Today we continue our latest blog series offering a peek into the daily lives of IQMS’ directors. From human resources to testing and training to development, meet the key department leaders who are molding our company’s future and continually advancing the EnterpriseIQ ERP and MES software.
Meet Jason Slater, Director of Automation, who oversees IQMS’ award-winning team of automation developers and programmers.
Tell me a little bit about your department and its day-to-day activities:
The Automation team is responsible for a lot of the custom projects that IQMS creates and integrates with the EnterpriseIQ ERP and MES software. Generally, the products are collaborations with our customers to solve a particular need, such as a scheduling application for specialized ink jet printing.
We’ve also recently done a project involving complex manufacturing type integrations for process monitoring situations, where we have a customer that has multiple PLCs accumulating cycles and so they are going to bring all of those cycles into a single PLC and use our production and process monitoring modules to count their production counts. That’s just another example.
The projects we take on really range across the board. That’s the appealing part of being a member of IQMS' Automation department and the aspect I believe my team enjoys the most: Every day is a new day. You are not going to sit in front of a computer writing test suites like at a lot of other software companies. You are not pigeonholed into a single daily task where you are doing the same thing day in and day out. The team jumps around, they might do a web application one week and then a couple of weeks later, they might be doing an Android or desktop application or something that is integrating with a scale or has to do with a handpunch. So that’s the fun part, the part that I love and why I have been here so long: The diversity of challenges. It keeps the days going by quickly.
On a personal day-to-day basis, I have recently been focusing on how to best organize my fast growing department across multiple projects. Development is very challenging because each project involves immersing yourself in the eyes of the end user without actually being there. There are times when automation involves new hardware, new technologies and new ideas that our team has never worked on before and we just have to figure it out. So rather than adopting the traditional "team lead" structure, we have taken the approach of learning the specialized skill sets of my team members and pairing the right individuals with each other on a per-project basis. This method seems to be working out a lot better than saying, "Trevor, your team leader is Weston, period." Flexibility and adaptability is essential because the next project might require a different mix of talent. It is also rewarding for a technical team who thrives on new challenges.
Any upcoming projects you can offer our readers a sneak preview of?
Right now, one of the biggest projects that I am most excited about is our RTCharts application that accompanies our RealTime™ Process Monitoring system. Process Monitoring analyzes each cycle as it’s coming in and RTCharts allows you to analyze data collection points in real-time (my temperature needs to be within this range or the pressure needs to be within a set range) with gauges or charts on the screen displaying that data. Prior to this upcoming release, RTCharts was pretty rigid as far as what you could display and it was not easy to manipulate. We re-engineered it to be much faster and much more flexible. We’ve exposed additional ways to do analysis where you can now combine data from multiple sensors onto a single RealTime chart. Configuration has been a big focus where you can now use drag and drop to position charts and merge them together. Additionally, you can also zoom in instantly on charted data points with just simple clicks. Before, we had older technology where we would create an image on the server side and upload that to the webpage so you couldn’t do anything with it. It was fixed. Now it is looking really nice.
Where do you find your inspiration to continue innovating and pushing the capabilities of our software every day?
The challenge is what excites me. I like figuring things out, so that’s a big motivator, and I also like seeing a product or an idea come to fruition. A lot of these projects might seem like a simple idea, but to make them into software that runs on your computer or mobile device - it’s incredibly complex. So when you get to this point, like we’re looking at with the RTCharts, where your months and months of development are coming together - the anticipation of impressing the users is exciting. It’s really exciting when the users go nuts over it.
What would a typical morning in the life of Jason look like?
Usually I wake up in the morning, get my daughter a bottle of milk and then check my phone for emails. I always stop by Starbucks on my way into work and grab a coffee. Then it’s usually following up on end of day tasks from the prior day and answering incoming emails. Being on the West Coast, we usually have a pretty good backlog of emails by the time I get in at 8 AM. So I respond to those and I check in on priority projects with the team.
Are there any specific IQMS products you see gaining ground and popularity over the next year?
I feel like our RealTime™ Process Monitoring product is growing quite a bit as IQMS moves more actively into the MES sector. As the product continually matures and integrates throughout the rest of the EnterpriseIQ ERP system, it becomes a more solid product. We also have an exciting new piece of technology entering the Process Monitoring mix this year (sorry, no spoilers yet!) that will really amplify our MES offerings and I think it is going to surge momentum for the product.