Seth Garrison | Jet Engines, Collaborative Robots, & Flying

 In Being an Engineer Podcast

Who is Seth Garrison?

Seth Garrison started his career as an electrical engineer with Honeywell developing auxiliary power units (APUs) to control jet engines. When FAA regulations began requiring more and more “busywork” documentation he joined a small motion control and automation supplier called In Position Technologies (IP Tech) as a sales engineer. Seth has grown with IP Tech and is now a sales manager there helping engineering teams solve automation problems across the United States.


robot, apu, honeywell, people, airplane, engine, fly, requirements, walk, faa, engineering, test, ivy tech, day, spending, seth, engineer, engineering teams, work, ip
Aaron Moncur, Seth Garrison

Aaron Moncur 00:14
Welcome to the being an engineer podcast. Our guest today is Seth Garrison, who holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Arizona State University, and currently works as a sales manager at imposition technologies, where they supply engineering teams and manufacturers with motion control and automation equipment. Seth, welcome to the show.

Seth Garrison 00:38
Thanks, Aaron. Good to be here.

Aaron Moncur 00:39
Yeah, yeah, I’m so happy that we get this, this opportunity to chat. So for everyone out there, that that won’t know this. Seth and I have known each other for several years, we’ve worked together and pipeline has used in position on many occasions to supply us with some motion controller, automation hardware, and they’ve been wonderful. And it’s it’s exciting to get to know someone who you’ve worked with for a while, but like, we’ve never really had a chance to sit down and just kind of chat and learn more about each other’s backgrounds. So super excited to hear all about that. Yeah.

Seth Garrison 01:15
Awesome. I’ve really enjoyed the podcast so far. I’ve been listening to a couple of episodes since you asked me a couple of weeks ago, and yeah, it’s it’s been fun. I’m liking what you’re doing. So

Aaron Moncur 01:27
awesome. Thank you for the plug. They’re unsolicited. Even this is great. Okay, so first question. This is what I start with, with most everyone. What made you decide to become an engineer?

Seth Garrison 01:39
That’s a you know, it’s an interesting question. I think probably watching my dad basically be an engineer. And, you know, I grew up my dad worked for Microsoft in the 90s, actually. And so I’ve been around computers and technology since I think he told me, he brought home Freddie to fish when I was five years old and set it up on the computer and I was hooked.

Aaron Moncur 02:07
Freddie the fish ready to say

Seth Garrison 02:10
something a little video game? Yep, computer game. Okay. And so yeah, we he set that up and said I was locked onto the computer. So they basically had to drag me away. And I guess ever since I’ve been kind of obsessed with electronics and technology and that sort of thing. So moving on along in high school, I took a bunch of computer programming classes and thought for a while I wanted to go get a degree in computer science. And he looked at me and said, you know, you’re crazy. If you’re gonna do a degree in computer science, go get it, go get an electrical engineering degree instead.

Aaron Moncur 02:48
So why would you say that? What’s crazy about computer science,

Seth Garrison 02:52
not so much that it’s crazy. It was that it would pigeonhole me essentially, doing computer science, you know, it was, I think, as he put it, nobody will ever question if you’re an AE, who wants to write code, but if you’re a computer scientist who wants to do hardware design or mechanical things, everybody’s gonna go you are qualified for

Aaron Moncur 03:15
this thing? That makes sense.

Seth Garrison 03:17
Yeah. So yeah, and then, you know, finished high school went to ASU and really never looked back. And I took that advice and ran with it. So.

Aaron Moncur 03:29
Yeah. Okay, I have to ask a question about computer games now. So what was this frog something or other

Seth Garrison 03:37
Freddy the fish is what I honestly couldn’t even tell you know, where I know it all came from nothing about it. But yeah, that’s the story he likes to tell is already the fish are years old, five years old.

Aaron Moncur 03:50
Do you remember a computer game back back in the day called snipes? I can’t say it. You know, that that was that was Freddy the fish for me snipes. I don’t even remember what the game was. Really. I just remember that it was on a floppy disk. And I had to you know, stick it into the floppy drive of the computer and like load the game and it was all green. There were no colors anywhere. It was just all green everywhere. But yeah, that was my Freddie the fish snipes.

Seth Garrison 04:18
Yep. Yeah, and I think is similar kind of thing. I’m pretty sure it was loaded on a floppy drive. You stuck it in. I think there was color though. This would have been probably like 9094 95 Something like that.

Aaron Moncur 04:32
So yeah, it was high tech at that point.

Seth Garrison 04:35
Yeah, it was the latest and greatest.

Aaron Moncur 04:40
All right, so your first job out of college you go to work for Honeywell. Yeah, tell me So Honeywell is like this massive. I think of it as like just this huge bureaucracy. What was it like working at Honeywell?

Seth Garrison 04:58
Kind of what you would think it You’re I think you’re absolutely right. I think I’ve been, I’ve been really fortunate in that I got to kind of start my career with a big company and see what engineering at a big company was like, and then walking out of there and coming to a small company, really let you appreciate the flexibility and the ability to kind of change on the fly to adapt uniquely, that small businesses have. Honeywell was in a sense, it was it was a really good experience. So I feel like I learned a lot while I was there about what just learning from the other guys there who had been some of them there 1015 20 years, you know, working in the same group? I really, the way I guess I ended up at Honeywell was while I had my my pilot’s license, I kind of made a deal with my parents in high school that well, basically they said, Well, if you pay for college will pay for the pay for flying lessons. And so I got a good deal. When I got a scholarship to ASU. They said, Okay, well, we’ll, we’ll pay for flight lessons. So, yeah, I’ve got my license. And that

Aaron Moncur 06:11
was a loophole they weren’t expecting. No.

Seth Garrison 06:14
I think it was actually completely intended of like, work hard at school, do it, you know, do what you need to do. And you know, got Arizona state paid for my my college degree. So fantastic. They took the money they would have spent to help me go to college and said, We’ll spend it on flying airplanes instead. So So yeah, I got, I got hooked up there. And one of my friends I went to high school with his dad was the Director of Engineering for propulsion systems at Honeywell, and he was kind enough to kind of pass my resume on and I ended up with an internship there my junior year of college, and kind of never looked back. They they hired me on to like a part time role, then I finished that up while I did my senior year. And

Aaron Moncur 07:01
yeah, you mentioned that at Honeywell, you learned what engineering was like, before moving on to a smaller company tell me what what was engineering? Like? Like? What are some of the the experiences that you remember at Honeywell where I don’t know you learn something that you’ve been able to use, you know, in your career since then? Or you did something? And you were like, wow, yeah, that’s engineering. This is what I was expecting all those years in college.

Seth Garrison 07:28
But I think it was a little bit of both of it was in it wasn’t what I was expecting when I when I went to college. And so the cool part was, you know, I got to go. For me the the fun part of engineering has always been just taking these core concepts and applying them to real life to see something work. So probably one of the coolest things was that first time that I’ve written up, basically, basically written up code to run an auxiliary power unit and APU. And we took it out to the test cell. And it obviously, I didn’t do this all by myself. But it started up and I was able to, like in person, see the things that you know, these requirements that I’ve written up, actually happen and happen the way that I’d written them out. So that was like, super fun, super practical. And like, to this day, I can’t get on a 737 without thinking about the APU. Because that’s what I was working on at Honeywell is the we were doing the retrofit for the 737 to a new basically modern controller interface. So yeah, that was

Aaron Moncur 08:39
some of your code is ostensibly still floating around the 730 sevens. Yeah, it is. Yeah, that’s so cool. That’s got to be a great feeling every time you’re on board.

Seth Garrison 08:51
Yeah. So it’s fun. So what I what I really did at Honeywell, though, is I guess, it’s technically not my code. Because what we did at Honeywell was we wrote requirements for code, if that makes sense. So we would kind of map out at a high level trying to understand what the engine had to do. And then turn that into logical flow diagrams flowcharts we’d use MATLAB Simulink or something like video or something like that to map out okay, when this happens, then this series of things needs to happen and if these two things are happening at the same time, then make this decision so

Aaron Moncur 09:32
you get into the details just a little bit for us there like what are some of the things that you had to map what things were happening that needed to trigger other things?

Seth Garrison 09:41
Well, so like, without going into like jet engine theory extensively, with with auxiliary power units, they’re designed to do two things on on an engine they generate electricity, and they provide what we call bleed air to the main engines to start them up. So like, if you think about the next time you’re on a on an airplane and they push back from the gate, and everything kind of the air from the vents kind of dies down for a minute, while the main engines are starting up, that’s because they view that was providing air to blow through the vents is now providing air to the main engines to spin them up and get them to start. So there’s all kinds of different funny things that happen in the process of providing pressurized air out to something else that’s spinning up to speed. And so like a fuse have, they have a valve on them, they call the surge control valve. And so that that service control valve is basically designed to regulate the pressure coming out of the compressor, so that you don’t get any reverse flow. So basically, the air is only flowing the right way to the compressor. And if the pressure gets too high, obviously, it backflows it’ll flow backwards, which can cause damage to the compressor itself. And so the search control valve is basically there to regulate pressure. So you’re constantly watching it monitoring it at a really high rate, I think we’re doing something like 500 hertz or 200 hertz or 500 hertz. So you know, you’re, you’re checking what this pressure on the compressor is. And if it jumps up too high, or gets into you’re basically looking at that, versus ambient air temp, and all these other you gotta take all these parameters into account and decide what, what point is the compressor kind of backflow. And but just before backflows, you gotta, like, start to crack that valve open so that it, it doesn’t backflow and you’re maintaining that right pressure. So you can start up a main engine, but not not backflow the compressor. Okay, so

Aaron Moncur 11:41
there’s this delicate balance of pressure, you can’t get too high, or it’s gonna cause damage, you have to keep it, you know, below a certain point, but you probably don’t want to go too low, because then you’re not going to have the efficiency that you want. Yep. How do you tell me about testing? Do you guys, obviously you did testing for that what what is the test setup look like to validate this code.

Seth Garrison 12:00
So there’s a couple of different ways that that Honeywell does that. The basic one is they have just facilities, they called Test cells, you walk out there, they set the engine up in a cell, and it’s got lines hooked up to it, you know, and you’re just gonna, it’s kind of like your basic level test, where you’re trying to simulate just basic running conditions, you’re not gonna simulate things like backflow, from the main engine, things like that. And then there’s kind of secondary one is they have a much more sophisticated altitude testing facility where they have the ability, your, you put the the engine inside, basically a giant tank, and they’ll suck the air out of it to simulate a pressure at altitude, or they can also blow air in to try to simulate the main engine startups and the backflow that might come off the main engine through that. So yeah, it’s basically putting the APU in a box and you hook you walk out there with your controller, and you have to controller up like it would be in the airplane, and you tried to run a bunch of different scenarios to see how that would work. So yeah, that was that was the fun part of working for Honeywell, for sure was going out there running those engines and seeing, seeing kind of your practical effects of the requirements you wrote come to life in that time. So

Aaron Moncur 13:21
that is quintessential engineering right there. I don’t care who you are, if you see something like that going on that you can confidently state. Yes, that is engineering. That’s what engineering is about. Very cool. Okay. Any other experiences that you can remember from Honeywell that were particularly interesting or challenging?

Seth Garrison 13:42
Well, yeah, I mean, I guess just out of that, I learned a lot at Honeywell about writing test procedures. And you know, that kind of the other side of it is, is, okay, so we wrote these requirements. Now, how do we test these requirements, and so it’s kind of this constant back and forth of trying to make sure that you’ve tested everything fully, and then moved on, you know, when at the point you move on, that things are going to operate the way you you want to and I think the really modern example of this is what’s going on with the 737 max and Boeing, you know, trying to recertify after the the MCAT incident, right? You know, these guys wrote, you know, what they thought was a solution to a problem, but they didn’t quite test it. You know, there’s always a balance of like, did I make my test thorough enough to cover every potential situation that you might run into and aviation such a unique industry in that sense, because the situation’s vary from you know, 120 degree day sitting on the tarmac at Phoenix to, you know, the end of 15 hour flight across the Pacific at 40 plus 1000 feet, the APU is now minus 60. Because it hasn’t been running the whole time.

Aaron Moncur 14:55
Minus 60. Do you guys have to account for you know below Freezing temperatures and like warm the APU up or is that is that even a consideration doesn’t matter that much because it’s all electronics and nothing’s moving.

Seth Garrison 15:10
No. So the the interesting thing with the APU is it’s the one engine that gets shut down during flight. And but on modern airplanes, which are almost all twin engine airplanes, there’s a specification called ETOPS, which stands for extended twin engine operation. And so in order for an airplane to get an ETOPS certification, basically, they have to have the APU available and the backup should one of the main engines fail. And it’s not so much that the APU does anything as far as propulsion, but the APU then takes on all of the electrical load for the airplane, while the second main engine now is tasked with having to fly basically having put everything in to flying the airplane and getting you safely to the ground. So but the APU gets shut off, because you don’t want it sitting there running and burning fuel during flight, because you’re trying to potentially fly across the Pacific Ocean you want and every pound of fuel you is a pound of passenger, you can’t carry essentially, yeah. And so they want to shut the APU down during something like that. And so the APU sits there potentially for 10 1215 hours at temps that can go all the way down to, you know, minus 100 plus at 40,000 feet. So yeah, the spec for the APU basically says it has to be able to start all the way from, you know, the hottest of hot days down to the coldest of cold soaks, sitting down sitting there. So that was typically about minus 40 was what general cold soak was expected to be. But then there’s some conditions where like, if you’re trying to take off in super cold conditions, they might be running a special jet fuel, like JP four instead of jet A and and then you’d had to test down to minus 65, for the ability to start.

Aaron Moncur 16:58
So that’s an incredibly brutal environment in which to work.

Seth Garrison 17:04
So yeah, it’s, it’s a really incredible thing. It’s kind of amazing that engine start and some of the most interesting days of like engineering when we go out to the altitude tank, and they’d have, you know, they’d set it to 43,000 feet, and we’d be running JP four, and the engine soaked down to minus 65. And you’re just like crossing your fingers hoping that everything worked, right, that you’ve, you made the right tweaks from the last time you ran it when it didn’t start and the waiting. And you can’t hear anything, because it’s all a field off in a steel container. And so you’re just sitting there staring at your computer monitor watching the grass, like watching the speed on the engine, and then watching the fuel isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. And

Aaron Moncur 17:49
well, that sounds like a lot of fun. I’m going to take a quick break here and just share with the listeners that the being an engineer podcast is powered by pipeline design and engineering, where we work with medical device and other engineering teams who need turnkey custom test fixtures or automated equipment to assemble, inspect, characterize or perform verification or validation testing on their devices. And you can find us at test fixture we’re speaking with Seth Garrison today of imposition technologies. So maybe let’s let’s jump into imposition and IP tech, as we call it. And how did you transition from this this, you know, mega gigantic beast of a company Honeywell into IP tech, which is very much a small business. What What prompted you to make that change? And you what what are some of the key differences? I mean, everything’s completely different, I guess. But go ahead and talk to that if you would.

Seth Garrison 18:51
Yeah. Well, I mean, I think the short answer to that is, is probably the FAA prompted that, you know, so one of the things I did as we got further further along. And the higher up you get, the less I feel like the thing Honeywell does well as they let the new guys go out and play with the fun stuff. And then the more experience, the further up the chain you get the more time you end up spending on documentation and paperwork and stuff. And so, one of the things that happened in Gosh, this would have been 2014, probably 1314. The FAA really started cracking down on on a new set of requirements called dl 178 C. This is the third revisions of the C prior to that DL 178 B had been the kind of governing specification the FAA release 178 C and like 2007 2008, but then they basically said hey, well, anything that was in progress before that could be continued to be certified under once In the AP and only news systems had to go on to see. And all the airframe manufacturers were kind of playing games a little bit to try to say all their stuff was still grandfathered in under 178. D. But essentially, the the big difference between those two was 170 AC imposed this huge traceability requirement, which basically said that every requirement from basically from the airplane level had to trace all the way down to the last like little minut detail. And so you kind of started with this type of a requirement, which basically says there shall be an airplane in it shall fly. And that has to now you have to trace the tree all the way down all the way down to the little snippet of code that says the surge control valve opens, when the when the bleed air pressure gets to, you know, 10%, you know, within 10% of, you know, that sort of thing. So, is that

Aaron Moncur 20:55
a real requirement? Like, is there a document somewhere in Honeywell that says, There is an airplane and it shall fly?

Seth Garrison 21:00
No, because that exists at Boeing? Not at Honeywell. Oh, okay. So basically, Boeing has that, that flows to a whole bunch of requirements for the Boeing airframe. And Boeing had been doing this kind of thing for a while. But APU that kind of lived in this land where they were sort of exempt because they weren’t main propulsion, they’re not a catastrophic failure mode, basically. And so they hadn’t been hadn’t had the same strictness of requirements imposed. And so what happened was, basically, the FAA changed their mind and decided, you know, okay, know everything, you know, whether it was already in progress or not have to get this. And so we ended up in this mad rush of basically trying to reverse engineer things that have been done in the 90s. You know, so like, requirements for the APU that had been written in 1991, probably would have been 1996 1987, when Honeywell first released the APU that’s running on what at that time was a 737 ng, subsequently, on the max as well, it’s been the same engine the whole time. And so you’ve got these things that have been, you know, constant for decades. And all of a sudden, we’re trying to create requirement traces, up to airframe level requirements, and it was just the most like mind numbing, like a pardon. I mean, not to criticize the FAA, but it just really was non productive work. And it took us away from doing the things that were important. I thought, personally, and so it kind of soured me a little bit on that aspect. And not to say that there isn’t still important work being done at Honeywell, and there isn’t still good stuff. But I just kind of got a little tired of that, and was looking for something different, and kind of got the opportunity IP texts are really heavily involved in robotics. And, you know, that’s something else that, you know, as, just as an electrical engineer, I’m really interested in, you know, any kind of mechanical system mechanical interaction, so it was really appealing to kind of walk out of that aviation world and into something that’s maybe a little bit less regulated and less heavily scrutinized, as long as, you know, basically, the core requirement of robotics is just keep people safe. You know, don’t you know, don’t hurt people. Yeah. So.

Aaron Moncur 23:18
So you started there as your you’re a sales manager now, but you started as a sales engineer there, what, what were your your first few weeks, like, I mean, because you were like, a working engineer, right and developing for Honeywell, and then all of a sudden, like, you’re not responsible anymore for developing this new product, or this new PCB or this new code. Now, you’re, you’re acting in a role where you’re facilitating other engineering teams to do that with with the hardware and things that IP tech sells, what was that transition? Like? Did you miss the, you know, the, like, nuts and bolts engineering work? Are we kind of over that? To be

Seth Garrison 24:01
honest, it was a little bit of drinking from the firehose. Typically, when we, when we hire guys at Ivy Tech, we tend to bring them in as what we’d call an applications engineer or an inside sales engineer. And when they didn’t, at the time, they didn’t really have the luxury to do that with me. So I kind of jumped straight into this kind of customer facing sales role. And so I’m trying to basically absorb the the massive amount of information that is, you know, robotics, and actuators and motors and all of that, while at the same time also learning all these other kind of soft skills that I didn’t have necessarily I spent time in front of customers with Honeywell, but I never like I hadn’t been responsible for that relationship. In that sense. I’d always been essentially the Applications Engineer, the guy that gets called in to like answer the super technical questions, and that sort of thing. So it was a it was quite a change. And frankly, yeah, It was a little bit of information overload in the, in the short run there, and I had a lot of learning to do. So it’s been a real experience since then, you know, that next, probably a year, year and a half, I was just trying to learn everything I could about robotics, and then also just learning about how to talk to people how to understand what people need, because as a sales engineer, that’s really what your job is, is, walk in there, understand the customer’s needs and understand how to how the products that we have can help them solve those problems. You know, we really are kind of like consultants, we’re, we’re almost doing free engineering consulting, in a sense, because we get paid when we sell something. So yeah, it’s, yeah, it’s a lot of fun. And the coolest part about Ivy Tech and, and being a sales engineer is absolutely just the variety. You know, I tell guys all the time that when i i In the five years, I was at Honeywell, I basically worked on the same project the entire time. And in a day, I can work on five different projects at Ivy Tech with no problem whatsoever.

Aaron Moncur 26:10
Do you think of yourself as a sales professional, or more just like, I don’t know what to call it even? As well maybe like what you said, engineering consultant.

Seth Garrison 26:21
It’s a little bit of both, I definitely, I definitely do think of myself as a sales professional. But then I also think of myself as an engineer, it’s, it’s very much a dichotomy in that sense of, like, I, we never want to be the used car salesman, where we’re just like trying to move a product because it’s got to get out the door, we want it to be the right part that fits the customer’s need and, and leaves them happy, basically, you know, because our best customers have been customers with us, you know, Ivy Tech’s, now founded 97, so we’re 23 years old this year. And, you know, we’ve had customers have literally been with us from the beginning. And that’s, that’s the kind of relationship we want to have with people. So it really is, in that sense, it is a sales role, because it’s all about like building that relationship, building that rapport with people where, you know, they really trust you. And they know that they can pick up the phone and say, Hey, I’ve got, I need to move this thing from point A to point B. And it weighs, you know, however much and you know, there’s there’s weird, funky aspects to what we need to do with it. How do I do this? And that’s really where where we come in is we walk in? And we say, Yeah, we know about, we know about robots and actuators, and visual inspection systems and robotic guidance, that sort of thing. And so we walk in, and we help people figure out, figure that out. So that’s a really rewarding thing to do.

Aaron Moncur 27:52
You mentioned free consulting. So this I have, I have the, I’m gonna call it a problem, we have the same problem, right? Customers will call us up. And they’ll be like, Yeah, we have this idea for this new piece of equipment. And we think we wanted to do this and that, but we’re not sure. And is it even a possibility to do this way versus that way? And, you know, they’ll ask us for some technical guidance, and we’re happy to do a little bit of that. But at some point, it’s like, Hey, come on, guys, you need to give us a PEO to, you know, to keep doing this, how do you strike the balance between helping them and kind of, you know, getting them up to a certain point, but but but not just spending so much of your time doing this really free consulting, that it’s just not profitable?

Seth Garrison 28:35
It’s a, it’s a difficult balance to walk, and you kind of have to approach everyone case by case. A lot of times, you know, we have the advantage as an automation distributor where we’re not necessarily we’re really not trying to make our money by doing engineering work for people, which is maybe where we’re a little bit different than like a pipeline or something like that, like we get paid essentially, when we sell products. So I probably do more free consulting in that sense, just because like, we’re helping somebody get to a solution that at the end of it, then they give us a Pio for the products, rather than, you know, giving us a Pio to build a system or something like that. So a lot of times we’d like to work with guys like you where, when, when I have an end customer who says Well, here’s what I want to do. And I look at that and go, Wow, you really need somebody who knows what they’re doing to come in and design a system to help you with that. That’s where, you know, I want to pick up the phone and call pipeline and say, hey, you know, Joe over here needs help with with this application. Why don’t you guys come in and consult with him? And so I don’t know it really is one of the things that’s probably one of the things that was hardest to learn is like how do you walk that line? Because as an as an engineer as just like a normal person, like I want to help people like yeah, He calls up and says, I need help. Like, my first instinct is to go. Yeah, let me help you with that. But, but at the same time, if there’s no chance that we’re gonna get paid for that in the long run, then you kind of have to say, well, let me refer you to somebody who can help you and is going to charge for that.

Aaron Moncur 30:19
Well, I can confirm what you’re saying your first instinct is to help. Every time we’ve called you, you’ve been just super helpful and willing to share some ideas in and generate some concepts. And we’ve always really appreciated that. So that there’s a plug for Seth and IP tech, for sure. You mentioned that there are days when he worked on like five different projects, you know, and IP tech, what are what are some without, you know, disclosing anything confidential? Of course, what what are some of the more interesting projects that you folks that IP Tech have have helped come to fruition?

Seth Garrison 30:56
And that’s a that’s a really hard question to answer. You know, we we’ve done. I mean, a lot of the really fun ones have been with robots. We’re distributor for Universal Robots, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of collaborative robots.

Aaron Moncur 31:12
And so let’s what does it mean to be a collaborative robot?

Seth Garrison 31:15
Well, a collaborative robot is is essentially a robot that’s designed to work with someone. So your traditional robot is kind of your automotive assembly line robot where it exists kind of in a box, and it’s moving a big hunk of metal around, and you don’t want people anywhere near it. And because it’s not going to stop if somebody gets close. Yeah, somebody’s there. And they’re in the way, if they’re losing at the worst, there are at the best, they’re losing an arm. And at the worst, they’re, they’re dying. Yeah. And so collaborative robots really was a field that we got involved with, basically, from the time they started in the US. And it’s been one of our best lines since then, where the robots are really designed with the thought of working next to or around people. And so they go into spaces that traditionally you would never be able to put a robot. So that could be you know, I’ve spent a morning in a machine shop, essentially kind of talking with the guys about how they can put a robot on a on a lathe or on a mill, and helping them kind of figure out well, you know, okay, what does it sell look like? How did the parts come in? How does it get loaded? In? How does it come out? Where’s it going? Once it’s done, and then in the afternoon, I’m in the cleanroom, and Intel, you know, or something like that, and helping them think about moving wafers around, you know. So it really is you can go from the dirtiest, like more dirtiest environment, the you know, the dirtiest machine shop you’ve ever seen to, to clean room in a semiconductor fab in the same day.

Aaron Moncur 32:55
Okay, so robots are one of the most popular lines that you guys sell, you’ve also started doing these. I’m not sure what they’re called, but they’re these like smart transportation carts, right? To tell us a little bit about that. How are those used,

Seth Garrison 33:11
so we call them AMRs are autonomous mobile robots. They’re kind of an improvement on the technology of what people have traditionally called automated guided vehicles or AGV. Basically, they are, you know, the simplest version is, is like your, if you have a Roomba vacuum cleaner, that’s, that’s kind of the same concept, but on a much smaller scale. And so these autonomous mobile robots are designed, you bring them in, you map out your facility floor. And so the robot then does, uses a system called slam and stands for simultaneous localization and mapping. And so once it has a map, it’s always figuring out where it is on the facility for and it’s able to drive from a starting point to an ending point to move material. And so we’re seeing these you know, any anytime there’s like carts or things like that, which you see really commonly in factories where a guy’s down at, at incoming, or at the warehouse and picking up a cart full of different parts and taking them out and loading them up at the assembly line for the line to put everything together. And so that’s the one of the big ones. And then the other thing that’s going crazy is like the logistics industry, you know, we’re all semi quarantined right now in the midst of COVID-19 and everybody’s buying an Amazon pack Amazon packages like crazy. And so companies like FedEx and UPS and smaller ones, we call them third party logistics companies are they’re all trying to solve this problem of how do I move things in the in the most efficient way possible.

Aaron Moncur 34:54
And these robots they can detect if if someone is you know, in the walkway, though, We’ll stop or move out of the way or something.

Seth Garrison 35:02
Yep, so de depending on the robot, and depending on the size, they all you pretty much everybody uses a lidar technology to kind of look at what’s going on around the robot. And so if there’s something in the way, the robot will either stop, or it’ll try to navigate around it. Typically, the bigger the robot, the less you want them navigating around. And so the bigger ones tend to just kind of stop and wait for things to move out of their path. And the smaller ones will navigate around and move on their way. But the because of that, they’re they’re very flexible and able to kind of handle these, this ever changing environment that is modern manufacturing.

Aaron Moncur 35:41
I saw a video the other day of what was it called the like mere 2000, or something like that. But it was really neat watching this because the robot had become part of the facility. It wasn’t like this separate thing that, you know, people were stopping and like, worried about running into it, or, you know, taking pictures and sending it to their friends. It was just a normal part of the factory. And people walked around or the the robot maneuvered around and it was so cleanly and smoothly integrated. Really cool to watch that happen.

Seth Garrison 36:16
Yeah. And that’s exactly what happens. Usually, the first couple of weeks are a little bit of a learning period for people there, everybody stops and looks as the robot drives five. But then as it kind of, it gets to be part of the part of the family. We have people name almost everybody names their robots in some way. Yeah, so yeah. And there’s a lot of the same names floating around, as you might imagine, you know, like Wally’s really popular or RTD to be Threepio. You know, any basically any robot you’ve ever seen in a movie, that those are real popular, but then you get other people name it like, just gym or something like that. But yeah, they really do kind of just get to be part of the background noise in that sense. You know, where people don’t notice them anymore? Well, I’m

Aaron Moncur 37:06
sure there’s a range, but I’m thinking about the like the financial value proposition of this thing. If you don’t have a robot, you’re probably paying someone that’s, you know, likely minimum wage. So maybe you’re, you’re paying 2530 grand a year for someone to just move material back and forth. If you have a robot like what what’s what’s the financial trade off there? What’s the return on investment?

Seth Garrison 37:29
Yeah, essentially, it’s, it’s mostly what you’re what you’re talking about there, which is okay, I’m no longer paying somebody to just move material, you know, I want to take the the non value add work out of that. And so I could take that same person who was pushing a cart, and now maybe have them be part of the assembly line, or they can be managing multiple lines, while the robots doing the long, you know, the mile long walk between or half mile long walk between the warehouse and the manufacturing floor. So typically, that’s, that’s really where the value prop is, is, you know, we’ve a lot of in a lot of warehouses, you’ll see, you know, you might have 510, water spiders, or something, all along have the same kind of job description, where that’s all they do all day is they take a card and they walk down to the warehouse, and they pick up a bunch of products, and then they turn back around and they go out to the assembly line, they fill them up. And so what the robot does is, ideally, it takes out that travel time that they would spend pushing the cart. And so instead of walking back and forth all day, and you know, there’s a lot of potentially repetitive stress injuries or things like that, that can come from spending a whole day walking around on hard concrete floors. So that is definitely the other thing as well. The other aspect is, a lot of times, companies might have like an automated cell or something like that, where parts are coming off automatically. And so you have the ability to just kind of integrate with that and have it have the robot come in automatically pick that up and take it to where it needs to go. So one of the classics would be like a robot palletizing. So, you know, we see all the time we’ll walk into facilities where they’ve got a giant robot arm that stacks things up on a pallet and then later on at some point a fourth, a guy on a forklift comes by picks up that pallet and drives it off into the warehouse and storage area. And you can basically take and instead of having a guy with a forklift have to drive all the way out there, pick it up and drive back. You can leave the forklift and the guy in the forklift in the warehouse area and have a couple of rows have maybe one robot maybe two robots servicing a couple of these palletizing work cells. That brings it to him and so the other thing you’re doing there is you’re significantly reducing the danger to anybody in that in that travel path. Because the robot we know is going to stop if something gets in front of it. Whereas I don’t know if you realize that most People don’t but there’s somebody injured, injured or killed in the US, like every three days, you know, some kind of forklift accident. Hmm. So forklifts are, unfortunately, an incredibly dangerous thing to be around. And so that’s, that’s one of the other big things is just improving overall safety. Transportation.

Aaron Moncur 40:19
So I did not realize that that’s that’s a startling statistic. Yeah, every three days from a forklift associated incident. Speaking of incidents, what what are, what are some of the challenges that you face in your industry?

Seth Garrison 40:37
I mean, well, depends, there’s always a constant challenge of somebody always comes up with a new problem. And so that’s, that’s kind of the fun part, is constantly trying to solve, you know, whatever the the problem of the day is, you know, people are incredibly innovative and incredibly adaptive in that sense. And so, you know, the second you change one thing, there’s something else, and people are always looking to improve looking to get better. And so there’s, there’s kind of a new challenge every day in that sense. Obviously, one of the other ones is that, you know, people are typically asking, you know, well, are the robots coming from my job? You know? You know, generally the answer is not really, people are, like I said, they’re very good, they’re very flexible. And they’re, they’re incredibly adaptable on the fly, which robots are not. Robots are very good at boring, repetitive tasks. And so

Aaron Moncur 41:37
what we get is long as the robot doesn’t take my job, I’m probably going to appreciate the robot because it frees up my time to do something more interesting.

Seth Garrison 41:46
Exactly, yeah. And that, and that’s really what we’ve seen historically, is what companies are just struggling one to find good people. And when they find good people, they don’t let them go, just because they don’t need them to do that job, you know, that repetitive job anymore. They, they turn them loose, they, a lot of times, we’ll see guys who were formerly, you know, attending a machine or loading parts, and now they might be supervising a couple of robots that are doing the same thing. And so, you know, you basically go from being, you know, standing from standing in front of the machine to, to being a robot operator to being a robot program, or even potentially.

Aaron Moncur 42:24
So yeah, if my family asks me what I do for work, I’m gonna feel a lot better about myself saying, I supervise robots versus I moved my walk material back and forth all day on. Yep. Concrete. Yeah.

Seth Garrison 42:37
Yeah. And, and prior to COVID-19. And I think we’ll get back there pretty quickly. You know, obviously, right now, there’s a lot of unemployment. And so people are kind of asking some of these questions. But prior to that the US was basically at a point where our unemployment was so low, like, there were literally more jobs available in the United States than there were people who are out of jobs. Wow. So And I firmly believe we’re gonna get back there really quickly. And yeah, in the meantime, we’re kind of all working through this together and seeing what tomorrow looks like. So.

Aaron Moncur 43:13
All right, well, we’re winding down here wrapping things up before let you go. I need I need to ask I need to ask about the pilot’s license. Do you still fly? I do. Yeah. Oh, man, I had no idea. See this. These are the kinds of things we learn when we sit down and have a conversation. Tell me Tell me about that. What do you fly?

Seth Garrison 43:34
So I’ve been fortunate enough that my dad has has a Super Cub. It’s a Piper Super Cub. It’s real small, basically, fabric covered airplane. But just tons of fun. So I get out when I can not as much as I’d like, because I’m typically pretty busy doing doing other stuff. But yeah, whenever I can, no, I like to get out and I have the ability to kind of go borrow his airplane and go fly. So

Aaron Moncur 44:01
how much does it cost and gas with, you know, a small plane like that to go up for an hour to

Seth Garrison 44:08
in just in terms of gas, I mean, you’re gonna burn, I don’t know, probably between eight and 12 gallons of gas and an hour of flying. There are with airplanes, quite a few other auxiliary costs. So your real cost is quite a bit higher. It’s probably about double what the cost of the gas is. You know,

Aaron Moncur 44:25
just in gas is what like five bucks a gallon or something. Yeah, it’s it’s

Seth Garrison 44:29
been a little all over the place lately, but yeah, probably between like 350 and six bucks a gallon, depending on where you are. Okay. So, yeah, it’s not terribly expensive. Once you own the airplane. Yeah. So again, getting there. I have the good fortune where, you know, my dad loves to fly. He flies all the time. And so, yeah, I have the ability to go and borrow his airplane. And that’s definitely put me in a fortunate place. To be able to continue to fly, I think typical rental rates, if we went over to like Chandler air park or something like that typical rental rates, probably in the neighborhood of $100 an hour $120 An hour for an airplane fly.

Aaron Moncur 45:16
That’s not terrible. It’s better than I thought, actually. Yeah, I randomly ran into a guy who works as a flight instructor. And he was he was telling me how being up you know, flying up in the air, it changes your perspective on things. And he didn’t really elaborate much on that. But it was a comment that I have always remembered. Do you agree with that has been up in the air flying has that changed the way that you look at I don’t know things stuff life in general,

Seth Garrison 45:49
it definitely does. I find flying to be is incredibly peaceful thing. And that sounds like you know, particularly when you get away from the major airports, things like that, typically, when I I’m flying, I’m going out into the mountains or something like that, and we’ll go fly like up the Hilo river or something like that. And it’s, it’s just a very, like, it’s almost like meditative type thing where you’re, you’re focused on flying the airplane, and you can kind of shut everything else off and just focus on like, flying the airplane, enjoying the landscape, enjoying, you know, the rest of it. And I found that a really important thing in, in a busy world in that sense. So I don’t know if that’s changing my perspective, but maybe just, it’s kind of an escape in that sense, you know,

Aaron Moncur 46:39
I find that when I’m in a situation where I can consciously or not shut off a lot of my conscious mind. Those times are when really good ideas tend to come to me they it’s almost like they’re lurking in the background in your subconscious. And once you kind of shut your conscious mind down a bit, they just they bubbled to the surface. Have you had that experience flying?

Seth Garrison 47:05
Yeah, I would say absolutely. Your brain, like kind of keeps working on some of those problems. And sometimes you come back with an answer or something like that, that you you didn’t have, I don’t know that I have a concrete example of the time that that happened. But it’s definitely one of those like, it’s something that it takes enough focus that, you know, it’s not like, it’s not like going for a walk in that sense. You know, you’re, you’re focused on you know, flying the airplane, taking care of the things that need to be taken care of. There’s, there’s a lot of things to kind of pay attention to. But once you’re comfortable with it, I’ve got I think about 400 hours now of flight time, so you get comfortable enough with it, that it kind of just becomes autopilot to a certain Yeah. And it frees up your brain to kind of think about and work on problems that that you might not otherwise.

Aaron Moncur 47:54
So that’s terrific. That’s great. Well, Seth, how can people get a hold of you? Probably the

Seth Garrison 48:00
best way is my email address. So it’s, it’s real simple. It’s my first name and last initial Seth G. At IP tech IP te CH and number Also, they call my cell phone 480-828-0851. I’m always happy to pick up for just about anybody pick up pretty much everybody including all the telemarketers and

Aaron Moncur 48:26
there you go. Spammers is your lucky day.

Seth Garrison 48:29
One of the curses of constantly being needed on the phone potentially. So

Aaron Moncur 48:35
yeah. Well, well, thank you so much, Seth for spending some time just chatting. It was really cool. Getting to hear some of your experiences at Honeywell and flying. I had no idea that you had a pilot’s license. So anyway, thank you so much for spending some time. This is terrific. Yeah.

Seth Garrison 48:53
Thanks, Aaron. I appreciate you having me on. And yeah, I look forward to working with you in the future.

Aaron Moncur 49:02
I’m Aaron Moncur, founder of pipeline design and engineering. If you liked what you heard today, please leave us a positive review. It really helps other people find the show. To learn how your engineering team can leverage our team’s expertise in developing turnkey custom test fixtures, automated equipment and product design, visit us at test Thanks for listening.

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