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A focus on the future of manufacturing

A focus on the future of manufacturing

TE Connectivity is right in the middle of the new industrial revolution, bringing about the Factory of the Future.

Text by Chief Executive Officer Staff

To call Switzerland-based TE Connectivity, a provider of sensor and connectivity solutions would be like calling Ford an engine manufacturer. Yes, they are, but the scope and breadth of the multinational activities go so above and beyond that definition that it doesn’t make the technology company any justice.

The company, with US$12 billion in revenues in 2016, offers solutions that are helping bring about the new industrial revolution, the advent of the cloud, the mass deployment of the electric car and the Internet of Things (IoT), among others.

And very close to where that action is, TE’s Industrial Solutions President Kevin Rock is happy that his background in sales and customer-facing roles –among others– makes a ton of sense as the company is taking the lead from its customers to decide where and how to keep developing its product and service offerings.

“We think about where our customers are going and what they are looking for from suppliers,” Rock says. “They want fewer suppliers and suppliers that are more capable,” he adds, pointing to the advantage of scale in a company that invested US$644 million in R&D and engineering only last year to move in that direction. Clients, he adds, also want companies to move into more integrated, higher level structures instead of simple products.

SCALE AND DIVERSIFICATION

Scale and diversification play a big a part of a manufacturer’s success, as smaller companies attempt to go toe to toe with TE Connectivity in all the areas it deploys its expertise. “There are people that might be strong competitors in our connector portfolio that may not play at all in our relay portfolio. Our competitors in wire and cable are much different than those in our tubing business.”

But the technological revolution is not just happening outside, as medical advances in imaging and minimally invasive procedures are taking the world of healthcare by storm and helping humans live longer, healthier lives.

Rock is also in charge of the company’s medical business spanning heart repair catheters that allow physicians to repair cardiac valves without opening the body to metal and polymer wires half the breadth of a human hair used for pulmonary diseases and robotic surgery, offering 4K video capabilities to improve vision inside the body.

“We see minimally invasive therapies as a growing market, growing high single to double digits,” Rock says. “People are living longer and there is a need to move away from conventional surgery as –relative to minimally invasive procedures– it is much harder on the patients and very expensive.” Typically, he explains, a minimally invasive procedure opens a very small incision and tiny implements move through veins or arteries to reach their destination and repair damage to an organ or vessel.

In its 2016 annual financial report, the company signaled and expectation of 7% growth in the interventional market, and over 120 patients benefiting from a minimally invasive device using TE technology every minute.

The company boasts of having the confidence of very large, very critical industries such as tele- communications, aerospace and defense, among others. “The design cycle for a new aircraft in between 5 to 10 years before development activities and new products are deployed. It is understood by Airbus and other aircraft manufacturers that TE is committed to supporting these long design cycles and the life of new aircraft.”

THE FUTURE OF MANUFACTURING

The industrial business is one where Rock is particularly excited about what his company is working on. “Factory automation is a big area of focus for us, there’s a tremendous amount of development underway today regarding the factory of the future and that will continue over many years.”

He adds that “with factories or machinery becoming much more, lets say, intelligent or smarter… imagine a piece of equipment today running and providing statistical data around manufacturing tolerances, and as that equipment moves over time it gets closer and closer to the limits of tolerance, it will signal to management that it will have to be shut off instead of making bad parts. When you think about equipment being able to self-diagnose or indicate there’s a problem coming or that it’s time to do maintenance you could imagine how productivity over time will go up.”

About what he brings to the table, Rock –an old TE Connectivity hand with over 20 years under his belt– says he is comfortable that the focus on growth and customer relations that the company is taking fits his large background in sales and business development.

“Quite a bit of my time, in fact the majority of my time has been in external or customer facing roles. I started in sales in various capacities up to the corporation sales leadership. I’ve been in business development and product management, and with the focus the corporation has on growth today, I feel very comfortable. “For the industrial segment, which I’m responsible for, I’m very comfortable with what I bringing to the job at this point.”

One of the projects he mentions is his oversight of the industrial operations participation on the company TE Operational Advantage (TEOA) program, its own lean business initiative to define the critical metrics of business and operational improvement.

“There’s a lot that goes into it, but it starts with really personal teaching and learning our operating system, know how to drive improvement… In terms of collaboration across business units we feel pretty good today, we will definitely collaborate and take advantage of our global scale by co-locating in order to view more efficient and better serve our customers,” Rock says.

TE Connectivity has its headquarters in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, employing over 75,000 people and collected US$12 billion in annual revenue.

“People are living longer and there is a need to move away from conventional surgery as –relative to minimally invasive procedures– it is much harder on the patients” (…) “Factory automation is a big area of focus for us, there’s a tremendous amount of development underway today regarding the factory of the future and that will continue over many years”.