Monday, December 28, 2015

Remembering Dennis Morin, the Wonderware Founder

Visionaries just don’t create great products or companies; sometimes they end up creating a new market. Wonderware® founder, Dennis R. Morin, was one such visionary entrepreneur. He created a whole new market segment within the factory automation industry when he started Wonderware on April 1st 1987, a year after being laid off from Triconex®. [1] 

In 2003, InTech, the magazine of the International Society of Automation, listed Dennis Morin as one of the 50 most influential innovators in the history of industrial automation, along with the likes of Bill Gates and Peter G. Martin. [2]

As we start focusing on our projects or priorities for 2016, we must take some time off to think about the brand’s core values and what it takes to succeed in a slow-growth economy. Morin, in his 1994 Chamber of Commerce interview, shared his thoughts and business philosophy beautifully.

Here are the excerpts from his interview [1]:

Keep trying. The reason that Wonderware is successful is that I kept plugging away. This isn’t the first business I’ve ever tried to do. But this is the first one that prompted anyone to ask what the secret of success is.

“Strive for quality in every aspect of the business. We have an obsession with quality. It’s pervasive. You must make quality a part of your cultural values. And it’s not just quality of the product. If you have a lunch for employees, for example, it should be a high-quality lunch with high-quality food. The photographs on your walls, the documents you put together, the stationery, the business cards, how your office looks – all should reflect quality thinking.

“Don’t worry about competition. Think about what you are doing, not what the other guy is doing. You remember that movie Cannonball Run? Well, this Italian driver gets into a race car and rips off the rear-view mirror. That’s how I feel about competition.”

“Don’t fret about the economy, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reason sales go down, the reason GDP goes down, is because people expect them to go down. My attitude about the recession and GDP and all of that? Quite frankly, I ignore it totally. I don’t factor the economic environment into my business plans whatsoever. I don’t like sitting around feeling like a victim of external things beyond my control. ‘Grow thyself’. Growth is not something that just happens. It’s something that is caused. Our growth occurs because we make it happen. If you don’t make it happen, it ain’t gonna happen.” 

Between 1989 and 1995, Wonderware didn’t have any real competition. Relentless focus on quality was (and still is) the key driving factor that kept it ahead of the race. Story of Wonderware is quite interesting and motivational. It has been recounted well in the book "The History of a Safer World' by Gary L. Wilkinson. The name ‘Wonderware’ was supposed to be a temporary name, since Morin couldn’t think of some catchy name. And the name stuck around. “Pinball Construction Set, an early computer game, was the source of inspiration for Morin. It allowed players to design their own pinball machines by placing flippers and bumpers where they wanted.” [3]

Dennis Morin passed away on the evening of December 31, 2012 after a vigorous battle with cancer. The company that Morin helped create is still thriving as a Schneider Electric’s industrial software brand. InTouch, Wonderware’s flagship product, is used in over one-third of the world’s industrial facilities and still the world’s number one Human Machine Interface (HMI) software. [4] 

Wonderware brand now boasts of an impressive range of supervisory HMI, manufacturing operations management and production information management solutions, with software products/offerings like InTouch, System Platform, InTouch Machine Edition, Industrial Computers, Alarm Adviser, Historian, MES, SmartGlance, Wonderware Online, Skelta BPM, Recipe Manager Plus, IntelaTrac and Operations Integration (OI) Servers.


References: 
  1. The History of a Safer World: The true and amazing history of Triconex and Wonderware by Gary L. Wilkinson, 2013.
  2. Leaders of the Pack From the plant to academia, InTech's 50 most influential industry innovators.
  3. Animated Automation, May 21, 1995. http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/stories/1995-05-21/animated-automation.
  4. Wonderware Wiki Page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonderware