What Does Blue Sky Mean to You?

in rethinking robotics, trending now by Jim Lawton

What does blue sky mean to you? For the more than 750 guests – including yours truly – at the opening of Jabil’s Blue Sky Center last week blue sky was all about innovation, factories of the future Baxter, the smart, collaborative robot at Jabil's Blue Sky Centerand snapping selfies with Baxter. It was also a great opportunity to hear from some of the most visionary leaders in manufacturing today – Cisco, Tesla, NetApp, Honeywell, Tile and more – who shared their perspectives on how their companies are shaping their own blue skies.

It was a pretty heady experience – gorgeous northern California weather, BBQ and lots of conversations about innovation. The mission at the heart of Jabil’s Blue Sky Center is helping customers engineer growth in a world of change.

No doubt, Jabil’s on to something here. The times, as they say, are a-changin and in conversations I had throughout the day, executives at large and small manufacturers get it. A few snippets from conversations I had:

The low-cost-at-all-cost model has run its course. Peter Carlsson, an executive with Tesla talked about the company’s need to optimize three parameters that were once considered as trade-offs: low cost, good quality and fast time-to-market.

It takes a village to bring a product to market. There was a lot of talk about the manufacturing ecosystem. Jeff Gallinat from Cisco, one of the largest companies there, spoke of how they rely on Jabil, their contract manufacturer, not only for the efficiency that outsourcing offers, but also for their expertise in accelerating time-to-market. Dhananja Jayalath from Athos, one of the smaller companies, shared how they know little about manufacturing and are able to rely on Jabil for expertise in design for reliability and test and able to support the company’s rapid product cycles.

Breakthroughs come by believing in the impossible before it’s possible. Remarks from Astronaut Burt Rutan, resonated strongly with me, when he talked about how breakthroughs require really turning things upside down and shaking out the solution.

That’s exactly what we’re doing here at Rethink Robotics. Changing everything about how robots are built, what they can do and how people can work with them – all in pursuit of that blue sky of innovation.

We’re very excited that Baxter [and soon Sawyer] will be a part of the Blue Sky Center – there to facilitate two core competencies the Jabil team brings to customers. First, product design for automation, making sure products are designed right for the widespread automation finally made possible by smart, collaborative robots. Second, as part of a portfolio of flexible automation solutions that Jabil’s automation experts deploy for a sustainable and globally competitive solution.

It was great to watch folks engage with Baxter. And more than once someone commented on his smile. Funny thing, that. Baxter doesn’t have a mouth. But clearly evident by the number of selfies snapped over the course of the day, Baxter conveys a friendliness that even the most stoic of CEOs couldn’t resist. It was, I believe, the best possible way to begin working together.


About the Author

Jim Lawton

Jim had a choice upon graduating from Tufts University – chase a dream as a concert pianist or become part of the inaugural Leaders for Manufacturing Program at MIT. He chose the latter– dedicating his career to developing and delivering innovative solutions that improve the business of manufacturing. Internally at HP, and then at breakthrough start-ups in e-commerce, inventory optimization and supply chain risk management, Jim’s never once looked back. His charter today: capture the power of data and analytics to push the standard for world-class manufacturing higher—once again.

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