This podcast is sponsored by CDO Group, the industry leader providing a full range of construction and project management services. CDO Group has managed thousands of projects in all 50 states. Their group of experts provides systems, processes, and procedures to make sure that your projects turn over on time and on budget every single time. With over 24 years of experience, CDO Group is the industry's leader in construction management and general contracting services. To find them, go to cdogroup.com. Anthony Amunategui:Hi and welcome to the Future of Development podcast. My name's Anthony Amunategui, and I'm here to inspire people to find amazing careers in the construction development world. If you like our podcast, please make sure you hit the subscribe button down below. If you really like our podcast, make sure you hit the little bell. Hello and welcome to the Future Development podcast. I'm your host, Anthony Amunategui, and today I'm joined by the amazing Ginny Foster. Ginny is an electrical engineer and a market development manager at Neff Power. She holds several patents in both the United States and in Canada. She is a graduate of St. Louis University. Go Billikens. And she's also a graduate of Washington University. Go Bears. Her background in robotics is unparalleled. It is exciting to talk to her. I hope you guys enjoy this interview with her as well. With that, let's give a big, warm welcome to Ginny. Ginny, welcome to the show. And Ginny, welcome to the show. Glad to have you on today. It's a beautiful day out there. Tell me a little bit about some of the stuff you're working on. And before I get started on that, let's go backwards a little bit. How did you get into robots?Ginny Foster:Well, thank you for having me on the show and thank you for asking that question. My path to robots is probably a winding path. It's probably quite long, but I'll make it very short. But one of the starting points that I want to start with is, Anthony, there was a story that you mentioned the last time we spoke in which you discovered that you were really good at reading, and I just want to share that I have a very similar story. It took me a really long time to figure out that I was good at math, but once I figured it out, I flew. I selected engineering right out of high school and it was really fun to jump into it. But the math, the math kicked my butt and I ended up taking calculus one three times. And I mean, just the amount of resilience it takes to do that type of repetition is significant. But I really did not enjoy it at the time. Nobody enjoys repeating things over and over again just to get to a certain point. And that's why the book that I want to recommend really resonates with me and I brought my copy with me. It's Mindset by Carol Dweck. And the reason it resonates with me so much is because this book talks about the resilience necessary in order to maintain a growth mindset over time. If I could go back and talk to my student self, I would definitely try to convince myself to read this book before going through all the trials and tribulations of repeating classes. One of my degrees is in electrical engineering, and electrical engineering requires the highest level of math. I've gone through the whole range all the way up through linear algebra and differential equations. And I really got into engineering design. On the engineering design side, it takes exploring what exists and then adding something new to the world that is not already present. And you can actually find my name on several patents both awarded by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.Anthony Amunategui:That's awesome. Ginny Foster:Well, thank you. After I graduated, I really found the most joy in my career path as a sales engineer. I started as a sales engineer at a very famous foundry. It's an international foundry, and they're famous because they made the stainless steel castings for the Pentagon Memorial in Washington, DC. It was amazing to be on their team. It was amazing to have mentors who really held me to a high standard, and I'm so grateful to them because it was from there that I learned so much. My current role is at Neff Power. I'm the market development manager at Neff Power. We have an amazing team. We are super extraordinary focused on customer service and we love solving problems for our customers. We are an industrial automation and robotics distributor and we help our customers find the best solutions for their automated processes. We have a team of application and robotics engineers who love teaching how to use robotics.Anthony Amunategui:That's great. Once you find a passion, right, you find that spot where, like you were talking about when I figured out reading, and by the way, I've got the book. It's sitting by my nightstand. I haven't started that one yet because I've got one more in front of it, but it's literally sitting there and I keep looking at it like, I know that's Ginny's book that she hooked me up with and I love when someone gives me a great book because when I hear your passion for that book, it gets me excited. And if I could go back and talk to my younger self, I would just say, hey, stop wasting your time and all this other-- there's so many opportunities and new technology, new information, and reading was the path, the key to that path for me and finding that magic is amazing. As you got into the engineering and into the whole robotics world and being able to take your ability to communicate with the customer, right, and understand their needs and start to apply that out to the world, the customers can't understand technology, oftentimes. Look, our own people can't understand it. If we look inside some of our-- with our organization, that's one of the number one ways we get killed with growth is that people's inability to take on new technologies out of fear and not understanding and not be able to see it clearly and being able to humanize technology, it's a great skill. I mean, that's what makes you wonderful at the job and being able to hear their needs and understanding the technology and how to apply that, that makes it a really fun place. When you're looking at robotics for a customer, what's the keys to understanding implementing robotics or technology into a system?Ginny Foster:Well, we do have a set process that we follow in order to provide the absolute right application for our customers. But I really want to separate this answer out into two things. I want to first talk about the low hanging fruit. For everyone out there who thinks that they do have an application and they're ready for robotics, but they're not sure where to start, look for two things. These are your low-hanging fruits. You're going to look for repeatability, and you're also going to look for ergonomics. You're going to look for the tasks that are super repeatable, the ones that you'd perform over and over and over again the exact same way. And you're also going to look for the tasks where it involves a human being moving their joints the same way over and over again because we know that repeated motion over time does result in the ergonomic need for automation. The second part of this is I want to talk about the steps that we go through, that our robotic engineers walk through with our customers when our customers ask us to help them implement robotics. And the first thing that we do is say, okay, let's identify with you, what is the exact process that you want to automate? And believe it or not, it's in the identification of your problem and defining your problem, that's really where it becomes easy to suggest the right solutions, because once we've identified the problem, then we can say, okay, here's the design layout. Here is how a robot would fit within your exact solution. And then we perform a simulation. We actually let you see what it would look like in your manufacturing facility, on your floor, with your people involved, what it would look like if we just pressed play with a robot in place performing these tasks. And that incorporates a whole bunch of things. It incorporates reach analysis, correct cycle times, it incorporates end of arm tooling or EOAT. And also the design and specification of the payload. So robot cells, the more and more we can talk about robot cells, it gets more and more detailed. There's a lot of requirements in terms of safety. And we especially want to know how it is that you plan on having your team of people interact with the robot.Anthony Amunategui:Right. Because robots, they're not very touchy feely and they're not really aware that they perform an action, at least today. Their sequencing. Talk about that, because in order to have some spatial requirements, in order to have a robot, it's not something that you just take it and plug and play. You don't just roll the robot into the floor and all of a sudden start executing on something. It takes a lot of thought to make sure that that arm or that device is able to facilitate efficiencies.Ginny Foster:Right. Okay, I guess I can give an example of a building that I walked through recently. 10 years ago, it was a thought that, okay, robots will completely replace people, and we're going to have an entire factory full of robots, end to end. So therefore, we don't need to have room for people at all. And the way this building was built, in order to access even the individual production lines, you had to walk out the door of one side of the building, go all the way around the outside and come back in the other. There is no room for people in between the production lines. You couldn't maintain the production lines while they were in action. You had to shut the whole thing down, move one aside, squeeze in. There was hardly any room for people and there was definitely no room for robots and definitely no room for safe, collaborative robots. And I really want to talk about the difference between industrial and collaborative in a little bit. If you're a person considering a new building and you say, okay, I do want to incorporate robots into my new building structure, what should I be thinking about? And the requirements and specifications for robotic arms and for autonomous mobile robots are definitely unique. For robotic arms, you need to consider footings. If you're going to support extraordinarily large robotic arms, you need to think about not just the force applied at the base of the robot by the weight or the mass of the robot arm, but you also need to think about the torque, and this is the torque at full payload, full reach, and full velocity. That's a significant amount of torque. The next thing is, if you're going to consider autonomous mobile robots or AMRs. This is truly a cutting edge technology and it involves artificial intelligence, advanced machine vision, and human collaborative robot capabilities. Autonomous mobile robots, they really require several things. They require excellent Wi-Fi signal in order for them to execute their real-time navigation. They need to have automatic doors. We actually recently built a new building in which we realized we needed to have a little bit wider hallway and we needed to have an automatic door that would not impede the path of the AMR as it traveled through our warehouse into our office facility. And then you also need to make sure you have extremely smooth and level floors, very small floor gaps, very low thresholds.Anthony Amunategui:No, that's great. I mean, they're extremely-- I mean, just being able to be off by a crack in the expansion joint, just the smallest little detail can throw off a mobile bot on a floor. So talk a little bit about that. Some of the specification and why that's so critical, what happens? Ginny Foster:Yes. It's critical because of the advanced machine vision technology that is on board these autonomous mobile robots. You have 3D cameras and you have lidar and then you also have all of that real time calculation that is happening in order for navigation to occur. For most of these AMRs, they recognize and they can distinguish between a human being and a cart. They can distinguish between a shelf, a pallet, and a forklift, and they can actually determine the best path forward. So unlike AGVs of the past in which you had to have a track embedded in the ground or in the floor in order for this AGV to follow along and if anything impeded that track, it would simply stop. With AMRs, you have that real time navigation calculation happening, and this means that the robot needs to know where it is at all times and in which direction it's moving at all times. That's why they need to have wider aisles. That's why they need to have wider doorways and they do have the capability of navigating around people in real time. We actually perform demos for our customers on a regular basis, using the AMR at our facility here at Neff Power.
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