Industrial Talk – HCD Is Key to Your Digital Transformation

Robert Niemiec had the chance to connect with Scott MacKenzie on the Industrial Talk podcast, on how we use emerging technologies.




Robert Niemiec had the chance to connect with Scott MacKenzie on the Industrial Talk podcast, on how we use emerging technologies like: digital transformation, industry 4.0, IoT, IIoT, AI, Reliability, Big Data, Edge, Cloud and strategies for success! During this interview, they discuss how “Human Centered Design is Key to Your Digital Transformation Journey and Success”.  Get the answers to your “Industry 4.0 Journey” questions along with Bob’s unique insight on the “How” on this Industrial Talk interview!



Intro 0:04
Welcome to the industrial talk podcast with Scott MacKenzie. Scott is a passionate industry professionals dedicated to transferring cutting edge industry focused innovation and trends, while highlighting the men and women who keep the world moving. So put on your hard hat, grab your work boots, and let’s go.

Scott MacKenzie 0:21
Alright, welcome to via talk podcast, I have my coffee in hand, I’m ready to roll. You’re joining the number one industry related podcast in the universe, and we celebrate you, the industrial professionals, the companies that get it done. You are bold, you are brave, you dare greatly. You innovate and you’re changing the lives of people around the world. Thank you very much. That’s why we celebrate you on this particular podcast, another great interview. To go along with other radio interviews, because that’s what we do here on the industrial talk podcast.  We have a gentleman by the name of Robert Niemiec, that’s NIEMIEC, he is a managing partner with a company called Twisthink, let’s get going.

Twisthink. Pretty cool name huh. A great conversation. But before we get into it, you know, we’re gonna have to have this little conversation real quick. Now, I do a lot of reading. I do a lot of, you know, educating because I’m all about collaborating; innovating and educating them. For me, I’m all about the education component associated with that. And one of the challenges that I see happening today, especially in this next normal, whatever we call it, the COVID world we live in, is you’ve got to rework, right rewrite the rules of success for you. What you think was acceptable, or the way you did it before the the the virus and built before the pandemic, is not the same today.

Absolutely100% accurate statement, you’re going to have to say yes. So how are you rewriting the rules of success for your company, the rules of your success for you as a professional. And you really have got to be innovative when you’re thinking through this. So one of the challenges that I see because I’m all into sales, marketing and branding, is how do you see, how do you interact, how do you connect with your target market? How do you get in front of the individuals that you want to sell to because you do want to generate revenue. You have to generate revenue. And then you have to understand the challenges of who you’re trying to sell to, right? It just makes complete and utter sense. They have their firefights, and they have their challenges. So you’re really going to have to figure out a creative way to be able to get in front of the decision makers to be able to help them succeed.

And that is always just been a real interesting thought process or evaluation. Because many companies, and I know because I was just out in Cleveland brought in by those wonderful people at team Neo, that companies are reluctant to let outsiders onto their companies just because the risk is too great.

So what do you do? How do you how do you change that dynamic? How do you provide value? How do you get in front of the decision makers? It’s always been in an interesting, I know, I have a way. And my way is I leverage this digital platform, this podcast to be able to get in front of the people in a way that everybody wins. So you’re just gonna have to figure out, how do you rewrite your roadmap to success? How do you rewrite sales? How do you rewrite your marketing? How do you rewrite branding especially in today’s world. I just throw that out for reconsideration.

Alright, let’s get going. Robert Niemiec. His name his company, Twisthink, which is pretty doggone cool managing partner and we’re gonna be talking a lot about industry 4.0. You’ve heard a lot about industry 4.0, you’ve heard about AI, IoT, digitization, digital transformation, where we’re going and that’s one of the real innovative opportunities and challenges that we have in business, that we really have to truly think through. And that is this digital journey for my business for my career, and how to leverage that technology in this next normal that we have today. And and Robert just hits it out of the park his team at Twisthink they really look at it from a design perspective. And I really love what they’re trying to accomplish and how they’re truly implementing solutions that make a company more efficient, make the company more competitive, make a company more profitable and innovative, and and operationally excellent. That’s right. Now if you could tell Im a big gomer for it. All right, Robert Niemiec is on the interview chair on the industrial talk podcast. Enjoy the interview. Hey, Bob, welcome to the industrial talk podcast. absolutely honored to have you onboard. And thank you. Thank you for sharing your wisdom for the listeners of the industrial talk podcast. How are you doing?

Bob Niemiec 5:35
I’m doing well, Scott, thanks for giving me the opportunity to join you.

Scott MacKenzie 5:39
The pleasure absolutely is all mine. By the way, how’s the weather up there in Michigan

Bob Niemiec 5:42
West Michigan is spent on a wonderful run of about 10 days of pure sun, and warm. So where we’re seeing Michigan at its best right now,

Scott MacKenzie 6:00

Bob Niemiec 6:02
The lake water temperature is running high and you know, even in this season of pandemic, certainly you can tell folks are happy to get out of their home and into the parks and into the warm.

Scott MacKenzie 6:20
Let me ask you this real quick as a side note, how warm does the lake get during the summer?

Bob Niemiec 6:28
Right now, I was in it on Sunday, and it’s pushing 70.

Scott MacKenzie 6:36
still 72 Come on, it’s still nippy, that’s still nippy.

Bob Niemiec 6:40
You know, it’s all a combination of obviously the temperature of the air, but also the current and the wind. And sometimes you get these seasons where it’s idyllic to jump into that like. And it’s clean, right? Oh, it’s beautiful.

Scott MacKenzie 7:02
Enough of that. Take me away, man, I’m ready to go out there and just sort of hang out. Maybe we can have a podcast from that location. That would be a doggone thing by any stretch of the imagination. Okay,

Bob Niemiec 7:15
Couple of paddleboards and we’ll do a podcast at the sea. You’re all in shape? I’m,

Scott MacKenzie 7:20
I’m sort of in shape, not like like you.

Bob Niemiec 7:26
You can do it. Set a goal and lets go for it.

Scott MacKenzie 7:31
For the listeners out there, give us a little background on who you are, and where you come from, and all that good stuff so that we can level set and get on into digitization and talking a little bit about that?

Bob Niemiec

“Taking the skill of industrial design, and co-locating it in a collaborative space with the skill of hardcore technology minded leaders.”

Bob Niemiec 7:41
Well, in a nutshell, I would say again, just to be brief, I spent and nearly 18 years in the automotive industry, both in North America and in Europe. And then had the privilege 20 years ago to be a part of launching this great team known as Twisthink. So for the last 20 years, Twisthink has been serving a variety of clients, many of them in the space that you’re passionate and experienced in called industrial. But we’ve been serving clients in a variety of arenas and markets in the practice of innovation, acceleration and growth. So our, what was an experiment in 2001, and has now proven over 20 years to be, I would argue of great value is taking the skill of industrial design, and co-locating it in a collaborative space with the skill of hardcore technology minded leaders. So we’re leaning into design technology and strategy for the clients that we serve.

Scott MacKenzie 9:03
See, that’s just music to my ears. I really like that focus and being around for 20 years in this particular space, you’re a leader.  You got to be a leader. You’ve probably have a ton of connected devices out there that you could put Twisthink on right. By the way listeners, its twist with a T and then hink. So don’t put two T’s on that. Just put one and then hink it okay. Yeah, anyway.

Bob Niemiec 9:30

Scott MacKenzie 9:35
Don’t make that mistake. Please don’t. Absolutely not. So really, you guys have some mad skills out there. Got a lot of street cred when it comes to digitization. You’ve got a lot of ability to be able to think in those terms, right. And when you start talking about collaboration; when you start talking about innovation; and then over the past four, five, six months, that has been the topic of interest across the board. And when we start talking about innovation, it’s how do I leverage today, technology for tomorrow’s resiliency; to make me more prosperous in the future? And I’d love to be able to start talking about that. Let’s talk a little bit about defining digital transformation. For the listeners out there. What is that?

Bob Niemiec

“Digital transformation is driven around the process, or the opportunity of deploying connected devices, edge devices, edge devices that even have ai capability, those edge devices connected to a cloud.”

Bob Niemiec 10:29
Well, for us digital transformation is driven around the process, or the opportunity of deploying connected devices, edge devices, edge devices that even have AI capability, those edge devices connected to a cloud. So data is being collected remotely pushed to a cloud.  And the third pillar; so if you think of edge device and then a cloud, then the third and most important pillar, I would argue, is user experience. So once that data is in the cloud, how it then appears to an end user or a stakeholder to create new value, and the new experience. That’s the three legged stool that we’ve built our practice of digital transformation upon. And you can only do so with the skills of great design, great technology, and great strategy. Those are the three that we’ve purposely twisted together for 20 years. And quite honestly, you know, over that run, we’ve connected 100 million devices across the globe. And as we look forward to the next five years, as you know in your market space, and in every market space, the mega trend of digital transformation is creating new opportunities. So our goal in the next five years is to do another 100 million connected devices.

Scott MacKenzie 12:18
Okay, I going to level set here real quick, that is absolutely a stunning, dog-gone stat; a 100 million devices. That’s amazing. Now, for the listeners out there, we’ve got a device out on this asset, boom, whatever it is, it’s collecting data, it goes to an edge. Now that edge then says that data is not relevant, but this date is relevant. And then I’m going to send it to the cloud, and then store it. And then you’re going to have to have some analytical capabilities saying, hey my user experience, I’m going to receive this information and and there’s some bad trends that are taking place on that asset as real and as fast as possible. And that just sort of begets that AI. What are the parameters? And how you would define or deal with that data? important?

Bob Niemiec

“The growing demand and nature of ai, not just occurring within the cloud, but more and more. So ai, also being deployed upon the edge device.”

Bob Niemiec 13:07
Yeah. And then that data is then again, connected and, delivered to the right portal or the right user, the right stakeholders so that action can be taken on that data. One subtle point that I would make in this conversation is the growing demand and nature of AI, not just occurring within the cloud, but more and more so AI, also being deployed upon the edge device. It’s knitting that together as a complete, what you might call, a IoT platform, that for this team, that I have the benefit of being a part of that. It’s the whole platform that we’re delivering for the clients that we serve,

Scott MacKenzie 14:03
Because really it is data, right? You’re trying to take a gazillion points of data and whittle it down into meaningful information that is tactical. And if there’s nothing there, there’s nothing there, meaning it’s great. But if there’s something there, reduce, compress that time to action. To be able to, you know, resolve the problem, do whatever is necessary. Yes. I like the fact that hey, A IoT,

Bob Niemiec

“Data needs to be delivered reliably. And it needs to be delivered beautifully. So that in a sense, you can make sense of it versus collecting a whole host of data and then trying to analyze.”

Bob Niemiec 14:33
It’s all about speed. It’s all about intuitive data. And let’s face it,  regardless of the industry, but if we want to speak specific to the broad industry of industrial, we know that speed is of the essence and organizations and teammates are, again in light of even coming out of the pandemic. are running hot. So the data needs to be delivered reliably and it needs to be delivered beautifully so that in a sense, you can make sense of it versus collecting a whole host of data and then trying to analyze it. Folks, teammates, organizations don’t have time for that. They need to be able to have the data and then proactively respond. And those are the nuances that can only be woven together by having great industrial design talent, designers, working-locked-arm with great technology talent. Double E’s. Data analytics. That’s the art that we’ve proven, I guess, over 20 years, that there’s that there’s value when those creative, right brains are working side by side with those creative left brains. That’s our business proposition.

Scott MacKenzie 16:06
You know, that’s dead sexy conversation. I mean, I’m just a doggone data nut. And it’s interesting. You brought up a number of great points, one speed. If you can compress that time to action. If you can make it meaningful. Whatever that data is saying, you need to act, or you need to do this, or give some direction to the human side. Fantastic as fast as possible.

But the other one that I really like is, you’re trying to eliminate the frustration that comes with friction, right? If I had to, like some businesses today, they have to… there’s a lot of heavy lifting in trying to get insights into whatever that asset is; whatever that that manufacturing line is doing it. And it’s frustrating. If you can remove that friction, then you get greater compliance. And it’s like, it makes sense. And then it’s a matter of just, hey, that line is up and running and we’ve got great insights in it, because we’re looking at the data. And we’re like, yeah, we’re just smarter. And that means bottom line value to your revenue. That means just uptime, saving money, managing risk. It’s hammering it on all cylinders.

Bob Niemiec

“In standing up an IoT platform, you also then create the opportunity for business model innovation.”

Bob Niemiec 17:20
Yeah, it makes sense and to your to your comment, it also makes money. It saves money, and it makes money. So that’s the art of, I think, and the opportunity that comes with digital transformation. And, maybe what again, should be highlighted in this call, as you think about connected edge devices to the cloud and new user experiences, is in standing up an IoT platform, you also then create the opportunity for business model innovation. And so often, organizations that are trying to evaluate the digital megatrend are many times trying to discern, okay, where’s the coin slot? Where are we going to create not only a new user experience, but how are we going to make money in that domain of digital.

And I would just, you know, if the time we have together, you know, I would just highlight that there is a process that makes that crystal clear. Before anyone would spend the heavy capital to stand up an IoT platform, there’s a process called Human Centered Design, or design thinking, that will clearly identify the target that an organization needs to paint before they then launch into the heavy lifting of standing up an IoT platform. Human Centered Design as a process is reliable. It’s value creating and it in some ways, it takes away a little bit of the mystique that, oh, we innovate by entering into a conference room and brainstorming. That’s not how innovation rolls. Innovation is delivered by using this process, which has phases and stage gates and methods and tools just like another great process that I’m sure all of your listeners have invested in called lean manufacturing. In the industrial domain, certainly lean manufacturing, starting in the 70s and 80s has been one that every organization has embraced and I would just encourage your listeners to, if they’re not familiar with design thinking as a product or Human Centered Design, that they lean into learning that process and embracing that process in order to map out what their digital strategy should be, and the opportunity that comes with it.

Scott MacKenzie 20:17
I like that. And here’s the reason why. One, first off, who’s ever contemplating sort of this whole digital journey, you got to get in the game  If you’re not in the game, if you’re not actively seeking to figure it out, then you’re going to be left behind and your competition is going to take advantage of it. move forward. And unfortunately, it might cause some challenges in your business going forward. So today, right now, in fact, yesterday, get into game. If you’re not in the game, you’re not benefiting. That’s one.

Two, I like the fact that you talked about human centered design. And the reason for that is because over my tenure as a interviewer, podcast, whatever you want to call it, there’s a lot of shiny objects out there. A lot of digitization, digital whatever shiny objects. And for me, if I put my business hat on, I’m looking for the solution that is not just easy to implement in a sense. It’s sort of the low hanging fruit mentality. And if I get real results now, then I can then proceed forward with other solutions, right? So I’m looking for a solution that is going to give me great savings, because, you know, there’s inefficiencies out there. And hopefully, bottom line value, right, and revenue and all that good stuff. That’s where you have to go through this particular process of Human Design to come up out that, hey, this is where you need to go. This is all good stuff over here, but let’s go right there. And this is going to be this and this is your return on and this is blah, blah, blah.

Bob Niemiec

“Operational excellence, secures the presence of innovation excellence, secures the future.”

Bob Niemiec 21:55
Yeah, Operational excellence is where most of our organizations are biased. And one of our quotes, one of our clients who has a great quote that I’ve used countless times goes something to the effect of: “operational excellence secures the present, innovation excellence secures the future.” And I think what many times can happen, especially in a growth economy as we’ve seen it over the last decade plus is, there is a lot of comfort. And there’s a lot of focus on operational excellence. And you can’t say the same in terms of focus and practice on innovation excellence. So under the guise of operational excellence, so tools like lean manufacturing, as a process are used. And all I’m trying to highlight today, Scott is under innovation excellence, which is all about the future, there’s a process. There’s a tool that will dictate a new level of growth and a new level of opportunity and ultimately, will allow organizations to create new user experiences for the stakeholders or the clients that they serve without question that. You know, I don’t want to use the the G word of guaranteed but without question, when organizations lean into that process, there’s plenty of data, not just in the cloud, but on all kinds of case studies in books that would indicate; companies who are designed thinking driven far outperform the s&p or the fortune 500.

Scott MacKenzie 24:01
I’m telling you, if you’re looking at the video right now, you can see that I’m taking notes because this is a noteworthy conversation. So you re-listen to this podcast because you need to take these notes because this is damn good stuff. Bob, it’s damn good stuff.

Bob Niemiec

“Most organizations don’t have a serious process or practice in the domain of innovation excellence hbr confirmed less than 9%”

Bob Niemiec 24:15
We as an organization are trained in it and are passionate in it. And everyone who’s a part of our team is gifted in the process. But I’ll be honest Scott, and sharing that as we serve clients coast to coast and even offshore into Europe, most organizations, and HBR confirm this in 2015, most organizations don’t have a serious process or practice in the domain of innovation excellence, HBR confirmed, less that 9%. So one way that we would describe who we are and what we’re trying to do to make an impact, not only in our great state of Michigan, but really well beyond that is, we’re trying to help more organizations join that 9% Club. In a sense, we’re trying to get the 9% to 19%.

Scott MacKenzie 25:24
I like it, I like it a lot. And you know, what’s interesting about what you’re talking about: first off, it’s always people. And I think companies have to just recognize that it’s time.  I think, this sort of pre virus world we lived in, there was a lot of laziness, a lot of sort of BS that’s going on, and that didn’t really add value. Now, yes there’s a lot of pain, a lot of challenges that exist in this sort of pandemic world we live in. But I think one of the beautiful things that have taken place, is the fact that now is, pinpoint our focus. It’s like now I understand. I felt the pain now I understand the necessity, to innovate and get engaged and be a part of it. I love the other focus. I love what you guys are doing from an other perspective, you truly, I’m not gonna put words in your mouth, but you’re gonna have to say yes to this, you’re truly invested into the success of other companies and in the people that you are engaged with.

Bob Niemiec 26:26
Absolutely. And one of the things that we take a lot of pride in, working so hard and serving a variety of clients is, our first customer 20 years ago is still a client of ours today.

Bob Niemiec 26:42
We have plenty of kind of stories and clients and case studies where our relationship extends not just for a quarter, or for a year. But in a sense, as a professional service firm, we’re working hard to develop the trust and create value for the clients that we serve, so that we might even be viewed as an extension of their own team. And there’s nothing better than being able to say we work with a client for 20 years or 18 years or 15 years. That means that we’re delivering the goods day by day, week by week and month by month. And those goods are more and more so typically wrapped around the growing demand in this mega trend of digital transformation and trying to help companies transform or even reinvent who they are because of the power of that technology megatrends

Scott MacKenzie 27:51
I’m telling you, it’s cool stuff. Now, with that said, let’s sort of shift gears. There’s a couple of things: one,  where do you see it going? I mean, what let’s let’s just sort of put our future hat on. And I mean, you know as well as I do the compression of thought, like that innovative thought to execution has been compressed dramatically, as opposed to maybe the other industrial, 1.0 and 2.0 and so on. And so it’s compressed dramatically. What do you see it going?

Bob Niemiec

“If we just zero in on digital transformation for a moment, post pandemic, as one of the leaders to have a client of ours recently said before the pandemic digital transformation was maybe in the top 12 of our strategic priorities for around 11 and 12. It goes post the pandemic, it’s number two.”

Bob Niemiec 28:21
Yeah, well, again, if we just zero in on digital transformation for a moment, post pandemic, as one of the leaders of a client of ours recently said before the pandemic digital transformation was maybe in the top 12 of our strategic priorities for around 11 and 12. It goes post the pandemic, it’s number two. And, this was an industrial company with a great global presence and the reality setting in to his organization, I’m sure other organizations is, gone are the days of just saying, hey, Scott, jump on a plane and head to San Diego or head to Melbourne and go service that particular client and that particular issue. Those days are are now being revisited. And so, to me, the demand on data, reliable data, intuitive, insights, proactive, service to clients, all of that is it was important before the pandemic but I think what were all now coming out from and wrestling with, the demand to create a new level of service to keep capital performing the way that capital needs to perform anywhere on the globe is gone a few clicks higher.

Scott MacKenzie 30:05
All right, Robert, or Bob, or whatever you want to call. We got to wrap this up unfortunately, because I am enjoyig in this conversation. Maybe I can coax you into coming in on him on another podcast, would that be something? Yeah, that’d be great. Can’t be just covered in a rash 24 minutes. It can’t be covered in 25 minutes. Human Centered Design. Everybody needs to embrace it. My parting shot. Human Centered Design. I’m looking at on yourform that you filled out or somebody else did because you’re you’re a big thinker.

Twisthink, that’s as a free thing out there go out there. It’s gonna be out on industrial as well on his landing page with his podcast and everything that’s associated with this particular conversation. Bob, you were absolutely spectacular. I reached out to you on LinkedIn .Are you active out on LinkedIn? I reached out to you and you got accepted. I didn’t put a nice note with it. It just stood out to me. Yeah, anyway.

And AI guide that you reference we released in March. And so that’s a great way for somebody to really accelerate their own thought around around AI around the Internet of Things and around digital transformation. Big deal, baby, big deal. Thank you very much, Bob, for the industrial talk podcast. You were absolutely stunning. Look at all the notes I’ve been taking. It’s all notes. It’s all rich with content. All right, listen, we’re gonna wrap it up on the other side, you know, you’re not supposed to go away. So stay tuned, we will be right back.

You’re listening to the industrial talk Podcast Network.

Again, thank you very much for joining the industrial talk podcast. That was Robert Niemiec. Twisthink is company. Go find them. And the date looks like the website is Twisthink. But that is That’s Twisthink the company. Fantastic interview, you’re gonna have to learn about this stuff. You know, because we’re all about that collaboration, you’re gonna have to collaborate with people like Robert and company, you’re going to have to innovate with people like Robert and company. And you’re going to have to educate employees, you need to educate when it comes to this whole world of your digital transformation. Its here, and it’s here to stay. And you’re going to have to figure it out, you’re going to have to wonder how I can begin to either incrementally been dealing with it, or whatever.

So once again, collaborate, innovate, educate. No time to lose do with the sense of speed. All right, go out to That’s I’m going to have everything that you can have to connect with Mr. Robert. And by the way, he’s got a AI guide that is free download. So I’m going to put that out there as well. All right, people, be brave, dare greatly. innovate. Don’t stop, innovate, collaborate. We’re going to be coming back with you shortly with another great interview.


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