We have all been busy with our personal health in the past year while Augury’s focus is focused all about machine health…– can you please explain what it is all about?
At Augury we want to build a world where people can always rely on the machines that matter. Last year I found myself standing in the supermarket aisle not being able to find any toilet paper, cleaning products, or medicine. While we had a good understanding of how much of our lives depend on machines, the inability of manufacturers to keep up with demand really shone a new light on the importance of our mission
We work with some of the world’s largest manufacturers, like Colgate, PepsiCo, and Sanofi, to make their production lines more reliable and productive, so they can restock the shelves in your supermarket and deliver the vaccines that will re-open our economies and give us back our lives.
What was the effect of the Covid pandemic on industry 4.0 and machine monitoring in particular?
The COVID-19 pandemic was an unprecedented triple threat to manufacturers since it affected supply, demand, and workforce simultaneously.
Supply chain – Global Supply chains broke down. Workers on diaper production lines must wear special filtering masks since the manufacturing process produces a lot of dust. A single 3M plant in Germany supplies masks for most of Europe. During the pandemic, the German government stopped all export of masks so they could be used by local medical staff. One of the largest European diaper manufacturers was forced to halt production until they could find a local mask supplier. We’ve seen similar disruptions in supply chains that depended on importing finished or raw goods from China, which closed down early in the year.
Demand – Demand spiked for some products while dropping dramatically for others.. An Augury paper customer sold 63 million tissue rolls in the UK during a two-week period in early 2020. It sold 24 million rolls in the same period in 2019. A customer making vitamins saw a 400% increase in demand. These manufacturers needed to harness every spare minute of production to meet demand from their most important customers. This required teams to optimize production and squeeze the most out of the machines they had running. In order to do that they had to rely on technology that provides insight into the health and performance of these machines.
For customers experiencing drops in demand, Machine Health could help identify which production lines or plants to idle, based on machine condition. One Augury CPG customer used Machine Health to make operational lines more efficient and reliable, in order to shut down other lines, they preferred to run a single line at 80% capacity rather than keep three lines running at 30% capacity.
People – Like most technology companies, the industry moved to a remote-first mode of work. Unlike most tech companies, manufacturing employees had very little prior experience of remote work. Corporate and “non-essential” employees were sent home. Operators, mechanics, engineers, and other roles still had to be on the factory floor to keep production running. Many manufacturers had less than half the normal number of people on-site.
Manufacturers had to figure out new ways of collaborating remotely and achieving more with fewer employees on the factory floor. Technologies that enable a team to look at the same data, track progress, and troubleshoot remotely became the heart of this New Normal.
The triangulation of these disruptions visibility accelerated digitization of manufacturing processes, and caused companies like Colgate to say that “Augury will be the fastest roll-out of technology they have ever seen in their Supply Chain”.
What was the Inflection Point in Augury’s history?
They say that the best way to create overnight success is to work really hard for eight years. We founded Augury in 2011 with a clear vision of where the industry is heading, and we spent the last nine years building the team and the solution accordingly. In the past 2 years we’ve seen the market rapidly shift into our path. Now we have the right team and the right product at the right time.
We’ve been promoting the importance of machine health to our manufacturing customers, but also to the OEMs of the machines, and other key players in the industry like Insurance companies and logistics companies. In 2021, the message has been heard loud and clear and the market is acting on it with urgency.
What do you miss most in an early-stage company?
Being close to the team. We added over 50 people last quarter – and due to the current remote nature of our work, I haven’t met any of them in person. I miss the days where we could all fit in one room, take the whole company out for a drink, and get to really know each other. We recently passed the Dunbar number, which means I have to give up on the idea that I can maintain a relationship with every single person in the company.
They say that people leave Microsoft and Google (and in my case, Intel), in order to build the next Microsoft or Google. The processes that have to be put in place, in order to support global scaling come at the cost of intimacy. That being said, we are working very hard to make sure that we minimize these effects on the team and local levels.
Toughest choice you had to make as a CEO?
As COVID-19 hit, levels of uncertainty were through the roof. We shifted our team to be fully remote, we adapted our communication cadence and structure, and we started preparing for the worst. It may be hard to recall, but March was a gloomy month in startup-land. The main recommendation was to cut costs wherever possible and prepare for a very long summer (and winter). Letting people go, when unemployment rates were at an all-time high, with talks of a looming recession, felt at odds with our company’s values and my personal values.
Not really knowing what to expect from our market, we had a belief that our value proposition might resonate more with the market in a post-covid world, and that as soon as things picked up, we’d have to rebuild the team. Hiring new people and onboarding them would be more expensive than retaining our existing team. So we decided to do whatever we could to retain the entire team, including reducing salaries across the company by 15% on average (differentially by salary bands). This was not a popular choice at the time, and we were fortunate to see our market bounce back soon after. We had to move quickly and with conviction, and looking back it was a rough period.
Gut instinct and cold Data, which do you follow?
As an Engineer by training, I am very analytical in nature, and always prefer to use data where I can. That being said, we are an Enterprise B2B company, which means that in some places we don’t have too much quantitative data (as an example, we don’t have 1,000’s of customers). We, therefore, have to be creative in how we obtain qualitative data and analyze it with intellectual honesty. Having good data is just the beginning. A lot of subjectivity is added when you form the narrative around it. I would say we are more Data Informed than Data-Driven.
Where do you invest most of your time?
Ideally, I would spend more time where my strengths and passion lie: Strategy, Partnerships and customers. As we grow very rapidly, we are constantly strengthening our team and team structure, which requires ample attention as we build the machine.
What characterizes your executive team?
We’ve built our team around two principles – autonomy and cross-functional work. In our Product-Engineering team we are working in cross-functional feature squads and in our Go-To-Market team, we have a similar structure with Pods that are cross-functional in nature and own specific segments.
We brought the same concepts into our executive team as well – working in e-Squads which are cross functional teams that own a part of the business (GTM, Prod-Engineering, Business Health) and have autonomy to execute on the plan. The challenge then becomes aligning between the squads and identifying gaps and overlaps.
Another thing that characterizes our greater team, and our executives as well, is low turnover. Some of our executives have been with us for over 4 years, and have grown and developed with the company.
How do you see your personal growth alongside the company’s?
One pattern that I’ve identified early was that my role completely changes every 2 quarters. So I am in a constant discovery process to understand where I need to be in a year and what are the major pitfalls I should avoid. I’ve been fortunate to have great partners on this journey that help keep me honest and a fantastic executive coach that has been supporting us through this for a number of years.
Best tip you got?
“Smart people can gain experience, experienced people will not get any smarter.”
When you build your team, make sure you have a good mix of smart, devoted, hungry people around you who will continue to challenge both you and the current thinking. And if you need to take a bet, always bet on talent vs experience. As the company matures, you may need to bring in more specialists who can help you see around corners. So finding that right balance is key.
Tip you wish you had gotten?
There is a book called “Play Bigger” that talks about the notion of category creation, that completely changed my view on markets. We’ve been following some of their playbooks without even knowing it, and could have been much more efficient and perhaps successful had I known about it when we started.
One thing people don’t know about you
As a former engineer, I’m actually an introvert who was thrown into the deep end by being customer facing. I’ve learned to thrive in front of a crowd, but it’s still not where I get my energy from.
Augury is on a mission to give our customers superior insights into the health and performance of the machines they use to make products, deliver services and improve lives. We are all surrounded by machines and rely on them in everything we do – from the food and
medicines that keep us healthy to the clothes we wear and the goods we use. We make these machines more reliable, more efficient and ensure they are there when our customers need them, to deliver the products and service we all need every day