Our Industry Innovators series interviews senior leaders across industrial technology industries, exploring the latest trends, upcoming technologies, and pressing hot topics that are shaping the future.

We help business leaders in the warehouse automation and intralogistics markets grow their teams and I recently had the privilege of speaking to Jerome Vaughan, who  shares insights into the challenges of overseas operations, the importance of communication, and thriving in warehouse automation logistics. Watch the full interview here, or read the full transcript below.



Thanks for your time again, Jerome. Please introduce yourself. 

Sure. I’m a southern boy born and raised. I had the opportunity to work with some really progressive companies throughout my career, and I’ve enjoyed it. I’m a family guy, 2 kids, a wife, been married for 25 years, a couple of dogs, and I enjoy the the family time at home.


What are the key challenges that overseas organizations face when they set up operations in the US?

That’s a great question. I think the most important element is understanding the cultures. The US in particular, it’s not done in the same form or fashion that it’s done in other parts of the world. And I think having a clear understanding on both sides of the the oceans, whether it’s East or West and how that translates effectively into the US market is absolutely the number one key.

The second element is the interpersonal workings of your colleagues. When somebody comes to the US and they’re setting up an operation, they typically have successful years of building a business in a different country, in a different setting. And I think it’s important for the folks in the North American US operations and the folks in the foreign operations if you really want to understand each other’s culture. Once you understand their culture and you understand how they act and they respond, and some of the best ways to do that is obviously getting away from the office, getting into that social to really really understand how people think and what motivates them and how they respond, certain cultural things can be misinterpreted so easily, and the more you know about each other’s culture, the easier and the faster that your operations can can really set up and go.

And then the third element that I think is extremely important is to make certain that when companies do come to the US, especially a lot of the clientele, they’re very intrigued by the European market as an example and the technology, and making certain that technology is applicable for the the US environment to make sure that people are in turn being able to understand it and work on it and handle it and operate it. A lot of times that I’ve seen that those 3 elements really be missed by the folks that are coming over.


How have you traditionally overcome all 3?

I recently saw it, pretty prevalent with one of my past companies where the technology was really great. It was very advanced, but it was beyond the capabilities of the customers base that was handling it. So that created some issues with reliability in the eyes of the customers. So we as an organization to really go to work to not change it or lose the technology, but to certainly educate the customer on it. We set up a specific university where we were really invested in bringing the customers, support staff, maintenance staff, operational staff into in our building to train them and give them the tools and the techniques that they just didn’t have here in the US. It’s kind of funny in that those tools and techniques they didn’t have in Europe, that it really was a pretty steep learning curve. When I joined that organization it took a concerted effort to really bringing them around and understanding where part of the problem was and it always stems from education and knowledge, the product.

Education is the most important thing in this industry. It really is taking the time to understand it and really understand what you’re getting into and how does that fit with what your current capabilities are today? But also how does it fit with where you’re going as an organization, whether you’re an end user, you’re a support staff. It’s really having that detailed plan that is so critical to the success.


How are you traditionally mitigating risk when it comes to deliverability for projects? 

When I was really starting out in my career and I educate my team on is the simple concept and it’s plan the work and work the plan, right? And making certain when you are taking on a project that you understand where your supply chain is, and where your pitfalls are and looking for those elements that potentially could disrupt your efforts. Nobody wants to go in and say, hey, I’m gonna invest 10 million dollars and I’m just going to stock up a warehouse. I mean, it doesn’t make financial sense, right? But you know, those key elements knows those products that you’ve got one source are single sourced, certainly if you’re manufacturing and assembling and in a different part of the world and trying to to bring it across the boats or airplanes nowadays is just become more and more chaotic and hectic. And the best relief that you have is to make certain that you have a very robust detailed plan, not only for a specific project, but more importantly, for the overall business. We saw this on the backside of the COVID pandemic. And you know the scrambling for all the microchips everybody was happy when all of a sudden, all of that went to places in the world that were much cheaper to produce and more rapidly, and we were all happy as long as that deal was rolling, but then all of a sudden it just overnight, it seemed like it stopped and it created such a snowball effect for everyone. Ultimately the end users, simply because you just didn’t have the parts and pieces.

And I think it goes back to, nobody planned necessarily for COVID, but you certainly at that point have to make some business decisions where you can plan accordingly and inform your customers and make certain that you know what’s being delivered and that you have the element and also add as many sources as you possibly can the days of having the single source solution. In some cases makes a lot of sense. But when you’re when you take the risk of a supply chain disruption that we’re seeing, you know, you named a couple of them, right? You had COVID, you had a war in Ukraine, camel ship jammed up a canal, right? I mean, those kind of things aren’t things that people are planning to add happen. So you want to be able to have the the variety and the options for for selecting other elements. And it’s I think it’s a problem that we’re every manufacturer of every product is faced for that same challenge today. I think it’s a neat opportunity for our industry and that those guys that are able to help support those customers.

I think there’s a lot of technology out there that can be applied to, to certainly help them. But it goes back to having a plan and working the plan guys. You got to first add that detailed plan out and you got to be, a lot of people will stop at level one or level two, right? Down as far as you possibly can. I used to kid a little bit with guys and tell them it was plan all the way down to the last block that we have.


How do you think organization can communicate with the clients better? 

I think it starts in today’s world, it starts with picking up the phone and calling. I think a lot of times people are ‘let’s send an email and copy 50 people on it’ and you know, a lot of times the communication in that email string gets lost in what you’re trying to convey to them. So I think a lot of times it’s just pick up the phone and call the guy. Go sit down with them and have a face to face conversation with them to make certain that people are as crystal clear as you can.

A lot of times, I think contractors especially, we’re forced with trying to keep a customer happy trying to make a couple of dollars trying to live within the terms of the contract and we don’t pay attention necessarily to specifically, ‘what is the customer telling me’, ‘what is his pain point?’ ‘What’s his means?’ ‘How do I help him achieve his goal and and solve his problem? Sure. And and a lot of times you want to communicate you wanna you want to be clear with them, but you also want to listen to to what their concerns are.

Because a lot of times they can probably help you 90% of the time overcome, whatever the particular issue may be.

“I think a lot of times people are ‘let’s send an email and copy 50 people on it’ and the communication in that email string gets lost in what you’re trying to convey to them. So pick up the phone and call the guy. Go sit down with them and have a face to face conversation with them to make certain that people are as crystal clear as you can.”

In this current climate of warehouse automation logistics what in your opinion, the actual key components to make sure an organization can thrive?

It’s having the right team, right? I mean it all starts with having a team of people that are committed to rolling in the same direction, at  every level. Whether it’s folks out in the shop, whether it’s your C suite, it doesn’t matter, you need to have all joined at the help in believing in what they’re doing. I think you got to have the right reputation I think nowadays, a lot of clients are buying purely off of the reputation of the customer not necessarily just a little bit. Obviously finance always comes into play, but I think you have to have the right reputation in the industry with the clients and delivering that certainty to them that whatever the value of the money they’re spending, they’re going to get what they purchased. They’re going to get it when they want it or when they need it or what they’ve agreed to.

And I think that’s ultimately key. I think having a team of folks that are diverse in experience. It’s having somebody that you always have the experience of and the senior guys, but you also need the up and comers, right? That you can have a consistent approach. And because as an organization, I know one of the probably the best things that ever happened in my career. When I started out as a young kid, I was fortunate to have some senior level guys that took me under their wing and really helped me advance my career quickly. Because I was knowledgeable and learning from them of their past experiences and past mistakes and successes. And a lot of times we tend to get one sided as an organization. We tend to be a little more senior. ‘Well we want nothing but senior people’ or you know, ‘we want nothing, but the younger crew and I think there needs to be a true blend there within the organization’


And how do you achieve that? How do you get that depth in diversity of experience within an organization?

Well, I think it starts with the senior folks, right? It starts with building your senior team, your senior leadership and building it with people that understand that. And people that enjoy mentoring and enjoy teaching and enjoy showing. And once you do that, then obviously the secondary thing is you through your network. You start to bring on your younger generation, whether it’s through internships, working with colleges, trade schools, whatever it may be, right? You start to bring that next generation on and but it starts with having to having the your recruiters and your effort, put forth.

Hiring somebody that believes in being a mentor and believes in training is as important as hiring a guy that’s got all the technical degrees in the world, right? If you have all these degrees, but you’re not interested in teaching and interested in showing somebody the business, that’s probably not who you want at the end of the day.


What are your top 3 picks for innovation in the space this year?

I think it’s the employee list facility. That’s really I think key to where everybody wants to go. That’s a position that is very hard to hire for and it’s very hard to keep and maintain in that. So, I think the combined technologies of ads and cranes and you name it smart technology picking machines, I think all of those combined into to the ultimate goal of having a completely dark warehouse, right? That’s ultimately the goa,  is having a touch less if you will system.

Beyond that, I think the other element that is real big is really looking at the total cost of the ownership. ‘What is my what’s my service ability?’ ‘What’s my reliability?’ ‘How do I maintain this?’ You can add really sophisticated pieces of equipment. If it takes a PhD to maintain it, nobody’s really happy with it the second that it breaks, right? And inevitably things are going to break. I know I don’t care who built it, right? So I think it’s having the innovation of making things easier to repair understanding that meantime of repair and how fast things can get back up and running is extremely critical for most businesses. And it’s also one of the things I think a lot of customers overlook. But I think those companies that are embracing that and are presenting that. Customers are certainly gaining a leg up on the competition these days.

Last year, when companies, Locus and Grey Orange and a few other people introduced robotics as a service. And it completely changed the landscape of the industry from your traditional context to some more operational cost which really lowered the barrier in the industry.



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