Technology advances have changed the way home appliance manufacturers are designing, building and marketing products. The effect of technology innovation has been felt across the industry, affecting products, the customer experience, and the appliance supply chain.
In this special HomeWork series, AHAM speaks with senior technology leaders from AHAM member companies that were scheduled to participate in AHAM’s Tech at the Top panel during the 2020 AHAM annual member meeting. Their insights on supply chain innovation, the retail experience, new business models and connecting with the consumer are not to be missed.
The second installment of AHAM’s special HomeWork series features Darryl McCartney, IoT Technical Sales Director for the Americas, Microsoft.
What is the most important technological development to affect your company in the past decade?
Over the past 10 years, Microsoft has been a pioneer in several technological developments that would be of particular interest to AHAM. Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, and as such, our worldview is centered on the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge. Our platforms continue to evolve to enable industries such as the home appliance industry to digitally transform, create new revenue models, and establish new customer loyalty strategies.
How important to the appliance industry is AI?
AI makes it possible for manufacturers to connect with their customers, and customers to connect with their devices, in innovative new ways. AI facilitates many positive implications, such as the ability for appliance manufacturers to differentiate with intuitive maintenance services, energy management and environmental sustainability, to offer new functionality and features on connected devices.
We know from research (Greenberg, 2019) and from many customer interactions that the demand for connected home devices leveraging AI is significant. However, connecting any device, including appliances, also carries risk of exploitation, so the security of connected devices must be paramount to offer peace of mind to customers. We know that device owners are concerned about hacking and data misuse, and often they will pay a premium for a connected device where a manufacturer takes responsibility for data sovereignty.
How does Microsoft learn from its customers?
We adopt an “always-on” learning culture and operate a number of tools and processes internally to receive direct feedback from customers. The Microsoft culture has a growth mindset that is key. Customer feedback impacts our systems and product roadmaps. This is about changing the nature of what we sell and how we sell it.
Our CEO, Satya Nadella, has talked in-depth about embracing tech intensity through an evolution of culture and business process, for Microsoft and our customers to work in close collaboration to exceed beyond the goals of digital transformation.
Do you see the traditional boundaries of this industry changing due to AI and machine learning?
Absolutely. AI enables us to use technology for good. Something as simple as recipe management is now enabled by AI on blenders and coffee brewers, to connect commercial partners and consumers. AI is transforming the end-user experience and brand affinity for AHAM members. It can provide intelligence around the needs of customers and build intimacy between manufacturer and customer to drive loyalty over time.
Microsoft is working to democratize AI and machine learning by infusing AI into all of our products on any device and enabling manufacturers to build their own innovations. It is so important for appliance manufacturers using connected products to build trust with their end-customers, building connected devices with a foundation of security, self-provisioning for ease of setup, and enhancing customer loyalty.
What are the greatest technological challenges/opportunities facing the manufacturing industry and the appliance industry?
End-customer and consumer adoption is the industry’s greatest technological challenge and opportunity! From our observations working with customers and partners, there is an undeniable, growing trend toward devices becoming connected at an accelerated pace. Connected appliances are becoming “table stakes,” yet there is significant market and brand diversity in the adoption rate. With this challenge and opportunity, AHAM members have the opening to continue to further position themselves with connected device innovation, create new revenue models, offer value to end-customers, and to drive widespread adoption.
What will be the biggest innovation as a result of COVID-19?
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged every aspect of society and global operations. This pandemic has been a forcing function for communities and organizations to think differently and innovate. On an immediate note, it has forced organizations that have the capability to transfer work out of the office environment, enable remote worker productivity tools and have their teams work with customers to increase the volume of digitally delivered meetings. In IoT, we are seeing significant innovation in the areas of remote healthcare, patient monitoring, community support, thermal imaging and exposure mapping, as our partner ecosystem rallies to provide solutions to tackle the immediate crisis.
What personal and professional goals are you currently pursuing? Are you picking up any new skills now that you are at home more?
I am certainly working towards professional goals related to supporting my team and customers to navigate their way through this unprecedented time. The first goal is to truly understand the needs of the individuals within our workforce and customers at this time, understanding that our professional colleagues are facing pressures (health concerns, career disruption, child care, child education, elder care, remote working) that they could not have predicted nor planned for. The second is to support the ecosystem to uphold productivity as much as possible by increasing the number of digitally accessible meetings in new effective formats. The third is to drive innovation forward to enable customers to meet their revenue and productivity goals through digital transformation.
My personal goals that I’m currently pursuing are related to supporting my family and my mindfulness. Scheduling time for my own well-being, getting my focus on the present moment, etc. So many friends and colleagues have been thrust into additional roles (child care, child education, elder care, shelter in place orders) without prior notice – just trying to accept this pivot awareness without prejudice.
Share your secrets to having a productive day. Has widespread teleworking changed your routine?
Microsoft responded quickly to the COVID-19 pandemic and empowered their workers to leverage our productivity tools to work remotely, so I have been able to remain productive and closely connected (secure HD video enabled) with my team across the Americas. However, the needs of my team and customers has changed with this new working environment. I have found it increasingly important at this time to check in with my team, to understand their evolving needs on an individual basis, and adapt to support them in new ways. A productivity “secret” I find useful has been to maintain my prior regular schedule when able. Video meetings have been a key enabler, as have frequent and meaningful interactions.
Outside of the appliance industry, what would be your dream job?
I should start by sharing how much I enjoy working with appliance manufacturers. The impact that you are all making on the industry and the lives of end-customers is exciting! I’m appreciative and delighted for the opportunity to work in the channel on the periphery of this industry. Thank you!
If I were to envision a totally different career, I may have possibly followed my family’s legacy in the restaurant business. I’m a serious cook with a passion for great food and presentation, having worked professionally in restaurants, so this could be a good fit. Alternatively, I would be interested in trying my hand in construction as I am an enthusiastic project guy, love my power tools, and have significantly contributed to my prior home's construction.
What appliance can you not live without?
As a serious cook – at home, we have two six-burner stove tops and three convection ovens (two electric, one gas). Easily though, the six-burner stove top is critical for our daily culinary routine and my relaxation. I would not want to imagine life without them!
Darryl is the Microsoft IoT Technical Sales Director for the Americas. The Microsoft CDS IoT Technical Sales team is responsible for IoT solution architectures utilized by Microsoft partners to design and empower the latest Intelligent Edge solutions. Darryl has direct experience building global enterprise class IoT projects, with areas of business concentration on smart IoT solutions, digital transformation strategy, industrial automation, smart buildings, enterprise asset management, and facilities management. He has extensive global experience with industrial automation, automotive, heavy truck, construction and agricultural equipment manufacturers. Previously, Darryl worked at Cisco Systems as Director of Manufacturing and Industrial Automation in their Global Enterprise Theatre. Prior to Cisco, Darryl worked at IBM as an Industry Solution Executive in their Global Manufacturing Practice.