Matrix Technologies, Maumee, Ohio, is System Integrator of the Year, 2020
Managing large, successful integration projects for its clients is a primary focus of Matrix Technologies Inc. The company is helping manufacturers navigate their journeys into the digital transformation and beyond. Dave Blaida, president and CEO of Matrix Technologies Inc., discussed his company’s approach in an interview with CFE Media:
CFE Media: Congratulations on receiving the 2020 System Integrator of the Year award. Talk about what this kind of recognition means to you and your team.
Dave Blaida: This award is confirmation that all the hard work we put into building a strong and sustainable service organization is paying off. We spend a great deal of time focusing on building an environment where our employees can have a long-term career, and our customers can have a long-term partner. So, awards like this confirm we are doing the right things.
CFE Media: What types of projects are your clients asking for? What are their goals and expectations?
Blaida: The client requirements are quite diverse. Our closest partners look to us to simply “take care” of their daily needs, executing projects on an ongoing basis, following the time-tested procedures and methodologies we have put in place. For others who make fewer annual investments, they trust us to be stewards of their capital dollars and trust us to spend them in ways that are most efficient and garner the best return on their investment.
CFE Media: What do customers want to accomplish with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)? How do you assess their IIoT maturity and how can you help them toward a successful implementation?
Blaida: Our experience thus far with IIoT shows that customers have a wide range of understanding and definition of what IIoT means to them, and what it will do for them. From operational improvements, to preventive maintenance, to broader data collection needs, the goals vary from customer to customer.
IIoT maturity starts with a discussion around their goals with implementing a system, so we can be sure that what they want to accomplish is truly possible. Immediately following that, the first step is to perform an assessment of their infrastructure to ensure that the existing systems can support their goals. Often, a lot of work is needed on the infrastructure first.
Successful implementation requires a clear vision of the end goal. As Stephen Covey said, “Begin with the end in mind.” This is especially true in implementing any IIoT system. You need to have clear goals and requirements established so that decisions made during the design process can align with those goals.
CFE Media: How are you working with your clients to move forward in their journey toward digital transformation? How engaged are they on this journey?
Blaida: The engagement in this journey varies widely and is greatly driven the level of engagement of leadership. The digital transformation really starts at the top of an organization that recognizes what the long-term benefits will be from installing such a system. The benefits don’t often appear overnight, so it takes some vision to understand there is a fair amount of investment up front to ensure success at some later date.
We are helping our clients in this journey by asking them to slow down and think about the future first, establishing clear goals and requirements for the system before they dive headlong into implementation.
CFE Media: In your opinion, what is the role of the system integrator in the digital transformation?
Blaida: As stated earlier, our role is to bring discipline and proper methodology to the implementation of these systems. You must have clear requirements and a solid foundation to ensure success. Diving in too quickly or being wowed by the latest sales pitch often can result in a system that is less than adequate and will require rework or replacement sooner than it should, or worse yet, is a complete failure, which is never a good result.
CFE Media: Describe how Matrix Technologies goes about forming engineering partnerships with its customers. What are the benefits of these engineering partnerships to the customer? How does Matrix Technologies benefit from these partnerships?
Blaida: Our partnerships are the result of a very deliberate approach to managing the customer relationship and building trust. There are some basic steps/elements that go into the process:
- It often starts with just a few small projects to establish a working relationship and begin to learn the requirements of working together.
- We strive to understand the customer requirements and standards, to ensure our deliverables match their expectations.
- Consistent teams or customer representatives are the liaison between Matrix and the customer. These people are key to forming and strengthening the relationship and building the trust we need to be successful.
- Once the above is established, we contribute to the growth of the relationship by bringing our best practices, industry and technology knowledge, and a dedicated team to the relationship. That consistency and clear understanding of the customer is what leads to the long-term success.
Our customers benefit because they know and trust that our teams will be good stewards of their capital dollars. Each project will be handled in a consistent and repeatable manner. As the teams become more efficient in their work, we save the customer time and money in the lack of a bidding process, and in the fact that re-use and efficiency begin to take hold as well. We save them a lot of time and ensure that higher quality will result as well.
Matrix benefits because our overall sales costs are lower. Since we are not constantly establishing new relationships for just one or two projects, but rather can focus on the partnership and a constant stream of new business. We can dedicate teams of engineers to a customer or process, and we become more efficient, allowing us to do more work with fewer people.
CFE Media: There is an increased emphasis on designing safety into control systems. Why is this an important trend, and where are your customers on that journey? Is cybersecurity being integrated into safety discussions and, if so, how?
Blaida: Safety of personnel and equipment should be a focus for anyone involved in the industrial marketplace. There are a lot of dangerous processes and equipment we work around every day, so personnel safety is always a focus. Most of our customers have environmental, health and safety (EHS) personnel focused on safety every day, and they are key to the projects we are executing.
Cybersecurity is an important topic, as well, but is more focused today on process integrity and operational uptime than safety. There is certainly an element of safety that should be baked into any cybersecurity evaluation, but the focus is more on keeping the facility running and avoiding downtime caused by cyber breaches. The best way to ensure the safety of systems that might be vulnerable to attack from the outside is to keep those systems isolated from the internet wherever possible.
CFE Media: Talk about a recent customer success. What were some of the things you learned in success with the customer?
Blaida: We are fortunate to have many satisfied customers and to be able to complete many successful projects. However, when we can truly help a customer bring their ideas and goals to fruition, I think we are the proudest. Sometimes these aren’t even big or complex projects. A recent example would be helping guide a manufacturer through its digital transformation journey. The company originally reached out for a manufacturing execution system (MES) solution.
However, as we began the conversation, it was clear that their goals and strategy were not aligned. We helped them understand that data is only data unless it is actionable. For it to be actionable, we needed to tie it to business drivers and key performance indicators (KPIs) and then it becomes information. Starting at the shop floor and building an infrastructure to support and collect the data had not been part of the plan. Instead of just bidding a software project, we put on the brakes, consulted using our industry knowledge and experience and helped them develop some smaller projects to support their overall digital transformation journey and keep them on the track to success.