Thought Leaders in Automation

Thought Leaders in Automation


IoT Solutions Architect

Gus Molina is the IoT Solutions Architect with Advantech. He supports North American customer engagements and ecosystem partnership collaborations around IoT and edge computing solutions. In his capacity, Gus is also responsible for scouting and vetting third parties and their hardware and software components for realizing complete end-to-end IoT solutions. He also assists in developing ecosystem partner relationships for Advantech’s efforts in IoT applications and Solution Ready Platforms (SRPs).

Molina holds more than 20 years of experience as an independent contractor providing expert services in hardware design, device and enterprise software development, product engineering, and manufacturing engineering, among others.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed many vulnerabilities in areas such as supply chain, business operations, manufacturing processes, and others. What are the most important lessons you’ve learned that could help companies be better prepared for future pandemics?

People tend to find comfort in the way things are. Most people feel some level of fright or threat when facing big, unexpected changes. 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic brought both these emotions to bear and disrupted our lives to no end. Yet, I look around, and I’m in awe of the positive things happening. I see people adapting, resiliency developing, and vast creativity showing up everywhere.

Workers often feel frightened or threatened if machines may take over their jobs. Yet, the world is turning to automation and reaping its benefits more and more, usually without a second thought. Automation is already impacting our lives at every level.

As the saying goes, resistance is futile – automation is here to stay. We should accept it, figure out its best uses for our benefit, and influence how it evolves through our feedback. If we can work with automation instead of fighting against it, we can be prepared for overcoming the next big challenge or pandemic we might face.

During the last 20 years, manufacturing companies have seen a 25 percent improvement in productivity through automation. This has caused recalibration of workforces and tasks. How does this benefit not only companies, but also workers? Also, what other changes do you see coming to the workforce?

We’ve already seen sweeping changes from automation. It has brought increased productivity, and streamlined, leaner processes. That’s leading to more efficient use of raw materials and natural resources. Monitoring and analytics are reducing down time and simplifying maintenance.

What we can do now was only in the pages of science fiction until not too long ago. We’re making leaps in compute power, quality, and reliability, while costs continue shrinking. Without automation, incredibly powerful PCs, mobile devices, and flat screen displays would simply not exist. These devices power product and service breakthroughs, helping companies reach more customers.

Automation also helps individual workers with better and safer workplaces, improved labor conditions, and simplified jobs. Hazardous conditions and repetitive and fatiguing tasks for workers are disappearing with automation.

But it’s what comes next that is really mind-boggling. Artificial intelligence in the form of machine vision, hearing, and learning is here. It’s paving the way toward smarter, autonomous machines as force-multipliers for productivity. Machines will handle volumes of sensors and data. Humans will become keepers of innovation and knowledge-based exception handlers.

Robotics, Machine Vision, Industry 4.0, Artificial Intelligence, 5G, Blockchain, Quantum Computing – the number of technology advancements and “buzz words” that companies should know about and be able to take advantage of seems dizzying these days. What is your advice to users on how to get started with automation and how to make sure they are staying abreast of all the latest developments?

Knowledge is growing exponentially, and technological breakthroughs are happening at a breakneck rate. Ease of communication allows sharing information and discoveries faster and easier than ever. But that’s also contributing to abundant noise. It is practically impossible now for anyone to stay current and sort out facts from fiction. In my view, the best approach to get to the right information is relying on trusted sources. Creating the best solutions takes considering the right factors and understanding any tradeoffs. That’s where folks like me, your friendly Advantech Solutions Architect, come in.

One of the great privileges of working at Advantech is our direct access to experts who make technology work in the real world. Through our close ecosystem of partnerships and collaborations with silicon vendors like Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, Xilinx, NXP, TI, Qualcomm, and others, we have inside access to where it all takes place. We also have over 50 teams of in-house engineering experts with combined person-centuries worth of hands-on expertise. They’ve seen every imaginable type of project across all kinds of industries and verticals. This network of resources at our disposal positions us to stay on top of it all for our customers.

With economists forecasting broader use of robotics and automation, especially coming out of the COVID-19 landscape, there are potentially a lot of new customers. What would you tell business leaders about getting started with automation?

To all who have not yet considered it, now is a great time to investigate automation. The field continues changing and growing. At this point we have enough deployments to say that there is an established foundation to build on. In the past, only large companies with deep pockets could afford the heavy costs of all the inescapable trials and errors needed to learn how to automate. We’re beyond that now – any company can jump in.

For most automation needs, we’ve already seen technology that works, or something close enough to leverage. It’s worthwhile to explore what already exists and not assume the wheel has yet to be invented. Many of the pieces are available off-the-shelf. Just as important, the required knowledge and experience is within reach to help select pieces and make them function together as needed. There’s also no need to go at it alone. There is help available from automation vendors, industry consultants, and potential hires. Working with someone like Advantech with its in-house experience and a large network of partners can speed up automation projects.

While we all know downtime can help relieve stress, several science-backed studies confirm productivity improves when people take time to enjoy life outside of the office. What are some of your favorite things to do in your free time?

The great thing about living in Southern California is the breadth of outdoor options available year-round. We are blessed to live within just a few hours’ drive of all kinds of natural and man-made attractions – beaches, mountains, forests, deserts, something for everyone to enjoy!

For short escapes, my wife and I like heading out for weekend walks to local cliffs and beaches. There are tons of great spots all along the way, from Huntington Beach to Dana Point. With the kids, we also greatly enjoy riding our bikes or going inline skating around Back Bay. For myself, I very much like the mountains. During summer, I try not to miss opportunities to hike with our Advantech team on any of the several 10Kft peaks we have around us. In the winter, I absolutely love snowshoeing San Jacinto Peak from the ranger station when there’s fresh snow.

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