Trend Detection Podcast - Special Edition - Discussion with CooperVision - Part One

Welcome to the Trend Detection podcast, powered by Senseye, an industry leader in using AI to drive scalable and sustainable asset performance and reliability. This is a new publication designed to help you go away with ideas on how to achieve maintenance efficiencies.

For this special episode of the podcast, we were joined by Matt Walter, Principal Controls Engineer at CooperVision to discuss all things Industry 4.0 and their predictive maintenance journey.

In the first episode of this series, we discussed the current state of industry 4.0, why the integration of key systems is so important and how CooperVision's digital transformation journey has evolved over time.

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Key topics covered (click to jump to the section)

  1. What different products do you create? 
  2. What are the key challenges? 
  3. How's technology within CooperVision sort of helping to overcome those challenges?
  4. Industry 4.0
  5. The importance of UX

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Welcome to the Trend Detection podcast, powered by Senseye, an industry leader in using AI to drive scalable and sustainable asset performance and reliability. For this episode, I'm joined by Matt Walter, principal controls engineer at CooperVision, a soft contact lens manufacturer. In the first episode of this series, we discussed the current state of industry 4.0, why the integration of key systems is so important and how CooperVision's digital transformation journey has evolved over time.

Okay, so welcome to the Trend Detection podcast to Matt. It's a really special episode this because not only we are we in such lovely surroundings and professional surroundings, but we've also got Matt from CooperVision who is based just around the corner as well. So all very convenient, but it's a real pleasure to have you and to talk to you in person. Matt. So first of all, I'd like to welcome you to the podcast, but also if we just start by a little bit of background on yourself and CooperVision as well, it'd be really good.

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Yeah, sure. Thank you very much for the invite. So as you mentioned, we are based rather conveniently, you could measure the distance in yards from where we are sat right now. So personally, I am a principal controls engineer. So that, role covers many, many aspects of automation and one of the key focuses I've been looking at over the last few years is industry 4 technology, which has led me to the predictive maintenance element that struck up the relationship with Senseye. I've been at CooperVision for just under nine years now. Prior to that I was in the automated and robotic welding system business again locally, that's what brought me to Southampton. So I'm originally a Devon boy. I'm married father, I've got identical twin boys.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Oh, brilliant. 

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So CooperVision, we are the second largest manufacturer of contact lenses globally. So second largest by volume, but by far and away number one in terms of portfolio. So the broad scope of products that we offer. We've got manufacturing facilities across three continents. So right here in the UK we've actually got two manufacturing facilities just around the corner from where we are here and another one about five miles away down on the south coast in Southampton. We've then got a large manufacturing facility in Hungary. We've got another one in Puerto Rico, another one in Costa Rica, and another facility in New York. So global positioning with distribution and sales offices all over the world.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: No, that really is a global presence. And I guess before, I mean the subjects of this podcast is really industry 4.0 and your experience and knowledge and the work you've been doing at CooperVision. But before we sort go into that, I wanted to ask you about those different products you create. And so to start, I guess, what different products do you create and are they focused in different regions where you create them? Is that for the geographical reach or is that for a different sort of business reason?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So we try to follow the good, better, best philosophy in so much, as every product type we offer, we try to offer it in three different grades, so that we can accommodate for people's budgets or people's expectations. We offer a wide portfolio of dailies and monthlies. So monthly what we call our frequent use product. So you would remove that from your eye and store it every evening and then replace it on a monthly basis. However, the shift in trend at the moment is moving more towards a daily modality where people literally put it in their eye in the morning and dispose of it of an evening. We've also had some huge successes with some quite specialist lenses where we've been able to develop products that are first of their kind in the world, that go after specific eye conditions that previously there was no corrective lenses available for. So we're having a huge uptake on that product type as well.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And would you say that the manufacturing process is quite complex for contact lenses? I mean I'm not an expert myself, so I guess that's why I'm asking you the question, is an interest to the audience as well. How complex is the manufacturing process?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So I mean in essence it's massively complicated due in part to the accuracies that we work to. So the product we make, the prescriptions of our contact lenses means that our tooling and our manufacturing processes have to be accurate to within a few microns. So managing and controlling that level of accuracy and tolerance is very, very difficult. But also the chemistry that goes into the product itself. So the actual contact lens material, hugely complex and varies massively depending on the product type, depending on whether it's a daily or a monthly.

And then the additional challenges of what we call the interactions. So how does the chemistry of the raw material interact with the process and what impact does that have on our quality on dimensional properties yield, etc. So yes, hugely complex. The other challenge is around the skill level required. So we try to accommodate highly automated platforms that can be operated with as little as one operator, right the way through to some fairly manual processes where each of the processes is independent, but it relies on a lot more labor to transfer the product or do a lot of the manual handling processes.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And when you mentioned challenges as well, I guess the supply chain, energy, these are issues that sort of affecting CooperVision as well and your manufacturing process too at the moment?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Yes, that's right. So supply chain of raw materials is a challenge. The raw materials we use are very, very specialist, so we're quite limited on the suppliers that we have available to us. Supply chain in terms of electronics, controls and automation components is certainly a struggle in terms of spares and support of our existing equipment, as well as the development and delivery of new equipment as well. Energy, absolutely sustainability and energy usage is a really big driver at the moment within CooperVision whereby, we are looking to identify opportunities to first of all fully understand our energy consumption but then of course look for opportunities to reduce and become far more efficient with the energy that we are consuming.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: So I think on that base we can sort of move towards the main sort of topic and we're talking about technology industry 4.0. I mean we can maybe start with, maybe it's jumping forward a little bit, but how technology is helping to solve those. Let's talk about those specific issues at the moment. How's technology within CooperVision sort of helping to overcome those challenges?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So our interpretation of industry 4, which of course is quite a buzzword out there and we spent a very long time trying to understand what that really means and how do we interpret and convert that into a strategic direction for the business. But the key driver for industry 4 is the use of data. Now, we like a lot of manufacturing facilities generate huge amounts of data at the moment. However, we tend to store that in siloed locations. So meaning that various data sets are independently stored and we're not looking at all of the data available in a holistic manner. Now, we recognize following industry 4 best practice approaches and the process analytics side of industry 4, that if we can bring a number of those data sets together and look at things like our raw materials in conjunction with our process, in conjunction with our quality details and customer information, if we can look at all of that holistically, there's a huge opportunity to unlock vast amounts of value in terms of increasing our yield and quality, increasing our throughput, reducing CPU, massive opportunities for us.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Absolutely. I mean, I spoke to another Senseye customer recently and again, it's a very similar story, data stored here, data stored here, data store here and they just need a way. And I speak to people at events as well who seem to have a lot of data. I'm not saying this is the case for CooperVision but seem to have a lot of data, but they're sort of like, well I've collected all this data from different places, but now what do I do of it to get those insights. And that's sort of the hump I guess people need to get over to really achieve success of industry 4.0.

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Absolutely. And as we've embarked on this journey, we've identified and recognized exactly that, that not only do we need the expertise of data, so data scientists, data engineers to actually handle, manipulate and correlate the data sets we have. But we need to combine that with our process experts to contextualize the data, so that once we've got it into a format and a location that we can start applying analytics and machine learning. We actually understand what that data means so that we can then interpret it into a value add business case.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: I guess another topic I hear quite often as well, and I think it's quite common with businesses who get very excited about all this new technology, whether it's something like Senseye, whether it's another industry for technology, but they get so excited that they rushing to implement it. But I mean there's got to be an advantage to actually thinking about the business problem before going in and finding the technology solution to that. Is that something you would agree with that sort of viewpoint as well?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Absolutely. So yes, identifying the business case, the use case and therefore the value case is absolutely vital. I'm part of an innovation group, so the nature of that team is we are responsible for identifying new technologies, new solutions, but of course we need the right application to apply that solution to. So whilst the engineer in me is keen to go and get the latest greatest tech, bring it in, set it up and try and make it an opportunity, the business side of me understands that well no, we need to identify the right business case, the right opportunity to then implement the correct technology against it.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: No, I think that's so important as well. Again, it's something that comes up in conversations quite a lot. But what I wanted to do is sort of shift back a little bit and focus on you and your view of Industry 4.0. So it's obviously something you do in your day to day role, like you say you identify these technologies, but what I guess from maybe even a career point of view, what stirred your interest in industry 4.0?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So I think for me, because it was the next big thing, it's the 4th Industrial Revolution. So it was quite an exciting shift within the industry, because it was largely data driven, relying on some fairly high end technology and the adoption of philosophies and ideas such as machine learning, AI, deep learning, these are all very exciting opportunities, which really sparked an interest to the engineer in me. I've always been fascinated in challenging ways in which things are done. I don't believe that we should just stick with, we've always done it that way, so let's carry on. We should always be striving for opportunities, for improvements. So I think in part that was what drove my personal interest in it. Additionally, the more I've embarked on this journey and the more time I've spent supporting some of the projects at CooperVision, some of the technology, some of the opportunities that we've unlocked have been truly, truly exciting. The potential that we believe we are going to be able to realize, it's quite an exciting opportunity and I very much want to be part of that journey.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And actually, when you speak to peers, are they on a similar path to you as well? Whether, in your industry or outside your industry, are they on a similar path to you where they recognize that technology is key or are they more sort of stuck in their ways? Do you have a view on that?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: There seems to be quite a broad variety depending on the industry, depending on the complexity of the process often, is that actually for many applications and many industries, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. There's no real benefit. There's no real value case in implementing latest, greatest technologies, because if the process is relatively straightforward, if there are very few complexities, then actually going with the MVP approach, the minimum viable product. So to get the job done as quickly and as efficiently and robustly.

Because, that's the other challenge that can come with new technology, is if you become an early adopter, you also take on some of the risk that it's not necessarily proven in industry. Now, we as a company generally are happy to take those risks. We obviously evaluate them, we try to mitigate them as much as possible. But there are occasions where we've actually rejected an opportunity based on it being a little bit too new to industry, we're not too sure if it's quite ready or robust enough. So we stand back, we then revisit it a year, two year down the line when it's been refined and we then look to adopt and bring that technology in.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: So a lot of it, and I know you recently spoke at our user group meeting about this, it sounds like cultures a massive driving force behind this as well. And it's behind what you were saying, is being the leaders on it. That's the difference between being the leaders and waiting, I guess, to see others and how it plays out for others as well. So how important is cultural aspect to sort of industry 4.0 and deploying those technology?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: To be honest, we've learned throughout our industry 4 journey that the culture and the change management piece is absolutely vital. You can implement the best technology in the world, but if you don't get the engagement, the buy-in and the support, and if you don't upskill and manage the cultural shift that's going to have within your workplace, within the way in which we carry out certain tasks, then you are never going to realize the value and the successes that you would otherwise if we bring those people along on the journey right from the very beginning. So we've discovered the early adoption, early inclusion of the teams and the areas of the business that could be or will be affected by the implementation of this new technology is absolutely key. Because, if they're aware of it and they're excited about it from the very beginning when it lands and we start to say, "Right, we'd like you to slightly change the way you're doing things." They're fully on board, full support and we get excellent value back from it.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yes. Because again, I think that's probably a lot of organizations where you have, not going in on IT teams here, but it depends how organizations run. Because, I think we've talked about this subject before where some organizations have run from IT say, "You must use this technology here it is." Whereas, sometimes it could come from the engineering side saying, "IT, we want this technology, please procure this." So could you talk a little about how that works within in CooperVision?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Sure. So we had a bit of a shift a few years ago now, where we very much adopted the IT OT convergence principles, where we recognized that managing and running our OT operations within an IT space was not best practice and was certainly not in the best interest of the company. So we worked very closely with our vendors with some of our primary suppliers and followed some industry best practices to define and generate a brand new business infrastructure environment whereby the OT environment, so operational technology where the manufacturing lines and all of the supporting infrastructure are essentially hosted in a very different environment to our IT space. This comes with many, many advantages. We get far better security, we get greater availability and robustness and redundancy. And it also upskills and empowers the OT groups, the controls and manufacturing teams far greater in terms of their influence and their ability to make changes that, as you mentioned, were historically often driven by IT, despite it being in a very different field of expertise within the manufacturing environment.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Yeah, because it's not like procuring, say, Outlook or Office licenses is it? It needs the involvement of the... And it sounds so simple, but it's just amazing how that doesn't usually follow where different teams are brought together or relevant teams are brought together to actually decide on these technologies and it's not just enforced from an IT or a central point of view.

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Absolutely. And again, as we touched on earlier with the cultural and the change management piece, IT are a very, very key player in the adoption and implementation of any new technology, because although architecturally we generally host some of these solutions within our OT space, it's all hosted within IT infrastructure. So we need them on board. We need them to understand why we want to use this technology, what the impacts are going to be, what the requirements are going to be from an IT perspective, particularly when we start moving towards adoption of cloud-based solutions such as Senseye, because now we need to manage the interface of data from our secure OT layer, up through our IT layer and out to our cloud providers in order to realize the value and functionality of the solutions that we're adopting.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: And actually I should probably say at this point, not having to go at IT teams here, it was just made that clear at this point. I mean, we'll talk about that integration of key systems in a sec, but what I wanted to bring back to, again, it's your personal point of view and you talked about a lot of these projects require leadership and real drivers of change and adopts the technology. But do you have any leaders that you look up to in sort of industry 4.0 space or actually wider than that who maybe influence some of your decision making in your sort of day to day role?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: Yeah, sure. I think for me it's probably slightly less around the industry leaders, but there's an awful lot in the commercial space. So people like Steve Jobs, people like Elon Musk, people like other market leaders in not necessarily an industrial field, but essentially people that challenge the norm. They don't look to do things the same way as everybody else. They look to think of, "Well, what do we want to do in the future? What do people or how are people going to react or behave? What are their needs and requirements for the future and how can we adopt that philosophy?" The Steve Jobs example, Apple, very, very much market leaders in terms of user interface and user experience, whereby we don't need complex systems.

We need a very, very simple user interface. One of the claims is always you can give an iPod or an iPhone to your NAN or your mum, and they will always work out how to use it very, very quickly. The use and adoption of apps, so you don't have to have a full blown solution that's got everything available to it. It's fully customizable, but again, all the apps are very easy to configure, easy to use. So that, philosophy in terms of user experience is something that we're very much tried to incorporate into our industry 4 journey, whereby any of the tools, any of the functions that we've built, which are based on industry 4 technology, follow that simple navigation, simple functionality, simple user experience to maximize that uptake and that engagement. Because, we recognize the easier you make something, the more intuitive it is, the more people are going to adopt it and like it and therefore realize the value from it.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: I think that leads into, we had a brief conversation about this before and actually on our other podcast that we could promote here as well, but we talked about the importance of UX and we had our sort of product designer talking a lot about that. But maybe let's dig into that a little bit more. Because, that's quite interesting that about building user interfaces for users. Again, it sounds like a crazy concept, but how important is that into adopting these tools and encouraging people to use these tools from your experience?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So for us, we've almost applied this in two different directions. So within our manufacturing plants, a typical manufacturing line can be made up of multiple modules. Historically, the user interface, and therefore the user experience for each module could have been different based on the vendor or the manufacturer that built that equipment. Which means that if an operator moves from machine A to machine B, they now have to learn a whole different user interface to fundamentally drive the same level of control. We as a team identified that standardization offers huge benefits and advantages. So we are now in a position where new manufacturing lines that are delivered into CooperVision follow our strictly controlled standards. So every interface looks and feels the same. So it doesn't matter if you're on machine A or machine X, an operator can navigate, can control, can understand where all the functionality lives.

Additionally, with the user experience side of things, we've tried to make it as intuitive as possible, so that to access the regular functionality that operators require during the standard operation of the machine should be done in as fewer clicks as possible, in as intuitive and user-friendly way as possible. So again, to maximize efficiency, to reduce the number of taps and clicks they've got to do to carry out their daily tasks. Based on the success that we've had and that really positive feedback, we've then tried to apply the same to any of our industry 4 technologies. So any new functionality or tools that we've developed, we very much try to make the user experience as intuitive and as simple as possible. Again, with the idea that the simpler it is, the easier it is to use, people are going to engage and use it, and therefore realize that value much, much quicker.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: Actually, I just wanted to touch on something you mentioned there. So setting those standards, which is quite an interesting concept. So who's actually involved in setting those standards? So which parts of the business sort of collaborate on that side of things?

Matt Walter, Coopervision: So the standards have largely been driven out of the innovation group that I'm a member of, but in conjunction with manufacturing. So we recognize that manufacturing are essentially our customer, so we need to make sure that their needs, their requirements are being listened to and where possible addressed. But part of the innovation group's responsibility is to manage the vendor deliverables, which includes that the standards that are followed within the software, both at a control level and a visuals level, which like I say, we've had some really, really good successes with.

Niall Sullivan, Senseye: So that, was the first part of our conversation with Matt Walter at CooperVision. My main key takeaway from this episode is the importance of integrating your key systems to remove data silos, to uncover key insights to drive your business forwards. Please subscribe by your favorite podcast provider if you'd like to be notified about future websites. And it would mean a lot if you could let us know your feedback by leaving us a review. You can find out more about how Senseye can reduce unplanned downtime and contribute towards improve sustainability within your manufacturing plants by visiting Thanks a lot for listening.

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