Orbweaver’s products move data along the supply chain to expedite and simplify quoting, sales order intake, customer and supplier integration.
By David Soyka, Senior Editor, Industry Today
These days you can’t get through an industry press release or a tech company’s website without at least one reference (and probably more) to “digital transformation.” It can be an abstract concept that is sometimes fuzzy with varying shades of meaning from marketing and technical standpoints.
In contrast, Bethlehem, Penn.-based Orbweaver has a more “nuts and bolts” approach when it comes to notions of digital transformation.
“We’re less philosophical and very pragmatic,” explains Orbweaver co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Tony Powell. “There’s a conversation in the industry about big concepts like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. But the reality is that even companies building high-tech products are still moving data around using email and spreadsheets. If you are on the supplier management side, it’s things like pricing, availability and part data spreadsheets. If you are on the sales side, it’s RFQ’s and forecasts.
“Manual movement of data is a very painful issue, for salespeople, for the IT department, for human resources, for anyone who has to move data manually. It is time consuming and very expensive. And it is an underutilization of resources. Instead of salespeople typing in a forecast spreadsheet, for example, they could be calling on customers.”
He goes on to note that, “Our approach to digital transformation is to start small and address that pain point. Whatever ambitions you might have for a digital transformation, you can’t jump right to the end of some total reimagination of business processes. You start with the basics. Digitize the data you’re transferring on email and spreadsheets so it is organized and integrated in a form that flows automatically throughout your supply chain.”
Orbweaver offers a suite of tools that are easy to understand and use to move data efficiently and quickly by translating file formats (e.g., API, EDL, XML) for import/export seamless across multiple platforms.
- Data Hub. Data integration middleware that connects clients to customers, suppliers and data providers to automate and audit key supply chain activity.
- Part Information Management (PIM). Provides the ability to create, manage and update parts catalogs in real-time with a centralized single parent system fed by multiple data feeds.
- Advance. Custom workflow automation utilizing data (e.g., quoting, purchasing, forecasting, invoicing, revising demands) exchanged within Data Hub.
- Accelerate. Fully integrated online store for customers and suppliers.
- Analyze. AI plug-ins to visualize and manage business intelligence data across entire operations.
In addition, Orbweaver partners with various vendors to facilitate digital standardization and improve integration to solve customer pain points. “It’s a synergy where we can help our partners with their own data flows and at the same time leverage their platforms to help our customers solve a business need,” Powell points out. “A rising tide floats all boats; we’re both more successful by working together to provide customers with our respective competencies.”
Core Focus of Data Integration
Powell emphasizes that data integration is Orbweaver’s core focus. “We continue to support all forms of data integration and automation. We’re always looking to anticipate what’s next in technology to ensure we are able to easily facilitate it into our customers’ supply chains. As an example, we recently added support for blockchain-based integrations and smart contracts,” he says.
“We want to give our customers a sense of comfort that there are always new technologies and platforms and we are going to be ready with the plugins they need to integrate into their business processes. While this new technology might seem big and unwieldly to them, it’s what we do so they don’t have to deal with it,” Powell points out. “Our mantra is that we always want the customer to be able to say ‘Yes’ to whatever it is they need to do to communicate information to their customers, their suppliers and their partners.”
He adds, “Typically, the biggest concern of our customers is, ‘My IT team is already backed up, how can they devote time to implement your solution? The answer is pretty simple: Orbweaver meets you where you are. So if you already have an API, or an ETL solution, or your ERP has a default import/export format(s), we can leverage those things. We want your IT team to focus on the things that are specific to your core business model; let Orbweaver handle the mechanics of moving data around.”
Don’t Let Inertia Hold You Back
If there’s one thing that is holding back customers from starting a digital initiative, it’s not always necessarily issues with technology. It’s inertia.
“Companies are used to doing what they are used to doing,” Powell explains. “The problem is their competition isn’t. A business that doesn’t integrate, automate and digitize their business processes isn’t going to survive the next decade.”
An additional concern is data security and privacy. Orbweaver ensures the highest level of data security is provided in the transfer and maintenance of sensitive information. “We never mine or share data and customers always retain ownership and control,” Powell notes. “All data is encrypted when in motion, and we have a patent-pending proprietary encryption mechanism to further increase the security of the data as it moves through our system.”
Three Components of Successful Digital Initiatives
Powell prefers the term “digital initiative” to “digital transformation” as perhaps a better descriptor. A successful digital initiative has three key components.
“First, It needs a champion. Someone who has both the purchasing and the political authority to shepherd change throughout the organization,” Powell says. “Second, there should be a clear pain point for the organization, and a clear goal that defines what you are trying to accomplish. Third, it should be a small start, something clear and tangible.”
Powell maintains the approach best helps organizations realize desired benefits. “It’s how the champion of the digital initiative gains credibility and gets people to buy in,” Powell says. “This is perhaps the most critical to the success of any digital initiative, to get emotional buy-in from the team. Even the best technology can create issues if people aren’t using it properly or are in some way resentful they have to use it and don’t understand the benefits.”
More than Technology
Orbweaver’s focus on data integration goes beyond the underlying expertise in technology.
“We understand the business of our customers,” Powell emphasizes. “My background is in software engineering, designing and implementing enterprise integration and high-volume transaction processing systems. My partner and our company CEO, Christopher Ciesielka, comes from the side of contract manufacturing and finance industries. He has hands-on experience with back-office operations and all aspects of manufacturing processes. Our combined understanding of both technology and industry’s unique nomenclature, processes and requirements are best suited to address the needs of global supply chains.”
Spinning a Proper Web
The complexity of implementing a data integration engine that effectively supports all supply chain stakeholders is reflected in the company’s name. An orbweaver is a spider that builds wheel-shaped webs commonly found in gardens.
“When Chris and I were first starting out and trying to figure out what products and value propositions we wanted to offer customers, we’d put all these sticky notes up on a board. One day we looked up and thought, ‘Hey, it looks like the web of an orbweaver up there’,” Powell says.
The rest, as they say, is history. How Orbweaver intends to continue making history is to continue to support all forms of data integration and automation.
“Starting a digital initiative can sound scary and threatening,” Powell says. “AI, machine learning, blockchain, APIs—so much to know! But really, under the hood, those are all just mechanisms to get data moving in a better and more efficient way. Our core objective is always to drive profitability back into the connections between a company and its trading partners, suppliers or customers. Orbweaver’s job is to make all of that simple. No need for multiple initiatives to support all of those things; we have a data integration platform that brings all of those methods of connectivity together in a single, universal adapter without having to spend a lot of money on separate infrastructures.”
Orbweaver is a trusted industry resource working to provide customers with future-proof scalable digital platforms that optimize all stakeholders along the supply chain.
T. Christopher Ciesielka, Co-Founder, CEO
With more than 25 years’ experience in the contract manufacturing and finance industries, Chris has both the entrepreneurial spirit to spearhead critical customer programs and multidisciplined insight to navigate program development.
From managing his own contract manufacturing business, Qualtronics Corp. Inc. (“QCI”), to running the business development operations for DA-TECH Corp. and SWEMCO, Chris has been involved in all aspects of the contract manufacturing industry, including manufacturing, sales, finance, quality, and engineering.
Previously, Chris held the position of President & CEO of Runes Corp., a consulting firm he founded offering back-office financial management services. He served as an officer and director of several corporations, including publicly-traded firms.
Chris holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and an MBA with a focus in Entrepreneurship from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
Tony Powell, Co-Founder, CTO
Tony Powell has a 20-year record of success designing and implementing enterprise integration and high-volume transaction processing systems for Fortune 500 companies domestically as well as the EU, Middle East, Asia, and India. He has held many technical positions in software engineering and executive management. Tony began a career in global software consulting with an IBM business partner. He joined Life Prints Solutions LLC, a biometric startup, an experience that solidified his entrepreneurial path. After he founded GroupGauge Inc., a social data processing firm, Tony and Chris Ciesielka, Orbweaver’s CEO, partnered to develop Orbweaver’s first product for the electronics manufacturing industry, known today as Orbweaver Inform.
Tony’s unique insights have led his drive to apply technical solutions to business problems in a very efficient and unique way. He holds patents pertaining to software messaging and data integrity, and guest lectures on the entrepreneurial process in Lehigh University’s Venture Series program.
Tony holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. and an MBA with a focus in Economics from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.
This article is sponsored by Orbweaver.