By Eric Peterson | Jul 03, 2015
Industrial Automation Technology
Perrin founded Process Analysts, Inc. (PAI) in Jefferson County in 1987, grew the company to 180 employees in 13 offices, and merged the company with Honeywell in 2000. He worked for the automation giant until 2010.
With mFactor, he's taken his background and integrated recent advancements in "Big Data" and smart sensors into the solution set. The company's mAutomation platform uses proprietary software and algorithms, intelligent sensors connected to the Internet of Things, and integrates with smartphones and other mobile devices to help manufacturers improve processes and automation.
"We help manufacturing companies capture real-time data from the factory floor and turn it into actionable business intelligence," says Perrin.
Manufacturers "are facing some changes in the global manufacturing environment," he adds. "They really have unsecure data. It needs to be gathered, secured, and have context."
Existing sensor systems on a manufacturing floor are typically disorganized and require too much work to monitor. "They have limited manpower," says Perrin. Because of this, it's hard to truly connect the data to "outcome-based decisions."
One mFactor customer, a Chicago-area OEM that makes sophisticated machines that inspect critical fasteners like seatbelt bolts and automatically rejects the questionable ones.
The control system is unwieldy, so mFactor integrated its mAutomation platform to leverage the Internet of Things. An end user can now easily monitor 40 machines at multiple locations with a web browser.
"One of the benefits is we're helping the OEM transition their business from a product-centric one to plug and play," says Perrin. "They can create a connected customer experience and drive value with it."
He sees food and beverage as a prime target for mFactor, along with the energy, water, and pharmaceutical sectors as well as a wide range of specialized manufacturers. As he worked with both Coors and Anheuser-Busch in his PAI days, Perrin says mFactor is targeting Colorado's craft brewers.
Breweries with new European equipment -- like Breckenridge Brewery's dazzling new facility in Littleton -- often have a leg up, as Europe is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to interoperability and automation via the OPC standard. "That leadership is coming out of Europe," says Perrin. "There's this notion of a plug-and-play machine. It's got a power cord and an information cord."
Domestic manufacturers are playing catch up, adds Perrin. "The United States is maybe half a step behind, maybe more than a half step -- a full step."
To narrow the gap, mFactor is developing proprietary technology and reselling sensors and automation equipment.
Perrin says sales are on the rise at mFactor, with plans to hire a pair of new employees in the short term and "explosive growth" expected by 2017.
Challenges: The limited uptake of the aforementioned OPC protocol by manufacturers and vendors in the U.S. "Our big challenge is North America is slow in adopting OPC architecture," says Perrin. "We're evangelizing the new protocol. Certainly, the cost-benefit is there. . . . It's our bet on the future."
Opportunities: Perrin cites a "local focus" on manufacturers in Colorado and Utah. "The manufacturers that are here, we want to make sure they know we're able to help them."
Needs: A manufacturing partner to help make its mServer product. Perrin calls it "a smart Internet of Things device" and says the software is nearly ready. "We need to build out a supply chain for production of that device," he notes. The target for release is late 2015.