Knowledge Institute Podcasts
Roberto Busin on Embedding Startup Culture in Industrial Manufacturing
Roberto Busin, Partner and European Manufacturing Lead with Infosys Consulting, talks about bringing startup energy and practices to established industries.
Hosted by Jeff Kavanaugh, VP and Head of the Infosys Knowledge Institute.
“Think about scalability, and never forget about your commercial model kind of idea, why you're doing this.”
- Roberto Busin
Roberto talks about his professional career and background
How did Roberto translate this formal engineering background in material science into what people think is just a bunch of analysis, and PowerPoints and business consulting?
Roberto has done a lot of work all over the world. What has he seen that is different in between Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Americas?
When he looks at industrial manufacturing, especially today, what are the biggest challenges that his clients are seeing?
Roberto and Jeff have known each other for several years and the first time they started to work together when Roberto was working with a French major manufacturer on PLM, product life cycle management, in heavy industry. Roberto shares some of the work that he did there and then some of the insights?
Roberto often made a comment to Jeff that there's a moment of truth in every project, especially when it gets outside the established routine. Roberto shares some memories from the project.
What is it Roberto tries to do and tell the folks across consulting practice to make sure that they show value, and they make a real impact for clients?
Roberto explains that as an external advisor, you've got to have that startup culture as well, as you advise companies to make sure you're fresh and on the edge.
Putting a hat on as a corporate leader. So you're a leader, could be in IT, could be supply chain, or manufacturing, a plant manager, and you're facing these challenges you mentioned before. What is it that a corporate leader can do to embed this, to embrace, and then to embed this startup culture?
When Roberto has one-on-one discussions with corporate leaders, especially early, just trying to think through these things, what advice does Roberto give?
Technology has pervaded almost every aspect of our lives including business. Why does Roberto mention culture and the people side more so than the technical side, and what does he think that balance is?
Roberto gives an example of a project where he helped an industrial manufacturer go from a very traditional way of thinking and actually embed the startup culture. Because it sounds great in theory, everybody wants to do that, but how do you actually do that if you're a 50 or a 100 year old company?
What are some challenges that Roberto finds working with European based manufacturer? Across our country lines, languages, what are some of the challenges that Roberto sees trying to help them or for them trying to get better?
What does Roberto’s practice do to try to bring these people on?
Now what about Roberto’s clients? Because they have these nasty two words called at scale. They have to hire more people, obviously as multinationals and bigger companies, how do they do this?
How can the next generation discover manufacturing as a cool thing, how can we make sure we really make the most of that, and people rediscover manufacturing as a profession?
What are the three things that Roberto recommends - that companies can do to embed more of a startup culture in industrial manufacturing, or any company for that matter?
Any corporate leader with that absolute focus on value can be that good starting point. What are some recommendations that company leaders can take to embed this startup culture in their own company?
Roberto’s biggest influences and why?
How can people find Roberto online?
Jeff Kavanaugh: Welcome to this episode of The Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas and share their insights. Today, I am happy to be joined by Roberto Busin partner and European Head of Industrial Manufacturing at Infosys Consulting. The topic is embedding a startup culture in industrial manufacturing. Welcome Roberto.
Roberto Busin: Hi Jeff. Hi to everybody.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I wanted to have this discussion for some time, because what you're doing in Europe is fascinating and I wanted to get into that. Before we do, could you describe maybe your backstory or your background and maybe your journey and how you got to this point?
Roberto Busin: I started as a passionate mechanical engineer. I started at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I was absolutely sure that I will never become a consultant, for sure not a management consultant, this is why I went into material science as an assistant. And during that time when I developed the idea that I could become a very good consulting in top technology material, I got an offer from a management consulting company. So it was a 180 degree turn in my career. So I never really used my material knowledge to become a young management consultant.
Jeff Kavanaugh: The topic for today is embedding a startup culture into industrial manufacturing, and we'll get into that a little more later. How did you translate this formal engineering background in material science into what people think is just a bunch of analysis, and PowerPoints and business consulting.
Roberto Busin: I remember very well the first announcement of this job offer I got. The first question was, "Can you think straight?" And I thought, "Yes, maybe I can think straight." And I think in the old world of manufacturing but also in the new world of IoT and industry 4.0, thinking straight is still what makes it different. So it's a domain open to everybody who wants to apply some logic, some good thinking, some innovation.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You've done a lot of work all over the world. What have you seen that is different in your experiences between, let's just say Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the Americas?
Roberto Busin: So we will recognize how old I am when I go back for many years, maybe even 15, 20 years. Back when I started, the world was a very clear world, black and white. You could see who is the competitor of whom. It was a big headquarters. You could see exactly from a European point of view where are the competitors in America, where are maybe the competitors in Asia, a very clear picture. Today, this is disappearing. The competition could be two students working out of the town. We are actually having this discussion here in Berlin, developing new software, going into market tomorrow, this could become your new competitor. So this picture has changed dramatically. Being big doesn't means that you are too big to failure. The failure is around the corner.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Your practice area is in industrial manufacturing and you mentioned IoT, and a few of the other buzz words. When you look at industrial manufacturing, especially today, what are the biggest challenges that your clients are seeing?
Roberto Busin: First, challenges that having a big size is not anymore a guarantee for being also important in the market. The competition can be small. Being agile, being fast is becoming the main differentiator. What I also see is that established companies have more difficulties to adopt new ideas. If the, let's say the industrial revolution we are seeing today, if it is really a revolution, I think finally has joined the customer. And to act ... to do this step for an established company seems to be more difficult than for a startup company. It looks like that an established company has more to do to resolve the history in not connected system in some data quality, which is not there. And looking towards a startup company, they can start from fresh attempt. They do not have a history. They can act and use new technology very fast and adopt themselves.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know Roberto, we've known each other for several years and I think the first time we started to work together you were working with a French major manufacturer on PLM, product life cycle management, in heavy industry. If you could share some of the work that you did there and then some of the insights?
Roberto Busin: Absolutely. It's a transportation company, which is undergoing dramatic changes due from first that there is a new competition coming from China, which is absolutely hurting the margin. Prices are going down top line. Bottom line is eroding and this company had to reinvent themselves. They first choosed to focus on only transportation before it was a mixed company being also in the market of height, energy turbines. They sold it out. They are only focusing on transportation now, and they decided to become the most innovative IoT-based transportation company in the world. It looks like that it was a good choice to be a front rider of a new technology to making transportation becoming a player in the urban mobility with new ideas of transportation is the new space they want to compete in the future. And IoT is helping them to connect with their clients, which are using transportation every day, to reduce waiting time and to reduce also transportation time with optimized transportations.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You often made a comment to me that there's a moment of truth in every project, especially when it gets outside the established routine. I don't know if you wanted to share something from this project, or another one that really stood out in your memory?
Roberto Busin: Yes. I mean, it's for me a fantastic question, which I love to discuss with every new joiner in our company. What makes it different in working in our company? It's the fact that we are doing project. Project, by definition, is something outside the core business of an established company, which is very good in doing what they are doing maybe for a long time. And then there are projects which will change a situation from A to B, increase maybe a level of organization in a scale to 10, from 4 to 7, or to 8, and for this we are there. I think every project has its moment of truth, and it's the moment of truth which makes our job special. Being contributing to make this moment of truth a success for the project and for our client is what makes life of a consultant being really good.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You know, since you mentioned consultants, and some folks especially coming at it from [inaudible 00:07:54] corporate leadership, sometimes get a stereotype, consulting isn't always as effective as it needs to be. What is it the that you try to do, and tell the folks across your practice to make sure that they show value, and they make a real impact for clients?
Roberto Busin: It's not an easy question, and the stereotypes are there. I think the consultants themselves contribute sometimes to these stereotypes. If I look to the change of projects, and I would like to maybe use an example, we are all coming from the so-called Waterfall Project, where a long lasting project with milestone after 6 months, 8 months, 12 months, four then approaching the next wave, and we could see already a huge challenge in applying the right level of communication. And in this challenging environment, we are switching now into agile project, very short sprints, very small steps, one small success after the other, and sometimes the agility is really so high that the communication comes short.
Roberto Busin: So I think a consultant not only connects business processes with technology or structures with strategies, it also has to connect human with the next to be state, and this requires a high level of communication. What I can see is in maybe a commonality across many projects, communicating a lot helps of course. Be to the point. Be very focused on what was the original target, but continuing to communicate will help to get out of these stereotypes.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I was laying it out there because the overall topic for us today is embedding a startup culture within industrial manufacturing, and it sounds like, especially you as an external advisor, you've got to have that startup culture as well, as you advise companies to make sure you're fresh and on the edge.
Roberto Busin: That's a good point, and I see this as a great opportunity for all consultants, especially acting in a manufacturing environment. It's true. We can be part of this startup mentality. If we join a company, we are not suffering from the history, from maybe some shortcomings in the ERP systems. We are coming in with new fresh ideas, which we can work with the client in getting there. In these terms, yes, I think every consultant should keep this startup mentality, not look what are the barriers, but look about what are the opportunities. And you will find a lot of people against, and telling you what the barriers are, and what the problems we will have in our journey, but let's keep the focus on the opportunity, and let's turn the opportunities into reality. Finally, this will make the difference for our clients, but also for the consulting in the specific project teams.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah. Let's put the hat on now as a corporate leader. So you're a leader, could be in IT, could be supply chain, or manufacturing, a plant manager, and you're facing these challenges you mentioned before. What is it that a corporate leader can do to embed this, I guess to embrace, and then to embed this startup culture?
Roberto Busin: We are talking about culture, about some pride to be member of a specific company, soft elements which are making the difference. A leadership can develop, has to develop a vision, and has to believe in the execution of the vision via strategy, and this is the biggest contribution of corporate leaders, of my role in Infosys Consulting to have a target where we want to be, what our mission should be in the market, and keep it. There are more person at the beginning against it, even in your own company, which still would stick to the past rather than go for the future. And to overcome these barriers is the biggest mission of every leadership.
Jeff Kavanaugh: When you have your one-on-one discussions with corporate leaders, especially early, just trying to think through these things, what advice do you give them to get through all this noise, and I guess push back that they get?
Roberto Busin: I have to tell you Jeff, that my, let's say, quality of advice at top leaders has changed over the years. At the beginning I was very much focused on a specific project, on what needs to be right to be successful in the project, and I executed very much operationally. If I look back, we have quite a rate of unsuccessful projects, different reasons, and this led to a change of the type of advice I'm giving today.
Roberto Busin: If you're talking about a project, about a specific change a leadership, an organization and management wants to go for, I start to ask about the environment. What is the environment of a specific project? Do you have the prerequisites? I'm asking, "What do you think are the prerequisites for your success in your company?" And so rather than discussing the project itself, I prefer to make an analysis out of the box thinking, "Do you have the right prerequisites?" Sometimes it's about organizational shortcomings. Sometimes it's about some personal shortcomings of a designated program leader, and this discussion helps me, but also helps the client to increase the success rate of a project.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Once again, you're listening to The Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct main ideas, and share their insights. We're here with Roberto Busin partner at Infosys Consulting on embedding a startup culture in industrial manufacturing.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Technology is has pervaded almost every aspect of our lives including business, and yeah, you're talking so much about culture and transformation. Why do you mention culture and the people side more so than the technical side, and what do you think that balance is?
Roberto Busin: It's interesting, right? In fact, we have learned that structures follows processes, some years, many years ago. Today, maybe we should change it, and strategy follows data? And if you think about where the datas are coming from, it has a lot to do with technology, could be cloud, could be an ERP, could be an environment of infrastructure for transferring datas. It's becoming very important. Technology is there. That's the second reality. Technology is there, not only in terms of very mature ERP systems, infrastructure, or also IoT connectivity, mesh to mesh communication. What is not there is the human factor. To bring the human factor to the same level that a technology is today is the bigger step than going for a new way of using technology.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Can you give me an example of a project where you helped an industrial manufacturer go from, call it, a very traditional way of thinking and actually embed the startup culture? Because it sounds great in theory, everybody wants to do that, but how do you actually do that if you're a 50 or a 100 year old company?
Roberto Busin: I would like to make an example out of a very large global tier one supplier, automotive supplier, which imagine different divisions, one division being into the dashboard business, so this is what you have in front of you if you are driving a car. Another division being into the automotive electronics, so that's your secondary monitor. If you remember, some ... about 15 years ago, you had a dashboard in front of you, and on the right side you had your monitor. It was a piece of high tech at that time. Working in different divisions, we also learned in all our our MIS schools, that every division needs to be profitable, so you're biggest competitor in a large company is not your competitor. Outside is your division next to you. You want to beat them, you want to be more profitable, which leads often to an environment of no cooperation.
Roberto Busin: In this particular case, and I come back to this tier one supplier, technology is bringing together, right? You can have your secondary monitor now in front of you embedded in your dashboard cluster. These two divisions should work together, but they could not work together. So this company went outside their own research center. They went into an environment of students in a German town, and they started this development completely outside their own facilities. And only by doing this research and development activity outside, let's say the traditional research environment, they could bring these two divisions working together, and actually producing the next generation of clusters, including head up displays for cars.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Switching gears a little bit, given that you're based in Zurich, and you work across Europe, I'll be honest, being in the US, yeah, we have 50 States more or less together, not always, more or less. What are some challenges that you find working with European based manufacturer? You're global, no doubt. Across our country lines, languages, what are some of the challenges that you see trying to help them or for them trying to get better?
Roberto Busin: Coming from you, Jeff, it's a good question, indeed. You have many states and we have also states here in Europe. There is absolutely a big difference that every nation in Europe has its own culture, its own language, and even the Swiss German is completely different than the German spoken here in Germany, or here in Berlin, which makes it ... every company has a specific history, and there are very proud about their history. So language for us is important. Understanding where they are coming from is very important. Being aligned with their way of thinking will make a difference. I think Europe has a big advantage of their traditions, which can also become a big disadvantage, and if you stick too much on their tradition, I can see American companies can move faster, and more to the point that some of the European company. It takes maybe sometime too long, and especially in this environment or fast changes, I see some North American companies acting faster, better, and with more consequence than European companies.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Related question, since we all say that people are most important assets, and you're passionate about people, obviously, we can tell. What about recruiting, trying to bring on talent? We'll start with maybe junior talent, both for your consulting practice, and also for your clients, how are companies getting this new talent they need, especially digital talent or people that are thinking in these ways?
Roberto Busin: So the war of talent is maybe ... I don't know if it's good news or bad news, but the war of talent is still there. It started many years ago. I think it's even improved. If before a student had to really watch out, and to find a first career step into a company today, even a mid-sized company, or a smaller company can offer an employee experience, like a big company. And I think this is the major difference.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What about your company though? I was asking you, what about ... what do you do, and what does your practice do to try to bring these people on?
Roberto Busin: So we see, as a major differentiator from our company, is this combination of process understanding, of technological understanding, and combining this with transformation and innovation, and we want our young consultants to learn both. We want them to make it becoming good transformator, but also to work out what is on their banner. We want every consultant having a kind of coat of arms for what kind of innovation do they stand for? And we start from day one in asking them, "Where do you want to go? What is the piece of innovation you think you can contribute as a kind of value proposition to our client?" It doesn't means that the very first idea of our new joiners will remain fixed over the years. This has to change, because they will become more experienced. They will develop new ideas, but the focus in developing the coat of arms, the personalized coat of arms remains. And I think this is making the difference being part of our company.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Now what about your clients? What are you seeing? Because they have this ... these nasty two words called at scale. They have to hire more people, obviously as multinationals and bigger companies, how do they do this?
Roberto Busin: It's a big challenge. Especially our clients are very good in what they're doing. We usually work with companies which are number one, number two in the market, acting globally. And they are very good in attracting the right people, the good people for their established core business. What they are not so good is that the core business, which is core business today, it's not the core business of tomorrow. So they are hiring people while the transformation is already around the corner. And this is the big challenge. They are hiring people for a specific mission in the core business, but they are using them for the transformation. And if this is orchestrated, and communicated well, and you can prepare your people, it will work out. But if the communication comes short, it can become a problem. And this goes back to my advice, my dialogue I have as a top management in asking about the prerequisite, and this is one of the prerequisites, "How good have you prepared your team to the transformation you are envisioning? How many times have you mentioned this transformation in your routine management meetings? Is it part of your standard agenda?" Often I receive a triple, "No."
Jeff Kavanaugh: Let's take a little different approach for a moment. You've been in manufacturing for quite some time. I am as well. We partially bleed machine oil, [crosstalk 00:23:43] blood.
Roberto Busin: Absolutely.
Jeff Kavanaugh: And it's interesting, you made this comment when we were at this conference, how it's nice to see these younger folks here, and the question for you is how can the next generation discover manufacturing as a cool thing, like 60 70 years ago, that was the place to be, you're making things? We're starting to see a resurgence, but how can we make sure we really make the most of that, and people rediscover manufacturing as a profession?
Roberto Busin: After we had this huge, amazing development of companies which are very poor on assets but very rich on user experience, like the Facebook, Netflix type of companies, we now see a little bit the empire strikes back, that the asset rich companies, which are the traditional manufacturing companies have learned a lot about becoming also rich in user experience. And this all development of IoTs brings back the outsourced manufacturing back to the old continent in Western Europe. So we see an extremely positive development that the cost competitiveness is not only about cost arbitrage by ... or outsourcing people, but with the IoT technology, we can manufacturing complex products to the same cost as you would have in manufacturing in Vietnam, or somewhere in Asia, which brings us back in a leading position in Europe.
Roberto Busin: You also approached or asked me about the younger talents, right? And not only the younger male talents, but also young women which are joining manufacturing. And I can see not only in our ranks, more young, high talented women joining, but also in our clients. So I can see, I would say in all projects we are doing, we have a female component which is increasing, so I think maybe the pace is still too slow, but the direction is, and trajectory is absolutely the right one.
Jeff Kavanaugh: What are the three things that you recommend, if you were talking to a client right now, that companies can do to embed more of a startup culture in industrial manufacturing, or any company for that matter?
Roberto Busin: Let me start of the very original reason why we have management consultants. We are adding a specific capability to our clients in a mission of transformation. In this mission, a management consultant should know at the beginning why he's doing this. I repeat, why are we doing this? So he should know about the value we want to get out of this transformation by already recognizing the value. And by never getting this out of your eyes during the transformation journey, you will add value to the project. For me, this is the main reason why management consulting is a good place to be for young talent.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Yeah, but even if you're not in management consulting, this advice for a company to do that. So, really any corporate leader with that absolute focus on value can be that good starting point. What are some recommendations that company leaders can take to embed this startup culture in their own company?
Roberto Busin: The ideas and opportunities are there, right? Companies know how to use IoT industry for, oh, what the possibilities are. Often the failure is that they are not ready for applying it because they have not done their homework, and I would suggest go for the new ideas, go for innovation, but do your homework in preparing your company for this new technology, for this new way of thinking. And if it takes too long time to get your homework done, start small in an area where you can have the prerequisite done for starting with the new possibilities. Never forget whatever you're doing, think about it needs to be scalable. I see a high rate of failures in implementing good ideas, which cannot be scaled afterwards. Think about scalability, and never forget about your commercial model kind of idea, why you're doing this.
Jeff Kavanaugh: Roberto, as you look back on your career and in your life in general, who have been your biggest influences and why?
Roberto Busin: I think I like everybody across the history who was following his own journey against many others who told him not to do it. If I pick out one, and there are many, not only in the business environment but also in the environment of art, you will find many people who went their own way, and I have a big admiration for this, a big fan of a aviation. There is a US pilot called John Vogt, who was a fighter pilot during the Korea War, and after that he became a military strategist, and nobody liked him because he revolutionized the way of building fighters. For the fighter friends among the audience, if you look to the F-16, he is the father of the F-16. And now compare the F-16 in with all predecessor models, all have two engines, F-14, F-15, he went back to a single engine, very agile fighter, and it became a big success. At the beginning, nobody, not the Pentagon, not the Air Force, not the Navy supported him. So I have a big admiration for these type of people.
Jeff Kavanaugh: I will wrap it up with that. How can people find you online?
Roberto Busin: So, email@example.com.
Jeff Kavanaugh: You can find details on our show notes at infosys.com/iki in our podcast section. Roberto, thank you for your time and a great discussion. Everyone, even listening to The Knowledge Institute, where we talk with experts on business trends, deconstruct their main ideas, and share insights. Thanks to our producer, Catherine Burdette and the entire Knowledge Institute team. And until next time, keep learning and keep sharing.
About Roberto Busin
Roberto leads the organization’s Europe manufacturing segment and manages its Swiss operations. He is an expert on transforming companies in the areas of supply chain, operations and digital, and has extensive experience setting up global delivery centers with multi-national teams around the world. Roberto works with business leaders from some of the biggest brands in Europe and is bringing new ways of approaching artificial intelligence enablers to organizations.