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Staley CEO Andrew Faulkner Gives Reality Check on Manufacturing Tech

5 min read
Before buying Staley Technologies in 2018 and acquiring POSitive Solutions Group and merging it into the company this year, Andrew Faulkner owned and operated Advanced POS Solutions, one of the fastest-growing value-added resellers for NCR Corp. of Atlanta. Faulkner later merged APS with Staley, and today the company, which offers an extended suite of commercial technology products and services, has more than 200 employees around the country.
Faulkner has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and a law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s William H. Bowen School of Law.

 

What challenges are manufacturers facing?

The pandemic has not been all too kind to manufacturers. The most obvious and acute challenge is the ongoing supply-chain issue. The global supply shock that began at the beginning of the pandemic “exposed vulnerabilities in the production strategies and supply chains of firms just about everywhere,” according to the Harvard Business Review. This eliminated the dependence on more unpredictable sources and essentially sped up the industry’s move to automation. That move to automation was and is heavily reliant on technology solutions, and I’ve seen it firsthand. It’s not always easy, but, now more than ever, it’s necessary and requires moving past the technology itself and into true solutions that require hardware and software to come together as a viable, effective solution. And, consistent with many other industries, manufacturing has struggled to hire and onboard staff.

COVID prompted many sectors to rethink their operations. How is manufacturing changing in response?

Manufacturing is expecting more from its business, from efficiencies behind the line to its technology. Cloud-based solutions are now a vital, integrated part of daily operations, using fiber, Wi-Fi, Internet of Things, kiosks, digital signage and software to be better day-to-day. Not only does this reduce bulk, it also offers opportunities for synchronized operations that communicate automatically, rather than manually.

Do you see promising opportunities for manufacturers in new technology? What is making things better?

With the speed of adaptations in technology, the cost has come down as well. This is good news to manufacturers, particularly if they previously explored something like a cloud-based software and were intimidated by that bottom-line number. Additionally, network safety has increased because of this cloud-based software. We are able to keep most of these integrations off their network and provide transparent, and quick returns on investment. Data reporting and results are real-time, which offers insights on how to improve, identifies issues and creates opportunities.

What were the most important lessons you learned from the pandemic?

Trust your team. With everyone working remotely, I had to trust that all 250 Staley employees were doing what they were supposed to be doing. That was critical! Personally I have been convinced through this process that we can not only survive, but thrive with a teleworking format.

What are the most exciting things you see coming for manufacturing?

Several trends to look out for are most intensely focused in the cloud-based technology category. Wi-Fi, artificial intelligence, and IoT are key pieces to that future. With that in place, we can all expect to see more and more digital signage, kiosks and automation in general. The ongoing nature of the pandemic has some impact here, but overall, I would say it escalated the growth of an already innovating industry.

As someone with operations in multiple states, what advice do you have for companies suddenly managing remote workers?

You’ve got to take the time to develop your processes and enable technology where you can to make the processes efficient. Quick-fixes aren’t fixes at all; you really have to identify and meet needs. While it takes time to develop the flow, once developed and implemented, it becomes second nature and you’ll see the benefits quickly.

What are the challenges when integrating new technology into manufacturing chains, and how do you overcome them?

Most immediately, we see barriers to effective communication when new technology is introduced. Most of the individuals or organizations we help day-to-day are part of a very large company that’s typically based outside of Arkansas. That means internal IT departments are a key piece to any technology discussion. For good reasons, the IT departments typically aren’t big fans of adding new pieces of tech onto their networks. We’ve seen recently in the very high-profile cyber attacks that vendors can sometimes introduce vulnerabilities. That’s why we work hand in hand with those teams to ensure the networks aren’t overloaded, we are airtight when it comes to vulnerabilities, and the process itself goes smoothly. Our expertise and theirs are both needed for success.

Did the business Staley Technologies earned because of the pandemic compensate completely for what was lost?

We had to pivot just like everyone else. I truly think we grew during the pandemic because of how well our team came together and executed on the work we had. We continued to offer the best customer service and excellent work while shifting to different technology for ourselves and implementing COVID-friendly technology for our clients. Our team in the field really went above and beyond for our customers.

Additionally, the market recognized that we were doing things differently; we don’t treat projects like a transaction, but really take a deep dive into a customer’s business to help them implement the critical infrastructure so they could survive the pandemic. We felt closer than ever to our customers during that time.

How has your business changed amid the pandemic? What are you doing differently or better?

The pandemic expedited the adoption of various technology solutions that allowed various industries to operate in that environment; online ordering for restaurants and retail, contactless POS and product pickup, the utilization of digital signage and space monitoring in manufacturing facilities. Customers relied on us to provide and service these solutions.

Just like most other businesses, we were able to offer our office staff the option to work from home either full time or in a hybrid model. Our team has really thrived with this flexibility and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. It also created the opportunity for us to streamline our own internal technologies, such as our cloud-based CRM and accounting strategies. While the Zoom fatigue was very real at times, we were proud of how we shifted to successful, remote operation despite the difficulties.

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