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Interview with Ira Sharp

by | Jul 5, 2021 | Interviews,

Ira Sharp

Ira Sharp

Director of Product Marketing, Automation at Phoenix Contact USA

Key Topics:Industrial Automation, IIoT, Industry 4.0, Marketing Leadership
Location:United States
Ira is an industrial automation expert with 15 years of experience, with a focus on Open Control, IIoT, Industry 4.0, networking, and Cyber Security. Ira is an industry event speaker, has published numerous articles & white papers, and is a frequent podcaster and live streamer on the topics of IIoT, Industry 4.0, open industrial automation, and general automation topics. As background, Ira is an accomplished leader of sales and marketing teams, brand developer, and marketing strategist. In addition, industrial automation Ira has a passion for self-improvement, productivity systems, education, and outreach.
Ira recently featured on Onalytica's Who's Who in Industry 4.0 report.

How did you get to become an expert in your key topics?

I become an expert in the industrial automation topic through years of work in the industry. My various marketing positions offered a unique point of view where I not only defined the messaging and sales strategy around topics but also worked directly with customers in specification, application development, troubleshooting, and problem-solving. As a degreed Electrical Engineer, I found customer and industry challenges interesting and used this interest to research topics, engage in communities for discussion, and ultimately discuss this with customers, sales teams, and social media platforms to hone my understanding of a topic. This rounded view of the industry and the use of automation technology provided insights into how things can be improved. The key areas of improvement are in open automation, IIoT, & Industry 4.0

What sub-topics are you most passionate about?

Like many, I keep a very busy schedule. Running a $50M business within a larger organisation, leading a team of 20+, having young 4 kids, 2 cats, and 1 dog all while remaining active and current on LinkedIn, keeping track of a schedule is key. Through this life experience, I have developed a passion for productivity and task management. Despite receiving 100’s of emails a day, I keep a 0 inbox. I manage to defend my calendar to get the “want tos” and “have tos” done. This is as much of a methodology as a mindset. Some tools can help along the way, but it’s truly in how you approach things that make the difference.

Who influences you within these topics?

On the Industrial Automation, IIoT/ Industry 4.0 topic, I am influenced by my team who brings new thoughts and ideas of real-world applications every day. In addition, Walker Reynolds, Rajvir Singh, Jake Hall, Phil Seboa, & Kudzai Manditereza are all thought leaders in the Industrial Automation space.
On the productivity side, David Allen, Michel Hyatt, Mark Manson, & Steve McClatchy are amazing thought leaders in time management, productivity, and self-improvement.

What challenges are brands facing in this space?

The biggest challenge to the IIoT/Industry 4.0 space is the industrial industry is slow to change. The industry is slow to change because downtime can be extremely expensive. So, any change that requires downtime is reviewed closely, anything that could impose problems in the future (ie new systems and processes) are also deeply reviewed, finally, the staff is measured on keeping this operational and at KPIs. Removing staff to focus on a new project (ie IIoT/ Industry 4.0) can be a big challenge and not having a company-level buy-in for the investment in resources, time, and corporate changes is also a barrier.

What do you think the future holds in this space?

I believe IIoT/ Industry 4.0 is a change that will happen in the market, it is just a matter of when. Systems are getting smarter, there is more data than ever. Making use of this data to make a system perform better will decrease costs and make a company more effective in the market. The more effective a company the more command they will have on the market forcing others to change. Companies that do not embrace this type of change in the future will be like a company without a website today. Possible, yes, but very rare and will look out of the norm.

What brands are leading the way in this space?

There are many aspects of the IIoT/ Industry 4.0 space and the key to success is blending the tools and products that make sense for a particular application. For edge hardware, leading companies must have open, secure, and reliable components. Phoenix Contact with PLCnext and Opto22 with the Groov are leaders in this area For software and Real-time data aggregation, software must connect with various systems and normalise data. Companies like HighByte offer a great solution here. Other companies like Tatsoft & Canery labs offer great tools to enable IIoT/ Industry 4.0. Using these tools is key, and integrators provide the enablement of all of these parts to come together into a system. The Industry 4.0 community is focused on education and is teaching groups of potential integrators and thought leaders in the IIoT/ Industry 4.0 space.

If a brand wanted to work with you, which activities would you be most interested in collaborating on?

I am open to ideas in this area. My passion and mission are to educate on the topic of IIoT/ Industry 4.0 and bring awareness to the methods to make this happen.

What are your passions outside of work?

I enjoy nature, walking, spending time with people, traveling, and thinking.I am a family man through and through. I love spending time with my kids doing anything they want to do… From playing video games to going for a swim. In addition, I love to fish, hike and generally spend time outdoors enjoying nature. Finally, I enjoy tinkering on different projects, many focused on automation (home automation), and as boring as it may sound, I like to research consumer electronics.

What would be the best way for a brand to contact you?

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