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How to Become a Robotics Champion

Q-T.A.L.K.S Episode 17: How to become robotics champion in manufacturing

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Transcript

Rahul Yadav:

A very warm welcome back to Q Talks, the quest for the adventure of learning and knowing through stories. Yes, it's all about the stories. It's all about the stories in our life, in our work life, in our personal life. One of the important aspects which we see nowadays is trends in the technology and the technology changing so fast. And one of it is robotics. And there has been a lot of rumor out there that in the coming decade or in the next decade, the robots will take over most of the human reputation, work or task. Right? So it's pretty much an interesting topic and I'm pretty much curious to dive more into it, that how much truth it is. So talking about that, we are having today here, Ginny Foster with us. She is an electrical engineer who helps people scale manufacturing operations with robotics. She serves as a market development manager at Neff Power, an industrial automation distributor and robotics partner with locations across the US. Ginny is a guest speaker on podcasts and talks about robotics, industrial automation engineering, and growth mindset. You are most welcome on Q Talks, Ginny.

Ginny Foster:

Hi, Rahul, thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.

Rahul Yadav:

I am really glad to have you here. And being an engineer, I am really curious to dive more into today's topic. So before we dive more into robotics, it will be nice to know your story. So what your unique story has been until now and what do you do?

Ginny Foster:

Yeah. So I help manufacturers identify and source the right robotic and industrial automation solutions for their applications. I connect engineering teams with the right robots, the right end of arm tools, and the right training to give them the confidence to become the go to robotic champion at their company.

Rahul Yadav:

And especially when we talk about these robotics, so what has been your journey, like how you ended up here where you are at the moment?

Ginny Foster:

Yes. So my journey started with a degree in electrical engineering. And leading up to, and then after graduation, I was involved in a series of projects. And in each of these projects, I practiced doing something that engineering school teaches you very much. It drills it in it's identifying the problem and defining the solution. And throughout these projects, I was able to do this in such a way that the solution was defined as something new, useful and nonobvious. And those three traits new, useful and nonobvious, those are the three traits of patentability. My name is on a total of five patents spanning three projects. And my favorite part of each project was always sharing the new technology with people in the field. And I really wanted to know if that was a real job. So I looked it up and it turns out it is a real job, it's called a sales engineer. So I tailored my resume to reflect a sales engineer. And then I landed my first career in heavy manufacturing at an international Foundry. And I absolutely loved it. It was an amazing place to learn and grow. And I had such amazing and wonderful coworkers and mentors from whom I learned so much. And it's because of that experience that I find that what I do now absolutely ties into what I learned working in a manufacturing environment, because every manufacturing process is unique. And one of the best ways to ensure that a manufacturing process consistently yields high quality results is to automate it.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, exactly. You have really put it so well, that to have the good yield from the product or from the manufacturing process, it's important to have the automation and these things. And now the only question which comes to my mind related to that is, where are you working at the moment? As I mentioned, that you're working at Neff Power, right? But what exactly the company is about?

Ginny Foster:

Yes. Well, everything that I just described about taking a process and automating it, that's what we help people do here at Neff Power. We connect engineers with manufacturing challenges to solutions in industrial automation and robotics. Neff Power is an industrial automation distributor and robotics partner, and we serve a growing area across the United States.

Rahul Yadav:

So that seems like a pretty interesting firm. And now, let's dive more into robotics. So before we understand different types of robots or what it is first, the question comes to my mind is, what is robotics? What is the definition of robotics?

Ginny Foster:

Yes. So I always answer this question from the perspective of manufacturing because I feel that there's a lot of different types of robotics that are just now coming to fruition. And so this is particularly from the perspective of a manufacturer. So for us, robotics is a subcategory of industrial automation, and there's multiple categories of industrial automation. There's structural, aluminum framing and guarding. There's safety devices and sensing solutions. There's electrical control, motion control, pneumatics, hydraulics, and then robotics. And I think robotics is one of the newest additions to these categories of industrial automation. And these are all categories of industrial automation that Neff Power supports.

Rahul Yadav:

So in a way, that robotics is a combination of all the other different kind of technologies which we have in order to simplify our work or help in the manufacturing and other lifestyle works which we have.

Ginny Foster:

Exactly. And one of the things I want to talk about right now is, why robotics and why right now? Why is this a trending topic that people are so interested in? And that's because right now, we have increasingly capable robots and artificial intelligence systems that can take on tasks that were previously performed by humans. So 2020 was a really important year, not just because of the pandemic, but because it also marks the first year in which non automotive robotic deployment actually exceeded automotive robotic deployment. So what does that mean? Well, the automotive industry is the industry that manufacturers cars. In the decades leading up to 2020, we only saw robots utilized in that industry, in car manufacturing. So 2020 and 2021, that's when the growth just blossomed. And in 2021, we saw 39,708 total robots deployed across the United States. That's 28% more than in 2020. So we're expecting to see an exponential curve in the growth of robotics.

Rahul Yadav:

Wow. That's really an amazing figure, only from the numeric point of view. But why this trend is now we are seeing or what's the reason behind that?

Ginny Foster:

So this is a statistic that just blows my mind. It's because every day, 2000 Baby Boomers retire from manufacturing jobs across the United States. That's just the United States. That's every day, 2000 people. This blows my mind. And what it's done is it's left an unprecedented number of job openings. So what we're seeing is that people are using robotics to fill that labor shortage. Collaborative robots right now allow manufacturers to maximize task completion. And this is because collaborative robots work alongside people. And so this improves the human capacity for efficiency, quality and consistency. And so the popularity of collaborative robots, or Cobots, is helping to maintain the quality and consistency on repetitive tasks and ergonomically, challenging tasks that used to be performed by Baby Boomers. And I want to get into this later, the distinction between job and task, because it's so easy to slip into saying job. But truly, the human work that is being done is defined by task. And that is something I really want to touch on later.

Rahul Yadav:

Well, we will for sure touch that topic. But the question which comes to my mind at the moment is that what is the more advantage of it instead of having the human beings performing some tasks? Because we have seen when the human beings perform some tasks, it's different as compared to when the machines are doing the same task. So can you please put some light on it? What's the advantage of having the robots or the tasks by them?

Ginny Foster:

Absolutely. So I think after the pandemic, there was sort of an enlightenment and people began to realize that robots don't get sick, robots don't take vacation. Robots are highly scalable, they're highly repeatable. Robots can work lights out, 24/7. And this realization, I think that is what's causing this burgeoning of robotics across the United States.

Rahul Yadav:

Wow. Yeah. That makes sense in a way that if we are not able to present at some place and especially in the time of COVID, I have seen this, that we are not able to go at our workplace. For example, in my case, not able to go to the lab. And even in one conference, there was one project going on that there will be a robot in the lab and then you can control all the experiments. That robot will be doing the experiments in the lab and you can control the robot remotely. That was just fascinating. That was really an amazing topic and I am really looking forward for the output of that project. So now can you please give us some real life examples, like where the robots are being used at the moment and maybe some examples from your own life?

Ginny Foster:

Exactly. So any task that is highly repetitive, so anything that's repeatable or, ergonomically, challenging, that's where we're seeing robots just really shine in terms of their capacity to provide a return on investment. Just off the top of my head, there's palletizing, there's pick and place, there's sorting. When I talk about sorting, I'm talking about sorting both moving down a conveyor. So imagine potatoes moving down a conveyor. You have small, medium and large potatoes. But how is the robots to know which ones which? Well, it has an artificial intelligence vision system, and the robotic arm is able to, in real time, figure out the size differences and put the correct sizes in the correct bins. From those bins, then another robot would need to take these sizes of potatoes out and put them in packaging. So you need to have the right end of our tool to pick up the potato. You need to have the correct speed at which to load the potatoes into the bags and then the bags into boxes, boxes on the pallets, and then pallets out into the shipping environment. So there's all kinds of applications. There's painting, welding. Just imagine any physical task that is performed today by a human being, it can also be performed by a robot. And I do want to branch into this concept of task versus job, and job versus person, because truly, robots do not replace people. Robots replace tasks. And we see this as an extraordinary means for humans, both as individuals and humanity as a whole, to level up. Because every single robotic deployment, it does involve a robotics champion, there needs to be a human being in place to help figure out how the robot will function. The robot can perform at high speeds. The robot can perform all the very difficult tasks that would put pressure on the human joint, on the human spine, elbow, shoulder, any type of weight bearing activity, that's what the robot can support. Whereas the human being, we have a tendency to be so much better at other things like creativity, problem solving, communicating, that's where we shine. And this really allows us to take on those tasks and it allows us to level up and to bring on the challenge of what makes us human. Well this, robotics, is the answer to bring that creativity to our everyday lives.

Rahul Yadav:

Wow. You've really well defined the difference between the jobs and the tasks, and how as a human being and having the brain with us and using our mind is different than having a robot to enhance our work and the lifestyle and the task that you have really defined really well. And talking about that, because as an engineer, I understand the value of the robots in our day to day life. For example, from the manufacturing prospect, or in the normal other industries too, for example, in the food industry or also in the semiconductor industries for the fabrication of the Nanochips and all these things. But the another question which comes to my mind, and what we see nowadays in the society too, that people are also having a big fear about it. Like, they are having the controversial beliefs in a way that if we as a human being gives more priorities to the robots, then they will be losing their own values. What's your opinion on that?

Ginny Foster:

That sounds a lot like the Fixed Mindset. And the Fixed Mindset is rooted in the belief that we cannot grow. The Fixed Mindset is afraid of change, and it does not enjoy learning new skills. Because to the Fixed Mindset, the act of learning a new skill is admitting that you're not innately good at something, and that really hurts the ego. And this is why there's a book that I would like to recommend, and it's called Mindset by Carol Dweck. And she writes about another mindset, it's called The Growth Mindset. And when you have the Growth Mindset, challenges are opportunities. And learning is not a threat to your ego, but rather it's a path to cultivate new skills and new abilities. And one of those new skills and abilities can be in the field of robotics. And that's why I'm saying that this industry, which is growing, it is offering numerous opportunities for people to level up by becoming knowledgeable about robotics and being able to deploy robotics within their own companies. And at Neff Power, we partner with engineers and technicians so that they have the tools, the training and the confidence to become the go-to robotics champion at their company. We have a team of robotics specialists who help you select the right robot and the right end of arm tool for your payload, for your reach and for your cycle time. And we will actually create a simulation video of your robotic application to show you how the process would work within your production environment before you even commit to purchasing a robot. We train on site for your first robotics application so that you have the skills and you have the confidence to become the in house robotics champion, and take on second and third and fourth robotics applications on your own within your company.

Rahul Yadav:

You have mentioned really clearly and well, about the mindset, right? And it's all about the mindset for sure. And what I see in this situation from the other perspective is also it's an opportunity for the people to improve and learn. Because if we are not living in the 20th century or 19th century, where the one skill we learn and we can spend our whole life with it, that's not the truth now in our generation and the generations going to come in future. And that is the point. And that's what I really like about it, that, of course, the tasks which are repeatable can be much better done by the robots and can be helpful for us. And in the meanwhile, we can use our intellectual skill and critical thinking in some jobs, some tasks, where we need that really and save our time.

Ginny Foster:

Exactly. I remember when you and I were first introduced, that was one of the things we talked about. It's the fact that the age of information was just an exponential growth of all of these different interfaces from which we're gathering data and we're gathering inputs. And now it seems that there is no end to the learning process, you are never finished. And I think the sooner we accept this, the much easier it is for us to thrive and really flourish in this world in which we live. And that's why this mindset outlook, the outlook of a growth mindset, has been so helpful. I see it has been helpful in my own personal life, and I've seen it be helpful to others when they're approaching educational opportunities. It really is a way to embrace the joy of repetition. Because it's not always fun to do the same thing over and over again, but it takes a certain resilience to continue no matter what it is the outcome, because you know that you're learning every step along the way. And I think, Rahul, you and I talked about grades. So much pressure is put on grades as the end result of the learning process. But from a Growth mind perspective, a Growth Mindset, it's the understanding that leads to the end results. That is the most important part, is the understanding, not necessarily the number or the letter at the end.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, exactly. This is another way to rephrase it is like, it's the journey which matters. It's the journey where we learn, it's the journey where we see ups and downs. We build our strength, we convert our weakness to the strength and yeah, exactly. And this is also the same as with the technology, too. Thanks a lot, Ginny, for giving such an amazing summary on the robotics and how it is helpful for us in our life. And now we move towards the outro section. And here we have a trend that we ask three outro questions to the guests. And the very first coming for you is, what's your spirit animal?

Ginny Foster:

So I've thought a lot about this. It's very rare that somebody has ever-- I mean, I think you're the first person that's ever asked me this question of what my spirit animal is. And I believe my spirit animal is an owl. Because owls are very thoughtful and owls oftentimes think before they act, which has not always been a trait that I have exhibited. However, it's one that I want to exhibit. So I will say that my spirit animal is an owl. And actually, I want to turn the question back to you. Rahul, what is your spirit animal?

Rahul Yadav:

So first of all, your answer is really an interesting spirit animal. And now coming to my part, so I am having two. And the first one is lion and the second one is blue whale. And the reason for that is lion is more critical thinker, he's a leader. He's really fast and furious in a way. And then coming to the part of blue whale because the one reason is due to its weight, it is responsible to provide the balance on the Earth in a way, kind of. And another reason is that living underwater in such a high pressure, the whale can let herself be so calm and do all the things. And somewhere I correlate myself with both of them, that's why they are my spirit animals.

Ginny Foster:

I love it. I definitely feel that sense of calm talking to you, so you definitely bring that already. You're there.

Rahul Yadav:

So now coming to the second question is, what's the single best piece of advice you have ever received until now?

Ginny Foster:

This is a hard one because throughout life, people always have pointed you in different directions. And for those particular moments, their advice has always been great. But you get past that moment, you forget what their advice was and you move on. And I think the easiest way for me to answer this question is with a quote from the Mindset book by Carol Dweck. And there's a particular quote in here, it just really stuck with me. And it is this, 'Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn't mean that others can't do it and sometimes do it even better with training. And this is so important because many people with the fixed mindset think that someone's early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future.'

Rahul Yadav:

Wow. That's really a deep one, yeah.

Ginny Foster:

Yeah, it really makes you think.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, true.

Ginny Foster:

So what I take from that is that you may have the skills, but just because you have the skills, it doesn't mean that that's a path down which you have to pursue growth. So you have a choice. At the same time, if there's somebody who does not possess those skills but still feels called to pursue the path, it's still a viable path for them and they may need to work hard and learn more and they may encounter obstacles along the way, but it doesn't make the path any less valid.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, that's really awesome. That's really awesome. Yeah. Thanks a lot for sharing it.

Ginny Foster:

Absolutely.

Rahul Yadav:

So now coming to the last question is, what's your current life mission?

Ginny Foster:

So I actually copied and pasted this directly from my LinkedIn profile. My mission is to help engineers solve problems in industrial automation, safety, structural aluminum framing, electrical control, motion control, pneumatics, hydraulics robotics, and end of arm tooling. I know this is very professional.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, sorry. Please carry on.

Ginny Foster:

Okay. Well, it's very professional, but it is carrying me forward right now, and it has actually been the mission that has carried me to the world of podcasts, and it's this mission with which I found an audience within this world and with whom I'm communicating. So it seems to be a very good mission that has been serving me well. And I do believe that it also serves humanity well as a whole because it is bringing a tool, it's a new tool, for humans to use that can help improve our lives.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, for sure. Most of the time, as you mentioned, that it's more professional, but it's also the personal, too, right? Like, you need to have the energy and the power from within to pursue this mission. And that also shows your own personal skills and personal power to do the good for the humanity out there and what you're working on.

Ginny Foster:

I mean, that's what it's all about, is helping everyone, right? When it's a benefit to humanity and it helps all human life, then it also helps your life as an individual.

Rahul Yadav:

Yeah, true. That's well said, yeah. So it has been really nice talking to you, Ginny, and thanks a lot for sharing such an amazing experience that you have with robotics and what especially is robotics about and your life mission. That's really amazing. So before we sign off for today, can you please share how and where our audience can reach out to you?


Ginny Foster:

Absolutely, Rahul. You can find me, Ginny Foster on LinkedIn. That's Ginny with a G. And you can also subscribe to the Neff Power YouTube channel. And we also have a website. It's N as in Nancy, E as in Edward, F as in Frank, F as in Frank, P-O-W-E-R.com.

Rahul Yadav:

And for the listeners out there, all the links are available in the description below of this episode. So no need to worry, you can directly go to the link and you will be redirected to the websites. And before we sign up for today, thanks a lot, Ginny, for being here and making this conversation such an amazing one.

Ginny Foster:

Rahul, I really want to thank you, too. And I hope that at some point in the future we can catch up again to talk about your research because I'm really interested to learn about all of your studies in high frequency vibrations and detectors for particle accelerators. I think that's really amazing what you're doing, and your work is cutting edge, and I really appreciate being on your show.

Rahul Yadav:

For sure. We are going to catch up, that's for sure. Yeah. And thanks a lot for everybody out there for listening to this episode, and I'm pretty much sure you are gaining something new from this episode in terms of robotics, in terms of different life skills. So until next time, stay happy, stay healthy, and most important, stay amazing. Ciao, tschüss and goodbye.


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