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INSIGHTS 2016

MANNY ROMERO MANAGING DIRECTOR, WESTERMO DATA COMMUNICATIONS AUSTRALIA PTY LTD What do you see as the single biggest challenge facing your industry in the year ahead? For both end users and manufacturers the challenge is in adjusting to a new landscape. There are fewer greenfield and more brownfield projects, and smaller projects where ROI must be justified. For individuals in the supply chain, this is a challenge for sure! There is a whole generation of sales and marketing people that has never experienced a downturn. I refer to them as the ‘order-taker generation’. While we all believe and talk about change and the potential opportunities it can bring, the reality is that few organisations are truly ready to embrace change or are in a position to react quickly enough to take advantage of opportunities that arise.

What do you feel are the three most important things your customers are looking for in a supplier? Firstly, customers are looking to us to add more value — and this can mean different thing to different people. They will appreciate suppliers that take the initiative to propose innovative options that may have not got a look in during the boom times. Customers now have time to consider alternatives, particularly if they provide significant and measurable returns. Secondly, automation suppliers need to look at ‘solutions’ rather than ‘products’ even if at the end of the day you end up supplying a product. It’s about showing your customer you are interested in the big picture. Taking a helicopter view can open up previously unseen opportunities for both parties. This requires salespeople to look outside of their comfort zone and perhaps partner with complementary organisations so as to meet a broader part of a user’s needs. Finally, pricing is also very important. Showing flexibility or elasticity when it comes to price is going to play a larger role as end users deal with tighter budgets and the lower Australian dollar making imported technology more expensive.

What emerging trends or developing technologies may influence or change the way your industry sector will do business in 2016? Cybersecurity! There is now a loud and clear demand from the CEO level and down to automation professionals as to what risk mitigation strategies are in place regarding DCS or SCADA systems, and particularly for those in high-risk public utilities. Cybersecurity is, however, a complex area that impacts on many aspects of an organisation’s work practices. It is not just an IT responsibility and there is no silver bullet. What is particularly challenging for automation professionals is that they have to go up another steep learning curve. Vendors need to adapt and ensure they are educated and able to help their customers, not confuse them further or send them down a costly road. As a vendor of communications equipment we certainly find this to be both an opportunity and a challenge.

What are your customers demanding of you more today than five years ago, and how will you meet these requirements in 2016? Customers are now pre-armed, much better educated as to your product or service. By the time you are at a meeting there is a very different dynamic than only a few years ago. Often they may have more knowledge of your competitor than you do. Customers want us to be respectful of their most precious asset — their time! if you have something innovative or new — or something that will add real value and you can prove it — that’s great. But if it’s a ‘me too’ product or concept that is almost identical to what they are already using (or that they can source equivalently from five other vendors) you will struggle.

The uptake of emerging technologies such as cloud computing and Industry 4.0 has been slow. What are your thoughts on this? Industry 4.0 is often lumped together as being synonymous with the other increasingly popular concept: the Industrial Internet of Things. Industrial IoT is itself an offshoot of the much-hyped consumer IoT. Others regard the two as competing concepts — in reality they are complementary. The Industrial IoT is a wider landscape and the ecosystem is a much broader church, with players ranging from established industry behemoths to start-ups, covering both software and hardware. GE, Intel and Cisco for example are founding members of the Industrial Internet Consortium, one of the main industry bodies formed around this new paradigm. Why the slow uptake? Primarily the lack of a killer app — for example, the internet didn’t take off until the WWW came along. Lack of standardisation is another factor and related to the previous point. Interoperability is being addressed via API development. Concerns about cybersecurity are another major issue to be addressed.

Manny Romero is Managing Director at Westermo Data Communications Australia Pty Ltd, responsible for the ANZ region. After completing his Diploma in Electronics through a cadetship with OTC, his 30-year career has been in focused on the industrial arena: process automation, oil and gas, and industrial communications. He is Sydney based, with an international perspective gained from time spent in the UK, Italy and the USA. For the last decade he has been building up a successful business, pioneering the area of Industrial Ethernet.

INSIGHTS 2016 23

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