2017 Robobusiness Santa Clara Blog


Ken Haven

October 6, 2017

We’re back from the RoboBusiness Conference, which was held in Santa Clara at the end of September. This year’s conference was well attended and featured many well known speakers from leading technology companies and organizations, including Accenture, DHL, GE, Intel, NASA, Nvidia, Stanford University, and Xerox PARC. This years theme focused on the adoption and application of robotics from a business and operational perspective. It also focused on the growing importance and new directions of artificial intelligence (AI) for robotics.

Acorn CEO Ken Haven participated in a panel discussion on Working with Partners to Adopt Robotics. In addition to Acorn, the panel consisted of companies that are involved in providing products and services for the robotics market.

“It takes a Village” to successfully adopt robotics, and most organizations will need a team of companies/partners to assist in the adoption. This assistance ranges from assessing the “readiness” to integrate robotics into the organization, to the integration itself along with the ongoing support/service needed to keep the robotic systems operating.

Ken noted that Acorn works with partners on a daily basis and there are a number of “lessons learned” that are important to keep in mind when pulling together and working with a team:

Partner Selection process

The panel discussed a number of areas to consider when selecting partners for a project:

Defining the scope of the work and managing the project

The panel emphasized the need to have a clear and detailed set of requirements for projects to be successful. Doing so helps to manage both schedule and costs, and leads to the quickest path to market. Ken noted that while projects and scope certainly can evolve, at some point there needs to be a “Feature Freeze”, where the capabilities of the robot are now fixed – any additional features will likely need to wait until a future product or revision of the current product.

Ken also emphasized there should also be a clear process for changes in requirements, which often leads to changes in scope, schedule and costs. Schedules and costs are based on the assumptions/requirements as outlined in the Scope of Work (SOW) – projects can easily spin out of control by what may seem to be minor changes, that can add up over time. Warning signs of projects that are in trouble include constantly changing requirements – Ken related his experience working at NeXT Computer for Steve Jobs, where Steve would want to add or change a feature after the product was well down the path of design. He had to be reminded that if those changes would be implemented, it would delay launch/production and impact not only the cost of the project, but potentially the cost of manufacturing the device.

Other potential signs of trouble are missed/delayed deliverables, slowdowns in communications and decision making.

With the complexity of robotic systems continuing to grow, the need for a team based, collaborative approach between hardware, software, partners, and clients is critical to the success of any project.

We’d like to thank the organizers for the opportunity to participate in the panel – and hope the audience found it valuable.

About the author

Ken Haven has been CEO of Acorn Product Development since the company’s founding in 1993. Ken has more than 25 years of product development experience including technical leadership roles with NeXT Computer, Attain, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard. He holds MS and BS degrees in mechanical engineering from Cornell University.