Supply Chain Now Episode 334

“We are [the] eyes and ears in the supply chain.”

– Jan van Niekerk, Vice President of Engineering and Innovation at SpotSee, on SpotSee’s package monitoring


Everyone has likely seen a box at some point with a sticker on it that reads, “This side up” – hopefully pointing up. Given the volume of packages and freight being moved today, it is not feasible to have someone visually monitoring them all. That is where the innovations from SpotSee come in.

They manufacture precise but inexpensive vibration, shock, and temperature monitors that can be put on each item in a load so that shippers can monitor the conditions of sensitive product during shipment. According to Jan, a consistent 2% of all shipped goods are damaged on an annual basis and their products can help minimize the risk and cost of that, allowing packages that are moving outside of a product’s tolerance range to report those conditions instantly.

In this interview, Jan van Niekerk speaks with Supply Chain Now Co-hosts Greg White and Scott Luton about:

  • The brand damage that is so often associated with product damage and poor customer experiences
  • How innovation has driven down the costs of RFID connectivity to the point where it is cost effective to put a monitor on each package
  • The crucial role that temperature sensitivity and monitoring plays in several supply chains, from food to healthcare

[00:00:05] It’s time for Supply chain now broadcasting live from the Supply chain capital of the country. Atlanta, Georgia. Heard around the world, Supply chain now spotlights the best in all things supply chain. The people, the technologies, the best practices.


[00:00:22] And the critical issues of the day and now here are your hosts.


[00:00:28] Good afternoon, Scott Luton here with you on Supply chain now. Welcome back to the show. On today’s episode, we’re speaking with an industry leader in global supply chain visibility, in particular, a leader in devices that monitor conditions such as shock, vibration, temperature and much, much more. Stay tuned as we look to increase your Supply chain Tech IQ. Quick programing note before we get started. If you enjoy today’s conversation, be sure to find this and subscribe wherever you get your podcast from. Welcome in my fearless co-host here on today’s show. Once again, Mr. Greg White serial supply chain, tech entrepreneur and trusted advisor Greg.


[00:01:08] How you doing? Hey, Scott, I’m doing great. I’d like to encourage people that even if they don’t enjoy today’s conversation to go ahead and subscribe as great.


[00:01:19] But how could I not enjoy this, right? That’s right. Well, you know, we’ve got a we’ve kind of had a string, I think, of excellent conversations and podcasts. And today, I think it’s going continue that hitting streak. So with no further ado on, welcome. In our feature guest today, Mr. Jon Bon Niekerk Vise, president of engineering and innovation at Spotts, a John Haber doing.


[00:01:44] I’m doing good. Thank you. Greg and Scott, thank you for that. It’s really an honor to be on your podcast.


[00:01:51] Absolutely. Well, it’s an honor having you. Yeah. And you know, Greg and John, are our initial prep conversation kind of warm up call? It feels like it’s been two or three worlds ago. It’s been a while since we had that. But I’ve really enjoyed keeping my finger on what spots he’s been doing, including something we’ll touch on here momentarily. Some of the ways that you’re helping everyone in this in this unique, challenging time that we’re all in. But, John, in the meantime, welcome to Supply chain now. OK. So for starters, before we start talking more about Spot, see, we really want to get a sense about John and get a sense of your background. So, John, for starters, give us a little bit information on where you’re from and give us some some tidbits about your professional journey.


[00:02:38] Yes, certainly, Scott. I was born in South Africa and raised and educated in South Africa and actually started a business in South Africa.


[00:02:50] I have when I was about 7 years old, I built my first radio, crystal radio, and I told my dad. Yes. Can you believe that? I’ve just been passionate about radio my entire life. So at the tender age of 7, I told my dad that one day I’m gonna be an electrical engineer. And I certainly made good on that promise.


[00:03:15] I went ahead, got a master’s degree from the University of Pretoria in South Africa and then also a masters degree in Phenix, Arizona, from Arizona State University MBA.


[00:03:31] So go ahead, please.


[00:03:35] Yeah. So, you know, my my entire career or so I’ve been tinkering with electronic literacy from the age of 7 years old and always been building radio receivers and antennas.


[00:03:48] Listen to shortwave. You can imagine this passion, that radio enthused kid every night on these little shortwave radio listening to stations all over the world, which actually included the first moon landing. So. So since we were in Africa, no TV. Can you believe it? We listened to the first moon landing of a shortwave radio from The Voice of America. Wow. Though radio is very meaningful to me. It’s been a passion of mine literally my entire career.


[00:04:22] So how is that clearly is a special time, special accomplishment for the whole world. How how much did the moon landing and being able to kind of listen in minute by minute? How inspiring was that? And and what did you draw on that that that prompted you to go on and do what you did in your career?


[00:04:45] Well, obviously, you know, as a young boy, I am sure you know, that affected everybody and and certainly made it clear that by focusing on the right technology, you can accomplish things that, you know, is literally beyond the imagination. And and I was actually at that point having a discussion with my grandma, which was, you know, born in in the eighteen hundreds and Sheer.


[00:05:15] She told me that she thinks she had the best life ever. She said.


[00:05:19] When I was born, you know, we went to church literally on, you know, a wagon drawn by animals. And today I see, you know, a man landing on the moon. And to see that technology jump that quantum in technology in one lifetime, she said, I don’t think anybody’s ever gonna be that lucky. But you know what? I think in my lifetime, I’ve probably seen even greater accomplishments. So, you know, technology has always been fascinating to me. I love the engineering aspects of of my career. I love the human and the business aspects of my career as much as I do the technical side. So over time, I’ve learned that, you know, the technology, the business side and the human people side of of engineering all come together. You know, as we serve our companies and as our companies serve the community.


[00:06:20] So let’s we’re going to talk about spots in just a second. Well, prior to joining the sponsee team, what was, say, one critical role that really prepared you to make the contributions you’ve made it spots?


[00:06:34] Yes.


[00:06:35] So I spent almost a decade at microchip technology in Chandler, Arizona, working on radiofrequency products as well as remote keyless entry. So probably if you have, you know, a little remote control for your car in your pocket, it’s likely that I had something to do with that product that that you have in your pocket today. And you know, that technology, which is, you know, the secure keyless entry technology for vehicles was developed at microchip technology.


[00:07:10] And they have, you know, a large share market share in that still today. And then I moved on to Maksym Integrated, which is also semiconductor company here in Dallas, Texas, where I currently live. I spent some years at Intel Flex Corporation, which is RFID, and you’ll see how that ties into, you know, what we’re going to talk about today. And then finally, I spend about a decade as a consultant here in Dallas, Texas.


[00:07:47] I have to I have to. I’m sorry, I have to take you back to your days in Phenix. Let me start by saying I when I first moved to Phenix in the let’s see, in 1990, I owned a print shop and Microchip was our biggest customer. What an incident. Can you believe that? And I’m interested because just last week we did a I think there’s a livestream with an ASU professor and I don’t know what your timeframe was in the area or at a as you but hit-and-run ship chatter. Betty was on the show last week. I don’t suppose you know him. I do not. Oh, my. We need it. First of all, he’s still at a_s. You as a professor and as an alarm. We all introduce you. I think there are a lot of things that you would you both would enjoy talking about with one another.


[00:08:51] I have to say, I had some fantastic professors over at a as you and they you know, they prepared me the that the NBA is you really prepared me more for to speak the business side and the organizational side of engineering, which, you know, turned out to be very important in my career.


[00:09:12] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I can see with your role at that spot, see that? I mean, obviously, you’re not just in charge of engineering. Not that engineering is ever adjust. But, you know, when you think about your role in terms of innovation. I bet that MBA comes in really, really handy. So can you give us an idea of of what your role is and a little bit about what sponsee does? Yes, certainly.


[00:09:38] Yes. I’m involved in, you know, all things engineering. And, of course, importantly, the management, they’re off and also the innovation.


[00:09:49] And so I hold, you know, fifteen co-inventor on fifteen US patterns and some more coming. So.


[00:10:00] So I’ve been fortunate enough to, you know, always be where technologies is developing and there’s always opportunities for intellectual property. And so I’ve been fortunate enough to to get, you know, a bunch of patents issued. Wow.


[00:10:18] And and are those of those being those in UCITS Potsie today?


[00:10:26] A lot of them are in use at Microchip.


[00:10:29] Some of them are in, you know, as they are in use at all the companies that I worked at.


[00:10:34] Ok. Very good. Yeah, we definitely need to get you dialed in with Attender, then I think you would have a lot of fun talking about things that none of the rest of us can possibly contemplate. So. So in your role, you know, in your role today. Scott loves to ask this, so I’m glad I get the chance this time. So how do you spend your time in your role today?


[00:11:05] So to give an idea. You know, it’s Potsie has two factories, one in Graham, Texas, and one in Sheer while in Mexico, and we manufacture a whole range of products literally spanning from the $1, you know, sticker that you put on a box so that when you told there’s a little puck that’s held in a cavity. The puck drops out. So it indicates that you’ve tilted the box right up to, you know, multi-thousand dollar vibration monitors and shock monitors. So most of these products are manufactured at one of these two factories. We own, you know, injection molding machines. We create our own circuit boards.


[00:12:01] We’ll do our own accelerometers. So the company is very interesting in the sense that a lot of the technology that we utilize have been developed over decades and we built a lot of things ourself. And so that that makes, you know, from an engineering standpoint for a very interesting place to work because, you know, you look at the simple plastic indicator. But I can assure you that the precision and accuracy that’s necessary to get to the specified and calibrated trip points is, you know, just as high as what you would require for, you know, the thousand dollar precision instrument that we make.


[00:12:44] That’s really interesting. I hadn’t really thought about it that way. But I guess the more simply designed it is, the more precise it needs to be. Right. To avoid any error.


[00:12:57] Yes. So. Exactly. So if you have small plastic parts, you can imagine, you know, any variance on that. I mean, since lead to tolerance changes, the material have to be controlled, the molding process have to be controlled. So all makes for a very interesting manufacturing environment like where, you know, very interesting and complicated injection molding machines up to electronic assembly.


[00:13:29] So so with the products that you’re making, I mean, I I think. You’ve described them as either impact or temperature vibration or eat air or even tilt just a simple till. Right. What are what are companies using those devices for today?


[00:13:51] So, yes, this is mostly used in the Supply chain. And Scott, you know, we we sell we sell these guys buy the container for we have thousands of customers and almost half our customers are outside the U.S. So we literally make, you know, hundreds of thousands and millions of some of these indicators, especially the low cost ones, and ship them by the container full to Asia and Europe to be sold by our overseas distributors. So they are used in the supply chain, you know, as I said, typically stock on the side of a box. And in fact, if you go to our Web site, you go look at the shock indicators. You’ll see a couple of videos there that show how they are used. But I mean, you can think of them as you know, the keep up right sticker substitute is still a keep upright sticker, but there’s an indicator if you don’t do it. So, you know, some of our customers say, I like to think of you guys as our eyes and ears in the supply chain that’s watching the handlers when we’re not there. And so we like to think of that. We take this supply chain data and then we move that to a convenient place where where the customer, where the sender or the recipient can actually see how the product was handled, whether it’s still or temperature or shock, you know, throughout the journey.


[00:15:27] And, you know, we think it’s so interesting. We see the most interesting information. I’ll give you an example. One customer was transporting some fragile components for his assembly line. They had a lot of damage and they couldn’t understand why. So they got a hold of our spot bought, which is a real time shock indicator. You set it up for a trip point and then when it trips, it immediately makes a cell phone call and reports on a Web site. You know what time the damage occurred in what axis and what magnitude. So you can then go look at that on the Web in real time on a map. And they found out that there was a railroad crossing where the rails was a little bit too high. So every time the truck drove over that, you know, there was a big knock and, you know, a lot of equipment got damaged, lot of components got damage. So fixed the railroad track and bomb damage got love there.


[00:16:30] Now, you know, Gregg and John and all of this real practical examples, I think it really helps gone. Non technologists like myself really understand all the different applications. And one of things that as we’ve gotten to know you and sponsee better and better yet, you all work in a wide variety of sectors from power generation and freight forwarding, oil and gas packaging foods Logistics, which are a typical temperature control, can be a really important thing. Medical devices. Seems like you found a wide variety of applications for your technologies.


[00:17:06] Yes, absolutely. You’ve mentioned them. And you know, so, you know, not all our customers like you like us to tell who they are, but I can tell you some of the best engineering companies in the world use our, you know, complex shot clock shot recorders to, you know, make some very interesting, shocking vibration measurements. And the reason they like to use us is because we have this tiny, extremely rugged, compact little recorder that will record. We’ll sit there and record on to AA batteries for over a year. And so they love that. And they’re saying, you know, you set it up with a trigger point as soon as the shot goes over the trigger point. Then it takes an exquisite one second sample of the shock profile, which then allows engineers to go download the data and look at, you know, the date stamp, as well as a finely sampled version of the shock and three axes using our piezo electric accelerometers, which are, you know, highly accurate and well-calibrated.


[00:18:23] So I’m interested in what considering what the cost of some of these are, what are.


[00:18:34] The type of products or the cost thresholds or fragility of the types of products that motivate people to use your your solutions.


[00:18:46] Yes. And, you know, that’s a brilliant question because of course, it doesn’t make sense. So. So you always have to come back to the business, right? It has to make business sense. But I’ll tell you the bottom line. So about 2.3 trillion dollars of shipping done damage is occurred annually. And you know, it’s about 2 percent of the hundred and fifteen trillion dollar goods that are shipped every year. So roughly and that’s a very consistent figure that we see, you know, whenever we talk to customers, about 2 percent of all shipped goods get damaged. Now, I tell you, that’s a staggering number. And for four large companies, that’s millions and millions of dollars. And that’s why they can afford. So you can imagine. So if you really spend 1 percent, you know, to get that damage out, then you still gain another percent if you can reduce it to zero.


[00:19:46] So that’s more or less the rule of thumb in supply chain damage. You take, you know, package cost the you know, take two zeros off one percent and then you know how much you can spend to protect that package. So if you have one hundred dollar package, you can easily spend a dollar to do it and then downtimes when the consequences are, you know, more dire. And, you know, I’ll give you a perfect example of that, because, you know, we’re we’re so involved in that right now. The the covered 19 virus, when it’s at room temperature and you send it to a test center. If it’s a if it’s at room temperature, the half life of the virus is about seven hours. So it just takes, you know, a few of those half life cycles and then all the viruses are dead. You know, so researchers have seen that forces on a plastic surface, that room temperature, it takes about 80 hours. And then all the viruses are dead. Now, in one sense, it’s scary that the virus can live for 80 hours. But on the other hand, if you want to test somebody and say, I want to be 100 percent sure that this guy does not have the virus and you send a sample away and it contains viruses and it takes longer than eight hours and all the viruses are dead, that false negative is devastating to our society at this point in time. You can just imagine it gets there. There were viruses. They’re all dead. They declared the guy healthy because they don’t see any viruses.


[00:21:29] And the guy walks around, you know, infecting other people. So, yeah. So we have, you know, a cold chain indicator. And it’s important that the thing works. And, you know, so that’s that’s exactly the point here is you want to make sure that these products do what they supposed to be. Because sometimes that function, however small or trivial it may seem, may have a tremendous impact.


[00:21:56] So, so so rule of thumb is, you know, 2 percent. But, you know, how much would you pay to make sure that somebody does not in fact, you know, 10 or 20 other people with no Dowlers, we say, OK, go ahead.


[00:22:14] Well, just gonna say, you know, you’re on the point you make there, especially when so many business leaders have data coming at them from all angles.


[00:22:25] So the the incredible importance of confidence levels and data. I would argue in twenty twenty, especially in light of the challenges we have. It is so important that that characteristic that you’re speaking to, being able to believe in the data that you have, especially when it’s coming from shipments that are certainly out of sight and and and out of mine in some cases.


[00:22:51] You’re absolutely right. And you know, our high end indicators actually have a calibration certificate. We we spend them in a spinner. And so so we know what standard gravity is at the factory.


[00:23:05] So we can accurately calibrate them. And, you know, we typically do with customers that are very precise in their measurements. We recalibrate their units on an annual basis. So they send them back to us. We have a calibration service. We recalibrate them, issue a new certificate and then send them back to the customers.


[00:23:31] That’s really valuable. You know, it makes me think. So I have a tech company and we do a lot of business in food. Supply chain and. Young when you’re when you’re a technology provider to a food service or food distributor, they love to entertain you by giving you a warehouse tour through their refrigerated frozen zero and subzero freezers to see if you live through all of that. But that the accountability of that in the in the supply chain and the cold chain is very, very important because some products are no good if they are sub-zero products and they get above zero. Right. So it it seems to me what you’re doing is avoiding a lot of questions and finger pointing, frankly, and identifying not only whether the goods were handled properly, but if not when not in that story that you tell about the railroad tracks. I think really brings that home.


[00:24:44] Yeah. We you know, at the company, we talk about the 3D, we detect, diagnose and detour. So you think about that. And, you know, the third one is, you know, I’ll talk about that. But detectives, you know, using our products literally from from low into high on the diagnose part is when you find something like the railroad tracks and you get an aha moment. And, you know, I’ve seen that aha moment. So many times we were recently at a customer.


[00:25:19] We instrumented up some of their packaging and we drop we drop product. And and, you know, based on the criteria that it looks like the box is fine. And then we open up the box and the product, you know, internally is just destroyed. And the customer is saying, wow, how can we not detect this? And of course, we’re smiling because the indicators on the outside are all red. You know, saying exactly, you know what? What what you say. So. So that’s the you know, the detect and diagnose part. And, you know, we help customers with that because sometimes it’s hard to figure out, you know, what label to put on because, you know, they they are also protecting their brand. Right. So you think you don’t want to deliver broken goods to a customer? It’s a negative experience and it it affects your brand. So so customers that start using, you know, our products immediately find that that because of the the detour part, you know, as soon as that sticker comes on that says, hey, this box is being monitored by a shock indicator. I know you guys have probably all seen that video, you know, of the, you know, taken from the airport, from the airplane window where the baggage handlers are just. Stroeve The boxes, you know so hard that you wonder if the guy’s doing it on purpose. Right. But but but you know, all of a sudden there’s a sticker on that say, you know, you are you are now being monitored. So the spotty eyes years is on this box and they are going to snitch on you.


[00:27:04] You know, when you throw that box and that’s such a harsh word. But I love it. I do, too. Yeah.


[00:27:12] You know, we are eyesand years in the supply chain and that’s exactly what it is. And so so what? At some point, you know, it’s great to have this little red plastic indicator on the side of the box. And, you know, it’s low cost. We can build that thing for a dollar so we can be on the, you know, the hundred dollar package and we’re working hard to get the costs lower and lower and lower so we can be on the $50 package in the $20 pack. But but the the point is that we found was, you know, it’s the things read, but it’s still a human that has to say, okay, I own that read. Right. So so this this is definitely a detour factor, but you want to have 100 percent accountability. So that’s where we got the idea. You know, at at both, Intel reflects a maxim. You know, I worked on RFID, now RFID, an amazing technology. You know, it’s it’s got it’s been being developed is still being developed, actually. But RFID, in a way, is the ultimate radio, because on the one hand, you have this extremely low cost, you know, penny wise radio, which essentially just a tiny piece of silicon that is a radio doesn’t need a battery. It gets powered by the power from the transmitter. So that’s 7. You know, when I was 7 years old, when I made that battery less crystal radio, this is just the miniaturised version of that.


[00:28:47] It doesn’t need a battery, but it can receive a signal and then it scatters back a radio signal so that you can read this thing almost like you can think of this as the wireless u_s_b_ memory stick. Right. There’s a little file on there and you can go in and with a reader, you can actually read the data in that file. You know, from several meters away. So we got the idea, hey, why don’t we combine this low cost radio technology with our indicators? And that’s exactly what we did with our shock watch RFID. So we took this plastic indicator. We figured out a way that it would break any electrical contact when when the weight actually triggers, you know, due to shock. And so we we break electrical contact and we tie that up with an off the shelf RFID chip so that you can now use the standard, you know, Supply chain Dock or electronic product code RFID reader to not only read all the standard Supply chain RFID stuff, but also a damage status. So every RFID choke point where your package is scanned, you know, it’s it’s re- being received. You know, when it it gets clocked where it exits the factory, where it gets on the ship struck, when it arrives at the distribution center, when it leaves the distribution center, when it gets to the commercial distributor, when it gets to the end customer.


[00:30:25] So throughout this journey, every time the RFID chokepoint scans your package, it says, yeah, they stole no damage on the package list. This can literally end up by you know, you can think of the FedEx guy hands scanning your your package as he delivers it to your door. One final time and it says the indicator says, you know, the package is still good. And, you know, we’ve we’ve gotten the cost down of that to where in you know, when we were talking multi-millions of of devices, it’s in the $1 range. So we finally got it down where we have a radio on it and the readers on the other side, you know, they very sophisticated. They can talk they can act as a Web client so they can, you know, dial up a server on the Internet and deposit that data within milliseconds after that device is being scanned. So so by doing that, we’ve literally taken our lowest cost product and we’ve given it Internet connectivity through those readers. And so as your package moves through the Supply chain. As soon as it scanned, literally milliseconds after it’s being scanned, you can go look on the Web and say my packages has been scanned at this chokepoint and still undamaged. Or, you know, in the in the negative version, you know, it’s been damaged.


[00:31:56] Yeah. So we got to keep that triple D in mind. Detect, diagnose and detour. Right. Yone detour.


[00:32:03] Yes. apta tour. Lucky third party. You know, it’s very important because. Yeah, what it’s like all of us. Right. When somebody is watching you, you know you are you’re just behaving better because you know you’re being watched.


[00:32:19] Smile. You’re on camera right there on camera.


[00:32:23] All right. So a little bit more of a serious note. Let’s shift gears to what we’re all dealing with. The pandemic environment covered 19. I want to start with some good news, because first off, because we all need as much good news as we can get. And I really have Gregg and I really have been watching and admiring so many companies that are finding ways from what they do or from what they have to help with the effort and light of the challenge that we’re all facing. So before we talk about how the pandemic has shaped your business or has shaped how you deliver your solutions, let’s talk about some of the neat things that you’re doing. I see where you’ve offered twenty thousand temperature indicators to state health departments nationwide coast coast-to-coast. Tell us more about that.


[00:33:14] Yes, certainly. You know, as I just said, it’s so important that when test samples are shipped to test centers that they are kept under a degree centigrade where they have, you know, several hundred hours before they get spoiled. So so the CDC, you know, advisory is that that these guys have to be kept under a degree centigrade and they have to be shipped to a test lab within 72 hours. So basically three days. Now, that’s because when you’re at 8, see the vote, you know, it’s like putting your meat in the refrigerator, right? It just last longer if it’s in the fridge. So we have a tiny little paper indicator, so the point is we came up and, you know, this was developed over decades with an extremely low cost temperature indicator, which. Essentially contains some chemicals, which if you keep it under a °C, it doesn’t turn red. But as soon as you exceed that temperature, you know, within a reasonable amount of time, the indicator turns a bright red. And it’s very visible that the bottom line of this is that we can make these indicators again for extremely low cost. So we know for probably the cost of a dollar or two, we can take this indicator and put this on a test. If this accompanies the test, then when that test arrives that the test center, they have high confidence that it has been kept, you know, under a degree centigrade. So, you know, this is so important. And and, you know, we’ve seen many instances where that those rules are, especially in the beginning of of of this, you know, epidemic. We’ve we found that we saw that a lot of tests were actually being mishandled. I think, you know, as as this becomes, you know, more important. And as we all become more experienced in the handling, I think, you know, everybody’s getting better at making sure that, you know, the cold chain integrity is actually preserved. So we donated, you know, twenty thousand, I believe, of these indicators to various health authorities so that, you know, so that we can improve, you know, the success of these tests, you know.


[00:35:56] So one interesting element that you kind of touched on here that as I was reading up about else just generosity is that, you know, going back to the point we made a few minutes ago, how important, real accurate, timely and an and good information is right now. And, you know, you can’t have so as these tests are shipped, if they don’t maintain temperatures, the virus in some of the tests should be positive. It can die in transit, which results in false negative results, which is which is true. Some of the worst misinformation you can get. So I really admire what you are doing here in helping the country beat back this challenge that we’ve got from coast to coast. So with that in mind, John, talk to us, if you would, about how these current conditions are, you know, beyond this one application. Now, what were your helping kind of generally across the board? Tell us more about how it’s shaping, how how you deliver your solutions in general.


[00:37:04] Yes, certainly so. So clearly, you know, many of the products that we manufacture are are being considered, you know, an essential service. So the first thing that happened was that we, you know, got status as an essential service manager provider so that we can continue to manufacture these. We had to, you know, completely reorganize our factories so that, you know, we we just reduce the interaction between, you know, the factory workers to an absolute minimum. And that was literally that was dramatic. And overnight and, you know, included measures like people are not allowed to eat together. The staff come in in shifts. It’s only, you know, social distancing is taken very seriously. All surfaces are cleaned, you know, almost on an hourly basis. Employees have to, you know, self diagnose temperature and stay away. You know, if there’s any temperature issues. So. So just, you know, an incredible almost overnight revolution in how the factory itself is set up, how people eat when people come to work. You know, workers that that do not have to be at the factory, that can work from home like customer service have been set up. You know, at home. In fact, I’m speaking from you from my home here in Dallas at the moment. But but I literally spent the entire day in meetings, you know, with people in the factory, sales people all over the country. And, in fact, all over the world. So. So, you know, we we’ve leveraging the electronic technology. We’re leveling, you know, leveraging the distancing rules with cleaning surfaces. Very paranoid, Lee. But the important thing is, you know, our products are being turned out. We are, you know, developing some new product background. The cards at this point in time to help it make it even easier and more accurate and more expedient to fill out these these watermark indicators to make sure that the chance of, you know, messing up a test is as small as possible. So production of these products are going on. But, you know, it’s it’s a dramatic change in how our factories used to work.


[00:40:03] You know, it’s a big it’s a big change for a lot of businesses. Some good, some bad, some in new ways. It’s interesting to understand how companies and people are coping through these, you know, these pandemic conditions. And I think most importantly, we want to thank you for the donation that you’ve made of these temperature indicators. And, you know, the the good that that is that’s doing for people in need. So thanks a lot for that. So. Before we wrap up and share how people can get in touch with you. I’d love to get some of your viewpoints on a one or two supply chain trends or opportunities or concerns that are that you’re that are in the forefront of your mind right now.


[00:41:01] Yes, certainly. Hmm, that’s interesting. So I think the connectivity issue is is clear. And, you know, we’re seeing it. And and by being able to use RFID to get to where you can take a $1 tag and essentially get that on the Internet through RFID, I think connectivity. And, you know, one of our customers call it, you know, that the glass pipe. So so they they want to see they want to think of their supply chain as a glass pipe. They want to see everything all the time. And and by by adding connectivity so that you essentially have low cost, extremely reliable automated connectivity of, you know, both the supply chain and the damage data, the environmental data, the eyes and the years that’s coming to the supply chain, you know, right up from the hundred thousand dollar transformers that ship, you know, from a transformer manufacturer goes on a truck through the Amazon to a power station, you know, in south Brazil.


[00:42:19] And it has to be very carefully handled all the way. And there’s, you know, a satellite based monitor on it all the time, wired up to the package that gets dropped on your doorstep. Is that all ultimately going to be connected? And they’re going to be, you know, indicating you you’re going to see it on you. You’re going to be able to look on your cell phone to tell you where is that package, in what shape it is. And, you know, today we have Schoch monitoring that way, but soon we’ll have till we’ll have temperature, we’ll have humidity, all at those low cost level. So, you know, we already have at the high end packages, but environmental monitoring of packages at at, you know, affordable cost is literally coming to the entire supply chain. And that to me as a radio guy, you know, who built my first radio at 7 and this love to see how the magic of radio can connect things, you know, ultimately now on the other end. And there’s the Internet. And so you can be thousands of miles away. That last mile radio link provides that connectivity that basically makes your entire supply chain a glass supply chain, you know.


[00:43:45] And if anyone doubts that it will become affordable, I’d like to either remind or notify them that at one point RFID was unbelievably expensive. It’s then it’s the natural progression of technology, really. And if you think about it, a cellular phone is an F.M. radio signal. So you know, so it it. Radio is is sort of the great equalizer, right? And that bandwidth, that spectrum.


[00:44:21] Is low cost at.


[00:44:24] At the most cost. So there’s a lot of opportunity there. That’s a great viewpoint.


[00:44:30] You know, there’s a great quote by Richard Feynman and I might botch it up a little bit because I don’t have the exact quote. But he said, you know, something like the technology of radio will make the the American Civil War pale into prevent into provincial. You know, in insignificance. So he tried to, you know, find a way to say, you know, the impact to what that radio will ultimately have on our society will be, you know, so great that the civil war will, you know, look eventually insignificant were more or less these words that quote from. From him always amazed me. But today I can see that it’s true.


[00:45:20] It’s coming fast, too. Hey, John, I got to ask you before we make sure folks can connect with you and we’ll talk about it, a virtual conference you’re involved in in September.


[00:45:32] Do you still follow your current space initiatives? You know, Elon Musk and the others that are trying to privatize our efforts there.


[00:45:44] Absolutely. And you know, Elon, his fellow South Africans. So, you know, I feel some pride. They’re own. You know, I am now a U.S. citizen. But I I do. I do watch that. And, you know, that’s marvelous technology to watch and develop. Yes.


[00:46:02] Yeah. So, you know, in the 80s, when the space shuttle mission was at its peak and unfortunately, too many Americans kind of got used to the to the retune routine cadence. Right. And just assumed it became automatic. You know, that inspired so many of our of our kids and would love to find a way just like you were talking about, you know, at seven years old. And and the impact clearly that the landing on the moon had on you and many other world citizens and how it inspired you. We’ve got it. It feels like we’ve got to get this. Our efforts, our space efforts back front and center. And if nothing else, to inspire the next generation.


[00:46:52] Yes. And, you know, my my my ultimate, you know, technologies, the Voyager 1 spacecraft, it was last. It was launched in 1977. It was designed to last 10 years. And this this spacecraft is still transmitting and they still receive signals from it. You know, using the deep space network. I think, you know, the last signal was was heard in February this year. Right. From the spacecraft. And it is, you know, oh, my goodness, I don’t know how far it is, but, you know, it’s far out in space and still transmitting back to us. Ryan, again, radio. Right.


[00:47:38] Well, one of the two or in interstellar space. And if only the rest of our technology could be as careful as those incredible spacecraft. But it is it’s almost too much to fathom. So I want to pivot here. Greg, I’m about you, but I feel I could talk with you. Yeah. All day. Yes, that’s right. But we want to make sure as we kind of want things down. I’m sure some of our listeners are going to want to connect with you personally on and maybe compare notes. What have you. And certainly the company sponsee. Let’s let’s make sure if you would, share that information first and then we’ll talk about this this virtual conference in September.


[00:48:19] Yes, certainly so. So, you know, it’s spotty WW, spotty on IO and the phone number is on the Web. So if you dial the main number and you know, you’ll certainly be able to get hold of me.


[00:48:36] Perfect. Wow. That’s awesome. Simple to the point.


[00:48:40] We’ll be calling you right after this.


[00:48:43] You know, I’m also on Linked-In. So if you want to connect. You can use Linked-In.


[00:48:49] Perfect. And we will, of course, include links to both Yone and Linked-In and the company’s Web site in the show, notes of today’s episode. OK. So let’s talk about this conference that you and the sponsor team are participating, are leading what have you. In September from a virtual standpoint, tell us more.


[00:49:11] Yes. So this is RFID journal Life. It’s the annual get together of all the RFID geeks. Great conference of, you know, this industry and technology. And, you know, as you said, RFID has come a long way even in the last decade.


[00:49:30] Rfid has finally kind of ironed out the last technological marvels, which was, you know, extremely good and high quality readers, which combined, you know, with extremely sensitive and reliable integrated circuits that are connected to, you know, low cost antennas, which we call it nice. So. So anyway, this industry, you know, gather every year. This is there. This is their show. But unfortunately, it was supposed to be a problem, but it’s been postponed because of. So it’s now going to be in September. And because of our shock watch RFID, we we are one of the sponsors of the event. And, you know, I will be delivering the keynote when when the conference finally happens in September. So. So it might be a great place to meet. You know, if you’re also in the RFID space.


[00:50:33] Outstanding. So it sounds like you are pretty active in the industries that you serve in and look for opportunities to share your thought leadership.


[00:50:44] Ok. Well, Greg, before we sign off today, what? Too much to cover? Almost. Final thoughts, Greg?


[00:50:53] First of all, I think I may have known John when we were children. I don’t know if you ever lived in Wichita, Kansas or Springfield, Missouri, but I feel like we we might have played astronaut in the yard at some point. And secondly, for from a practical perspective, I’m really rooting for you all to get the cost of your indicators down because I feel like they would be very valuable to parents around Christmas time. No. In truth. Look, what we’re looking for in Supply chain is is greater accountability. Things like chain of custody and the sharing, the provenance and validity of products to make sure that products are getting from their origin in a ethical safe, you know, complete undamaged manner to the consumer. And this is a great and seems like economical facilitator of that and uses such simple technology like RFID and plain old radio and cell that it allows, you know, the possibility of ubiquity across the supply chain. And as you know, obviously, this is this is very and I can see your vision towards this being on virtually every shipment that’s out there. But obviously it’s very important for the high dollar, high impact. Right. Health products and things like that, types of products out there. And I think this is a big step to enabling a lot of that accountability and sustainability that we we seek in Supply chain. And I think that after after this pandemic, we’ll become table stakes for a lot of companies and certainly a lot of products in the supply chain. So what you’re doing is very important. Again, I really appreciate what you’re doing from a donation standpoint there. And I got I have to say this also yone your ability to break down very difficult concepts into something that just about anybody can understand is it’s a real gift. And I thank you for bringing it to us today.


[00:53:21] And John, what he means by that is breaking it up into where I can even understand it. I was thinking of me, but yeah. Kidding aside, John, I echo Greg’s sentiment. Really appreciate what you’re doing. And innovative industry leadership that clearly Sponsee is showcasing. Any final comments on your Anyang for wrap up?


[00:53:44] Yes, Scott and Greg. Thank you. It was really very enjoyable to talk to you guys and, you know, feel your passion for the Supply chain. And, you know, I love to share my excitement for this vision that literally, you know, really every little package is going to have a tiny little low cost radio on it that can, you know, share that, you know, share the environmental parameters and become the eyes and the ears of the ship and or the recipient so that we can up the quality of the supply chain. So thank you. I really appreciate it. And it was a very, very pleasurable to talk to you guys.


[00:54:28] Thanks so much. Really appreciate it as well. Best wishes to you and the entire sponsee team to our audience. We’ve been speaking with your van Niekerk Vise, president of engineering innovation at SPONSEE. Be sure to learn more about their organization at spot c s p o t s e i o. And check out John’s keynote at the RFI, the virtual conference come September. Thanks so much, John. Great. Great conversation. Really enjoyed it. You’re right. We could have driven some of those topics for hours on end. But always a pleasure.


[00:55:03] Yeah. Yeah. You know, it’s just great, great stuff. So, hey, here. Here’s what I’m going to do for you today, Scott, is I’m gonna take us out. So you and John can stand aside and talk about our space program, because I would love for the two of you to collaborate on getting that together. Outstayed. After you. Yeah. Oh, hey, be sure to check us out. And all of the thought leadership that the people like John and the other folks that we interview at Supply Chain Now Radio dot com find us and subscribe to supply chain. Now wherever you get your podcast from. We’re big fans of Apple podcasts and Spotify. Most people get them there, but we’re actually on all platforms. Check out our upcoming events and watch for new events as times change rapidly and. We hope you’ll join us for the events that we have planned with Reuters and some of our other sponsors. On behalf of the entire team Scott Luton Clay Phillips, Amanda, Fakey, Michelle, Patricia and all and everyone else, if there’s anyone else left on the team. Please stay safe. Don’t panic. Look. Out, look up and be optimistic. We’re gonna get through this. Please follow all of the advice and precautions that have been prescribed by your respective. Governments and authorities and know this, that we will come out of this stronger on the other side. We’ll see you next stop on Supply chain.


[00:56:46] Now, in the words of Scott Luton, everyone.

Jan van Niekerk as Vice President of Engineering and Innovation since January 2018, Jan directs the engineering team at SpotSee. He brings over 20 years of experience in firmware, microcontrollers, analog, TCP/IP, RF/RFID and security. Jan has managed the development of electronic solutions for tier-1 OEMs at Microchip Technology, Maxim Integrated Products, Intelleflex Corporation and RF Ops. Jan holds a BSEE and MSEE from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, as well as an MBA from Arizona State University.

Greg White serves as Principle & Host at Supply Chain Now. Greg is a founder, CEO, board director and advisor in B2B technology with multiple successful exits. He recently joined Trefoil Advisory as a Partner to further their vision of stronger companies by delivering practical solutions to the highest-stakes challenges. Prior to Trefoil, Greg served as CEO at Curo, a field service management solution most notably used by Amazon to direct their fulfillment center deployment workforce. Greg is most known for founding Blue Ridge Solutions and served as President & CEO for the Gartner Magic Quadrant Leader of cloud-native supply chain applications that balance inventory with customer demand. Greg has also held leadership roles with Servigistics, and E3 Corporation, where he pioneered their cloud supply chain offering in 1998. In addition to his work at Supply Chain Now and Trefoil, rapidly-growing companies leverage Greg as an independent board director and advisor for his experience building disruptive B2B technology and supply chain companies widely recognized as industry leaders. He’s an insightful visionary who helps companies rapidly align vision, team, market, messaging, product, and intellectual property to accelerate value creation. Greg guides founders, investors and leadership teams to create breakthroughs that gain market exposure and momentum, and increase company esteem and valuation. Learn more about Trefoil Advisory:


Scott W. Luton is the founder & CEO of Supply Chain Now. He has worked extensively in the end-to-end Supply Chain industry for more than 15 years, appearing in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dice and Quality Progress Magazine. Scott was named a 2019 Pro to Know in Supply Chain by Supply & Demand Executive and a 2019 “Top 15 Supply Chain & Logistics Experts to Follow” by RateLinx. He founded the 2019 Atlanta Supply Chain Awards and also served on the 2018 Georgia Logistics Summit Executive Committee. He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and holds the APICS Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP) credential. A Veteran of the United States Air Force, Scott volunteers on the Business Pillar for VETLANTA and has served on the boards for APICS Atlanta and the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance. He also serves as an advisor with TalentStream, a leading recruiting & staffing firm based in the Southeast. Follow Scott Luton on Twitter at @ScottWLuton and learn more about Supply Chain Now here:


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