ALTIX INDUSTRY CHAMPIONS INTERVIEW
One on One: Discussion with a Global Industry Champion: EXOR America Inc.
Each quarter we sit down with industry executives and thought leaders to discuss the trends, challenges, and best practices that are transforming their businesses. Today, we are with Ken Kamlowsky, General Manager at Exor America, to discuss how Ken and his team are successfully developing the North American business for an Italian Industry Champion.
Ken, can you please introduce yourself and EXOR America?
I am an electrical engineer, and I started my career with a machine builder, which is where I was first introduced to operator interfaces. Those were the first touch screens used in the industry and ever since that time I have been really involved with touch screens and what today we call HMI’s – Human Machine Interfaces. At my next company, I taught people how to use the software to program touch screens. I immediately found a passion for interfaces and HMI’s, and I later stumbled upon Exor and fell in love with their superior products. I joined the company in July 2014 in a sales role and became their General Manager for North America in 2017. Early on, I realized Exor is one of the best kept secrets in the HMI (Human Machine Interface) industry, offering monitoring and control solutions focused on delivering superb End-User Experiences. We are now doing our best to let the industry know about this great company.
The company was founded in Verona Italy in 1971 as a customized engineering company. Due to the high level of expertise, the company was approached by Siemens Italy to build their HMIs and the rest is history. The tailor-made engineering is truly at the core of Exor’s core competency and is still relevant today. Exor is a privately held, family-owned company with just a few investors. One of our recent strategic investors and shareholders is Panasonic who values Exor’s unique expertise and the strong family of HMI products. Another unique shareholder is Nexcom who supplies IPC’s to Exor out of Taiwan.
What are typical applications for your products and industries EXOR serves?
Our clients are machine builders who care about the quality and functionality of the interface as much as their look and feel in the equipment they build. Product design plays an increasingly important role for industrial products. We offer a modern looking glass capacitive touch screen which is unique in the market, leading edge and is far ahead of the competition. One offering performs really well outside of a cabinet, no need for an enclosure which allows the user higher degrees of flexibility, customers love it! Another advantage of EXOR is that since we do all our R&D in house, we can support clients with customprotocols for their legacy products and even customize hardware. A little bit as you know from Apple, the perfect integration of hardware and software is critical and a gage of superiority.
We serve a wide variety of industries. Some typical customers are as follows: the gas and oil industry take advantage of our offer of class 1 Div. 2 on most of our products, a chicken incubator client uses our screens in the HMI and PLC mode to control their incubators, a large fan company is using our latest JSmart product which is more like an industrial tablet to control their fans as a standard interface, and one of our largest customers use our membrane keypad ePALM product for their wind turbines. Exor is moving towards the future with this customer of 10 years to develop the next generation interface. We also developed a customized solution for a client that manufactures cryogenic machines. They were looking for an IO solution which we provided and our HMI screens accommodated.
Regardless of the industry, we are committed to understand and support our customers’ needs and we have the seniority and experience of our people to support our customers and develop customized products. The size of EXOR allows us to be 100% in control of our R&D investments and to move quickly to develop hardware and software that meets our customers’ needs and demands. We act with the agility of a start-up rather than the larger size organizations, and we are committed to react quickly to our customers’ needs. Our competency though, is among the best in the marketplace as pure and high class HMI specialists.
EXOR is competing with some real industry giants like Rockwell Automation and Siemens on the HMI side. How would you describe the EXOR market positioning?
Five years ago, EXOR started to invest heavily in R&D in the industrial cloud also calledCORVINA cloud which on one hand, connects your equipment remotely to the cloud with a VPN connection, and on the other hand connects your equipment to any devices thanks to the HMI being able to support up to 4 different protocols. Now we are ready to launch the second-generation platform of CORVINA, building an industrial cloud with specifically the factory floor in mind. We have gone out of our way to develop dashboards that are accessible from anywhere as well as easy enough for a plant manager to configure using drag and drop functionality.
We have developed a partnership with Intel and have become an Intel industrial partner to develop the Exor Smart Factory in Verona in order to test new technologies like Edge and 5G.
I invite you to visit or check online our 5G compatible smart factory in Verona Italy. We are proud that we can support industry giants like Intel on the electronics side with our products and technologies.
Ken, how do you prepare EXOR for an accelerated growth in the US / NAM for the next few years? how are you investing?
We just invested into a new building, and we will soon have our own stand-alone North America headquarters here in Cincinnati Ohio which we are really excited about. With this new facility, we will also add production of the JSmart product-line, which is our industrial tablet, from size 5 to 21 inch, we call it a Smart Edge device, a unique product in the HMI market which will be produced here in Cincinnati starting Q2/2022.
Our new facility will be a very good space to showcase industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing. Our plant in Italy is leading the way with 5G communication between the equipment. We are going to duplicate that over here and build our own US smart manufacturing center. We are glad to team up with Altix on those efforts and we value this very strategic partnership and relationship. We are excited about this important milestone in the US, a new HQ, a new factory, a new supply chain and a higher level of vertical integration for the benefit of our customers.
Ken as Industry Leaders and Champions, we always have things what bother us and keep us up at night? What is your biggest concern/challenge?
Covid19 was a challenge that we navigated quite well actually, as our factory in Italy was able to continue working while most companies had to close, keeping our customers serviced and supplied.
Post-covid, we are now faced with the rising cost of goods like semiconductors, chips, raw materials like metals. So far, we were able to manage with careful inventory planning, but we are now having to purchase material at inflated prices which will unfortunately impact the price of our products in the market as well.
We have been minimally affected by tariffs as Italy has benefitted from its positive relationship with the US.
Another type of challenge we face is related to customers who are treating interfaces as a commodity and at times under-value the impact of a high-end HMI. We have been able to address that with our eSMART product. It was developed to minimize the bells and whistles and give customers that same power but at a lower investment point offering. Same quality and philosophy, just less functionalities.
As a leader, you are challenged in many ways – how do you personally find your balance and keep your energy level high and a positive / forward thinking mindset even in the most difficult times?
I started doing yoga a couple of years ago with my wife who owns and runs a yoga studio in Lebanon Ohio. We also like to travel together and do outdoor activities to help us unwind and take a break from electronic devices, which might sound strange for an HMI guy. It takes a little bit of discipline, but it is important to disconnect now and then, and it is very good mentally and physically.
Thank you very much Ken for sharing with us and our readers your story and the story of EXOR. We wish you and your team continued success and we are appreciative of being part of your supporting system and strategic partner.
ABOUT EXOR: EXOR International, an Italian company operating globally, has been designing, developing and manufacturing solutions in HMI, control and Industrial IoT for nearly half a century. EXOR provides customers with easy-to-use tools which express a highly advanced technology fully responsive to the concepts of Industry 4.0. www.exorint.com
ABOUT ALTIX: Altix is the middle-market international industrial champions’ management consulting partner, providing business strategy, technology and innovation, and operational excellence support, in the world of advanced manufacturing and international supply chain. www.altixconsulting.com