Whether you took the train home, drove through a tollgate, or bought manufactured goods today, chances are Moxa was involved in making it possible. An international company specializing in industrial networking products and communication solutions, Moxa enables devices to connect, communicate, and collaborate with systems, processes, and people.
Though operating in the traditional automation industry, Moxa’s operations are quite unorthodox – the company’s organizational structure shifts twice per year, its management team changes every decade, and rather than having one CEO, it is led by an executive board with a bottom-up approach to responsibility.
“Leaders have their responsibilities in a certain area, but that doesn’t mean that a leader knows everything,” says Amanda Wu, a co-CEO in Moxa’s executive board. “We believe that people who work in the field know best. By trusting our employees, we empower them to make decisions on their own in volatile situations.”
With over 71 million industrial devices connected worldwide, Moxa offers a very wide range of products, which are sold in small quantities to various industries, from aeronautics to mining. In these types of environments, notes Wu, reliable networks are vital to operations.
“If your network is temporarily suspended at the office or at your home, you just complain a little bit and life goes on,” she says. “But in the automation world, one minute of downtime could have a serious economic impact, which is why we focus on providing reliable connectivity for high-stakes environments that require a high degree of know-how.”
Because of this, Moxa asked itself three years ago how it could further shorten delivery times by anticipating demand and streamlining its supply chain. The solution was to transform its previously linear supply chain into a digitally connected web system with a brand-new intelligent warehouse at the center, which enabled the company to promptly respond to changes in customer demand while balancing cost and efficiency.
David Chen, chief information officer of Moxa, notes that the automatic integration with Moxa’s main system has enabled the company to verify productivity and predict needs in real-time. Because this type of system requires that customers, suppliers, and subcontractors provide Moxa with data, the transformation included a period of trust-building with the company’s partners and complete transparency from Moxa.
But the most challenging aspect of digital transformations, stresses Wu, is committing employees and integrating digitalization projects with investments in people.
“People will be against digitalization if they worry about job security,” she says. “It’s essential to communicate to your employees that the intelligent systems aren’t there to replace them but to give them a new role. If you’ve built a culture of trust and uphold transparent communication, they will get on board.”
During the preparation stage, Moxa vigorously planned a move from its former facility in Taipei to a new smart logistics center in Taoyuan. While the industry average for such transitions is six months, Moxa aimed to complete theirs in two. Despite thorough training and planning, however, Moxa hit several bumps in the road.
“When we launched, there was a period of turmoil because we had a whole new ecosystem and some change in personnel,” says Wu. “It didn’t go exactly as planned. But we learned that thanks to the broad knowledge of our staff, they could collaborate to fix any issues, and we still managed to wrap everything up in three months.”
Moxa’s decentralized business model and continuously changing organizational structure means that employees are trained to develop broad-based knowledge and skills rather than focusing on a narrow area. In a crisis such as the delay of the company’s transition, this meant that cross-department collaboration could be quickly implemented to find solutions to any hitches.
“We learned a good lesson,” says Wu. “Now we know how to adapt, and we collaborate better with our customers. We’re also more resilient to challenges because we learned how to fail fast and learn fast. But perhaps most importantly, we proved that investing in people is always worthwhile.”
Looking ahead, Moxa aims to use its upgraded competence to continue addressing unmet needs in the automation industry. The company invests heavily in high-margin innovation, and the next step, notes Wu, is taking further advantage of emerging technologies such as AI/machine learning and the Internet of Things (IoT) to fulfill the company’s mission and create value for its customers.
“We want to be hands-on with industry leaders, create new solutions, and make our products more affordable to small and medium-sized enterprises,” says Wu. “We also aim for our solutions to be cybersecurity embedded, so customers don’t need to worry about a new technology they’re not familiar with; instead, they can rely on us.”