Food Tech, Automation, and IoT – Q&A with L2F Co-Founder and CEO Shawn Lange
A lot can be said about the impact of automation in manufacturing. But what often goes unsaid is that automation equipment itself is a burgeoning industry. These days, Fremont finds itself as somewhat of a ground zero for this industry given the robust manufacturing and supply chain activity that’s found here. Some of the biggest names in robotic equipment and integration are operating right here in Fremont, and L2F is a prime example. We recently caught up with co-founder and CEO Shawn Lange to get a better sense of the key trends in manufacturing automation, and the company’s particular niche in food tech.
Can you describe what L2F does and how it fits into the manufacturing ecosystem?
SL: L2F designs and builds custom robotic manufacturing equipment with a focus on helping hardware based start-ups move their concepts from the laboratory to full-scale fabrication (Lab2Fab™).
Our vision is to bring Silicon Valley culture and innovation to the world of industrial automation.
What are some key industries that you support and/or projects that you are most known for? Any favorites?
SL: We do a lot in automotive, aerospace, solar, and semiconductor, but we’re best known for our work in food with Zume Pizza and CafeX being two prominent clients. We can’t name all of our clients, but we’ve automated production processes for chocolate, fruit, and ramen noodles, to name a few.
Food tech is fun to work on because the impact of our efforts is so immediatelyclear. Some people like to say that L2F stands for Land2Fork. We’re helping bring fresh, quality food to the masses and that’s exciting to get behind.
How much is automation contributing to the growth of IoT and the recent resurgence of local/regional manufacturing?
SL: Automation is at the heart of IoT growth because it requires the use of sensors, controllers, and intelligent devices that are all inherently ready to pump out data. However, many manufacturing facilities still use pen and paper to collect plant-floor data, if they collect much data at all. That’s why we’re starting to hear the phrase IoT a lot now, or Industrial Internet of Things.
At L2F, all of our machines come with the ability to connect to the outside world (unless our client doesn’t want it). The immediate impact for our clients is remote maintenance and monitoring. However, predictive maintenance is the next step. Preventative maintenance is where equipment is maintained/serviced on a regular interval (like your car, every 5,000 miles or so).
Predictive maintenance collects real-time data from plant-floor equipment and uses this to predict when a failure will occur. Maintenance is then scheduled at an optimum interval as opposed to a regular interval. Predictive maintenance will change the way equipment manufacturers service and support their tools.
What sectors do you see as L2F’s highest prospects for growth? What are the trends you are most mindful of?
Food, food, and more food. Particularly in automated kiosks and kitchens. Food tech is booming, Sand Hill Road is fully behind it, and we’re the most experienced robotics integrator in the field.