going to buy plate steel from from a steel mill, but I'll do the machining and house, for example, that's a very interesting competitive advantage, you know, having visibility into others supply chains. Yeah, and that this guy's the guy who's making import Yettie has discussed the challenges for that and basically it's it's you can get the information from the government as a DVD and it's a very, very ugly data set and he's spent the effort during the pandemic to clean that data set up and make it available to other people and it's it's quite fun to search and see where products come from. And I think one of the other outcomes of the pandemic is people are going to become a lot more aware of supply chain and I think, a lot more aware of who your tier, tier two, tier three, tier four and tier five suppliers are. And the first kind of warning shot, I guess that that I saw professionally of this was the floods and Malaysia. About was that two thousand and tennish and that took out hard drive manufacturing and now we have the same thing. But Hey, we can't get circuit boards. You know, are freighted in from from China, Hong Kong, Korea, you know, with the same ease that we were, you know, six months ago or even even a year ago. Now, Jeez, it's it's already September, it's almost October. Sears gone by quite quite slowly, but quick quickly too. So yeah, I think the ensourcing thing is really, really going to be quite quite interesting to watch and I think it's going to bring some very unique challenges to the world. Also think that quality management systems where you're going to see...

...like is nine thousand one, but not a credited, registered dile so nine thousand and one. It's we took the paperwork and procedures for us, so nine thousand and we use those to build our own version of it, but we're not big enough to support going through a full like accredited, you know certification effort of to Isa nine thousand one or or similar. So an you're going to be companies picking that up and I'm I'm really hopeful to see some companies come out with kind of guided and curated procedural, you know, templates for how to do x, Y and Z, and I'm really intrud interested to see how the sort of digital native generations are going to take Bosnine thousand and one procedural systems and convert those into systems that are very flexible and easy to use for people. You know, you go work in the defense industry, right and configuration management as an entire very powerful department, but eighty percent of the work they do is excel spreadsheets just tracking changes. That is a very easy candidate for automation in many respects and I think I'm excited to see where that goes because I think that will will show significant increases in in the velocity of innovation and the velocity of iteration, more importantly, for shops like defense, a defense contractors, large highly regulated manufacturing companies and like the medical device world, so on and so forth. So I think that'll be that will be another really interesting space to see. That's very fascinating. As Velocity of innovation, it's not a phrase on everybody's mind, but it definitely should be. The thing that I think we're when we look at the headlines today and we look at kind of a lot of the the pandemic measures, for example. So masks versus no masks. You know that that whole argument. You know, how can we can't just magic, you know, magic bullet pharmaceutical away the the this pandemic people don't normally see science and technology and engineering development in real time. They see it when the tech media says breakthrough,...

...thing will let breakthrough. Is really thousands of man hours, or thousands of person hours, I guess, is the correct way to say that. Nowadays, have been spent trudging through the wrong answers, HMM, and eliminating the wrong answers. But to the average person, you know, sitting at an airport, chewing for a flight, looking at the news on their phone, standing waiting for, you know, sweet for the gay agent to call your boarding group, boom it's you know, we've gone from fourteen nanometer lithography on on ships to seven animeter lithography. Never mind that that that took, what is it, a person century of work to accomplish, you know. And there's there's lots of people that that were very convinced a certain way would work and it didn't and there's many, you know, examples of this in history. But it's very easy to forget those things because of sort of survivorship by us. And now that were were in the middle of this pandemic, we're watching science happen in almost real time on CNN, on MSNBC, on Fox, on your news provider of choice, and I think that is something that the public has lost sight of and I think that that that's where this thing that the importance of innovation velocity comes from and the public sees, you know, innovation in this step function. But it's really a very smooth, continuous function. It brings to mind the famous Thomas Edison quote that I've succeeded in proving that those ten thousand ways will not work. When I have learnedd the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work. Usually, it's true, people only see the success. They don't see how many times you have to overcome the failure. Yeah, and that that you see that also in a lot of the entrepreneurial circles. It's, you know, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Jeff is us. So it's of for these big titans of industry. You know, following their path is not necessarily the correct path for you as an individual to follow, because they made it, but no one talks about the thousands of other people who did the same...

...thing and didn't make it. And so it just goes back to that. And there's another topic that comes up quite frequently in some of the entrepreneurial circles on social media, to your hddits, facebooks, on and so forth. And the idea of hard work for the purpose of hard work is meaningless. Hard work on the right things is meaningful and a certain degree. What is the right thing? This goes back to we need to find the ways that don't work so we can find, excuse me, find the way that does work. Yeah, that iteration, the constant incremental improvement. That kind of does not meet the it's kind of also like learning a foreign language, right, yeah, and it's something that you can forget very easily and it's just like you graduation requirement where I went engineering school was you need to have some foreign language. Okay, cool. There's actually a fun sidebar story with this that goes into sort of the human factors of innovation. I took Spanishes as the language of choice because I'm going to entering school in San Diego, I'm from San Diego, I love in southern California. It's the logical choice, right. So I take, you know, what is it? Spanish? One to Spanish for take the first three is summer school, and take the fourth block of the class in in normal, normal academic of the ball quarter and I graduated about seven or eight months after I took those courses. I buy like an idiot. Didn't do this, didn't do high school, you know, took language in high school and then took language in college. Had Big breaks between them in time and that's very poor decision on my part. But I get out into the professional working world and I'm working with company that is, you know, eighty percent of the manufacturing staff is Spanish. Is the first language or Spanish as a thing, as a language their family spoke. So they are all basically native level speakers of Spanish and English is kind of you know. They're either native level because they were taught that in school or it's their second language. And out of the pool of guys that were hired same time I was, I was the only one that had any sort...

...of Spanish language training. And there was a presenter who was brought in from one of the companies that supplies electrostatic discharged control things, so the floor waxes, the the smocks, the restracts, things of that nature, and he struggling through giving this presentation in English. I've gone through this similar presentation at a previous place I worked at as an intern, and I start translating the presentation on the fly when he starts struggling, and from that day on there's this respect that occurs on the production floor because of that. The other guys are are dealt with because the management said so, I'm dealt with because they want to talk to me. They believe that I've got their back and, you know, people, I think, need to have sight of that. Is especially if you're working in an environment where you have globally distributed manufacturing operations, which, even though I think we're going to see a lot of insourcing, I don't see outsourcing going down either. You know you're so you're going to have certain parts that come in, but you're still going to have a lot of vertical integration going on as well. So I think having foreign language skills for a lot of the young, you know, the younger crowd, is going to be especially important and I would you know, if I'm going to pick, I'm going to say Chinese and Spanish are the two primary languages that you would need to learn to be strong and manufacturing, especially for those interested in going into automotive. Maybe some French, depending on what region of Canada the company you want to work force in. Fascinating and indeed it, you know, shows what a small place the world is in. The more we can communicate clearly the better, and I'm sure that holds also for communicating the guidance on what we're trying to achieve right the even within manufacturing. Yeah, and I think the thing that engineering schools and and language learning programs within engineering that have a large percentage of engineering students going through them could do better with is teaching them the technical vernacular and in a foreign language. Yes,...

...there are a lot of English words in the technical trades that are just pulled in and adopted, but there's also a lot of words that don't translate very well into, say, Chinese from English that you need to have to be able to communicate tolerances, surface finishes, things of this nature, and I spent probably an hour and a half last night struggling with that, working with a representative from a Chinese manufacturer I've been working with, and finally I think I've got it to the point where they understand what I want and we won't know until the part shows up. Yeah, that would make major disruption. What if it's? And especially because that right, thank yep, especially because that part's going to come in in a full container load and it's going to be subject to a tariff. So you know that that container loads going to cost, probably just in logistics and terrafts, probably close to elevenzero dollars. And then on top of that I got to pay for contents of the the container as well. So it's it's it's a big risk. Customer I have that I'm working with is willing to take it. Will make it work. You know, it's not like steel welds differently in China than doesn't the US. Right, so I'm I'm thinking it's it's going to be quite interesting to see what what multilingual students coming into the engineering and manufacturing communities are going to be able to do. Well, Jeff, this has been absolutely fascinating. Is there anything that you wish I had asked to about innovation that I did not? I think some of the things in in innovation they're going to be quite interesting for especially from the scope and space that the TV and similar sort of certification organization are going to be interested in seeing. I think is going to be how contributing to innovation through the this idea that that product compliance is no longer cost center, but it's a part of the R and D process and it's part of the quality process, and I think there's there's a lot...

...of stuff that I've seen, certainly an in learning. You know, I started out doing product compliance work because I knew what the FCC was and I knew what mill four hundred and sixty one was, you know, and that all of a sudden made me the compliance and certification experts right out of engineering school. And I think there's a lot of things we're going to see going forward where there's going to be a lot more relationship with design and, you know, to and small organizations to work together to build a product from day dot, from the first prototype, that is designed for compliance as part of that larger design for quality, design for manufacturability, design for x type of movement. And I think people learning how to communicate with the world of regulation, with the world of design, with the world of sort of Voice of the customer world of industrial and product design. I think that'll be quite interesting to see how that all develops over the next five to ten years and would be interesting to see how that trickles down into the educate the demands placed in the education system for the training of engineers, technicians, designers things of this nature. Just to the classic example being the CE Mark shall be five millimeters tall using this font. There's a fixed minimum size for a CEE mark and I've had to explain this until I'm blue in the face with several designers. It's like, you cannot crowd the see mark out like you're trying to do. I know what you're trying to do, but the law is clear and if somebody takes a box cutter, opens up box of customs flips it over, now the companies got holding fees, relabeling fees, all sorts of rushed fees and all sorts of other just unnecessary expense because the label was done wrong in the factory. Yeah, and I think you know tolerance for that, especially with small businesses just starting up post pandemic that are making new products. They're not going to have the financials to taller that kind of stuff. That will literally bankrupt a company, and so I think there's going to be a...

...lot more people who are going to be working towards making sure that products are compliant or able to be made compliant from revision one or revision zero of the design. Well, thank you, Jeff. These were great insights. Really appreciate your joining our podcast and thank you. Were to continued conversation. Yep, awesome. Thanks for having me and have a great day. Thanks. You've been listening to innovation nation. For more, subscribe to the podcast in your favorite podcast player or connect with us on Linkedin. Thanks for listening.

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