Last month, Wenco participated in NEXT 2017, Hitachi's annual showcase of technologies and innovations advancing the digital revolution. Hot on the heels of the event, we sat down with our two delegates — Andrea B. and Leo J. — to talk about their experience, their biggest surprises from the show, and just what — exactly — is Hitachi Vantara.
Hi guys! Before we start, let's get things straight — what do you do here at Wenco?
ANDREA: My title is product manager. I'm focused on our fleet management system — Fleet Control, MineVision, Dispatch, Wenco Reporting, all that side of things. So, I'm responsible for talking to customers, figuring out what we want to build, prioritizing, figuring out business value, and working with the development team to get these things built. Most recently, my focus has been on System 6, of course.
LEO: I recently got promoted to Senior Quality Assurance Engineer. Aside from doing integration and system-level testing, I'm also leading the test automation project. It's still at an early stage, I am still doing a lot of research on different test tools out there and what suits our system the best. The plan is for us to slowly convert our basic manual testing to automated testing, so we have more time to run the more complicated tests.
What brought you to the Hitachi NEXT event?
LJ: Opportunity, really. For Wenco, NEXT is really about showing customers of Hitachi that we're making such an impact in the mining industry. It's one of [CEO Andrew Pyne's] goals to leverage the strength of Hitachi Global to bring the best solutions to the industry. Us being at NEXT gives us more visibility and it allows other Hitachi Group companies to get some insight into us and what we do.
AB: We spent the show talking to people, focusing a lot on the interoperability between Readyline and Hitachi's Lumada platform, the connection between Hitachi and Wenco. A lot of the other Hitachi Group companies are looking into developing mining solutions, but they need some guidance on the mining side of things. There are data scientists looking to build things, but they're not sure about mining. There are other analysts trying to create solutions, but they don't know how the industry works. That's where we come in.
What went on at the show?
AB: We had a booth within the Smart Mining pavilion. We actually had information about Wenco all throughout that area — there were two Wenco booths, a Big Data Lab section using our data, and an autonomous vehicle booth, which is linked to us too.
LJ: [The other delegates] were mostly interested in our Readyline system. They were amazed at how Readyline is actually collecting sensor data and alarms. That's what they're focused on — there are machines that have a lot of sensors and a lot of things going on, but they're not getting access to that data. One guy even said, "This is exactly what we need to monitor our air compressors."
AB: Other than that, there were also breakout sessions, a few general sessions. One of them had the product manager of Lumada present about Readyline and its interoperability with Lumada. The physicist Michio Kaku presented about future technology and how Hitachi could contribute to that. It was really thought-provoking and inspiring.
What's happening now that the event is over?
AB: I've gotten several e-mails after the conference from companies interested in learning about Wenco. Most of them are within the Hitachi Group — maybe they provide communications or data systems to companies and they want to know how we can team up and approach customers together with an integrated solution.
LJ: Everyone's doing network and data storage stuff, so they're very curious to know what sort of solutions we provide, how we transfer data from the mine site to the cloud, that sort of thing.
What can you tell us about Hitachi Vantara?
AB: Ha! Of course, the biggest news to come out of the event has been Vantara.
LJ: Three Hitachi Group companies have merged into one big company called Vantara — Hitachi Data Systems, Pentaho, and Hitachi Insight Group. They're hoping that joining together, they can better leverage the knowledge they all share with respect to the growing IoT field.
(Editor's Note: Find out more about Hitachi Vantara here: https://www.hitachivantara.com/en-us/home.html.)
Exciting! So, what surprised you the most about the event?
AB: The very first day, before the conference even started, Leo and I were there making sure the booths were set up right. They had an executive walkthrough scheduled. I thought they were just there to check to make sure it was alright, just a final approval before the show. But, then, the CEO of all of Hitachi [Mr. Toshiaki Higashihara] walked in.
LJ: Yes, I wasn't expecting the executive walkthrough happening at that high a level.
AB: Absolutely not. But, we handled it well. He came and we presented about Wenco and Readyline and — with the product manager from Hitachi Data Systems — Lumada. That part was kind of neat, to have a big shot come and talk to us and learn about what we were doing.
LJ: For sure. It was also surprising to see just how many verticals Hitachi is involved in. I knew Hitachi did a lot of things, but it's easy to forget when you're so focused on one particular area. There was an automotive booth next to ours and there were so many parallels with what we do. Manufacturing too. It really stands out, just seeing how many different areas Hitachi works in and how many technical and innovative solutions it has in these areas, and how they all come together with Lumada.
AB: I still think of Wenco as a small company, but seeing how much interest there was from other Hitachi Group companies in our solutions, and how many positive reactions — it's a good reminder that we're doing something really unique.
Hitachi NEXT happens every year in September, but Wenco is always eager to discuss our work in industrial IoT. For more information about the event, Readyline, and the upcoming next release of our fleet management system, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.