Meet the Speakers – Paul Brooks is Digital Transformation Principal for PTC and based in the UK. He has a global role, working with clients from a range of sectors to improve their productivity and efficiency, including through implementing IIoT and AR
Can you tell us about your session at the Virtual Sensor Show & Congress?
It will be called ‘Unlock Double Digit Impact with Digital Transformation Solutions’ – so looking at why should firms invest and what is the relevance for them. Technology can be talked about in sci-fi terms, but I will be explaining in practical terms the benefits of innovation, as experienced by real companies.
How long have you worked for PTC and why did you choose to work here?
It’s approaching three years now and although I worked for other large organisations, I wanted to move to PTC, because they are, quite simply, leaders in what they do, with field proven technology which is also recognised externally, by industry analysts like IDC, Gartner or Forrester. PTC was named this week the Global Manufacturing Partner of the Year, for the second year in a row, in the Microsoft 2020 Partner of the Year Awards. There is a lot of knowledge here – people are highly trained and qualified, and I really enjoy the way we take a common approach to helping our clients. Although I can work effectively from home, and this has certainly happened of late, the job has also allowed me to travel extensively, including to India, Japan and most European countries and I’ve also often visited our head office in Boston – a great city!
How would you describe the culture at PTC?
This is a place of great know-how and curious minds. In terms of culture, we are very forward looking and with a moral/ethical focus that can be seen in what we do in the community – there’s also a real buzz about working here. Certainly, everyone has the ability to work from home, so this was nothing new when the lockdown occurred, but we’ve had a really good social programme going, from quizzes to film recommendations, to keep everyone engaged and supported. For a flavour of what we do, our annual LiveWorx event brings together around 8000 people and is a fantastic experience. This year it was conducted virtually, and we hit over 19K participants from around the world! All content is available all the year round at https://archive.liveworx.com.
How important is innovation to PTC and where is this primarily focused?
It’s really important and although this is a large organisation many do have engineering and science backgrounds – I studied computer engineering at university – and people here want to use those skills to help clients and society more widely – you notice this even if people may be working in areas like sales or pre-sales. It was great to see our people in the UK get involved with the Ventilator Challenge project, which was about the fast production of suitable ventilator equipment for hospitals.
Where do you see problem areas in the context of intelligent manufacturing and advanced sensing technologies?
It is often cultural as there can be too many people in an organisation who are resistant to change. This is why progress is held back – there can be skills issues or fears over what will happen to jobs. But as has been shown over history, adapting to change is essential.
What do you think are the best approaches to master these challenges?
People have to let down their barriers and look at what technology can do for them. When visiting a pharma business in India, somebody had a bulky A5 lever file – we talked about it as something of an anomaly, as people learn far better and more quickly from screens and information on boards – the next leap is going to be in mass take up of AR methods, where there is phenomenal potential not just in industry, but also people’s everyday lives.
Can you tell us about Vuforia and the impact it is having?
Vuforia is owned by PTC and is a scalable augmented reality platform, which can be used by a wide range of users, including manufacturers and with many consumer applications too. It is being implemented in many workplaces and you can also see what the potential is for people to use AR, not just in gaming, but via their phones. Vuforia is going to be at the forefront of technology and that includes in our daily lives, so showing how to fix things as in YouTube videos or understanding issues with our cars, just by putting a phone over the console. I’d say we are on a crest of a wave now with AR – acceptance is growing and it is poised to move, slowly but surely, into the mainstream. Using AR in industrial use cases such as workforce training and safety, remote assistance or for immersive customer experience offers easy adoption, clear returns, tangible benefits, and a roadmap to scale up.
In terms of PTC’s IoT expertise, has this continued to expand and what do you see as the next stages for this?
IoT has amalgamated technologies that were there previously and we are now seeing this expand and develop with 4.0. Some are being left behind – they are still in Industry 3.0 – so, this shows us why we need an invigorated approach to bring about the necessary integration. PTC’s approach is also to help manufacturers define, capture, and express attainable value from Industry 4.0. We believe it’s critical to design an enterprise program for a successful transformation across manufacturing and supply chain operations.
Do you see digital transformation accelerating as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
There will undoubtedly be changes in the way people work, although I still think having personal interaction with colleagues is important and that people need this – we need a balance. We almost certainly won’t need the same amount of office space though. Overall, it has been good to see that so many have been able to stay connected and productive from working from home.
Do you enjoy technology outside of work – how do you best like to unwind when you have time off?
Yes, I love technology – you could say I live and breathe it – and to relax, I love gaming, in particular playing with my two children. I have a son who is a fan of Grand Theft Auto and a daughter who plays Roblox. I also enjoy making things and recently constructed a retro arcade machine. But I also like to be outdoors when possible, for physical and mental wellness and in particular, mountain climbing. I’ve completed the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge and am now looking forward this year to doing the national one, where you climb the three highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales (Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon) …subject to the weather improving.