Honoring Our Veterans at GrayMatter

While Veteran’s Day is only one day a year, we must never overlook the sacrifices our active duty military members, veterans and their families have made for us. Please join us in honoring four veterans from GrayMatter.

We’re proud to call them members of the GrayMatter family.

Richard Dreher served in the United States AIr Forces from 1987 to 1991

Richard Dreher served in the United States Air Forces from 1987 to 1991

Richard Dreher, United States Air Force

Richard served in the United States Air Force as a ground radio maintenance technician from 1987 to 1991. He is a veteran of the Gulf War, from August 1990 to April 1991.

Richard now uses his communications and instrumentation background as an automation consultant at GrayMatter.

meisel veterans gray matter

Mark aboard the USS Saipan, inside “Repair 8”, which was an electronics repair shop, where the ship’s band “Any Port In A Storm” would rehearse.

Mark Meisel, United States Navy

Mark served for nine years in the United States Navy, from 1975 to 1984. He served as a “plank owner,” or an original crew member aboard the USS Saipan as an electronics technician. Mark also served as the supervisor of a “Heavy Earth Terminal,” or satellite terminal, in Naples, Italy.

Mark has been a part of GrayMatter for over 12 years– deploying water/wastewater solutions and maximizing efficiency at national water plants.

john benitz gray matter veteran

John Benitz, Director of Professional Services of GrayMatter and US Navy Veteran

John Benitz, United States Navy

John Benitz served in the United States Navy for over 12 years as Lieutenant commander (LCDR) and weapons engineering officer on the USS Tennessee and reserve. He facilitated nuclear submarine and reactor training in the US Navy Reserve.

John Benitz is currently the Director of Professional Services at GrayMatter and a senior-level, voting member of the International Society of Automation (ISA). He has also served as an Ohio firefighter since 2011.

kerry gray matter veterans

Kerry Schrank, Flight Deck Director aboard the USS Enterprise

Kerry Schrank, United States Navy

Kerry Schrank served in the United States Navy for four years in 1975 to 1979. He was an Aviation Boatswains Mate – E5 (ABH2) and a Flight Deck Director aboard the USS Enterprise CVN65.

Kerry is currently a water/wastewater solution specialist at GrayMatter where he helps water/wastewater clients in the Gulf region of the United States to maximize efficiency and support data-driven decisions.

Let’s Do This Together: Trends to Follow in 2017

Thanks to You

I want to take a minute to say thank you.

It was an amazing 2016 at Gray Matter and that’s because of you. When I look back on everything that’s happened in the past twelve months, I see a lot of faces. I see the faces of operations leaders becoming digital innovators. I see the faces of security chiefs, confronting growing cyber threats. I see the faces of our own Gray Matter employees excited about new innovations within our company.

Change is good. It pushes you forward. Makes you grow. Forces you to lean on different strengths and develop new ones. But when you’re in the middle of change it can feel disruptive, uncomfortable, exposing vulnerabilities you were hoping to keep out of view.

Right now our industry is in a period of major change. The power of the Industrial Internet is about using data to drive outcomes for customers. But sometimes that power can feel overwhelming. So I’d like to propose a new mission for 2017 – let’s do this together. As partners we can be strategic about how to confront the change in order to move forward.

Trend to Follow in 2017 – The Digital Twin

Industries like music, shopping and media have already experienced massive transformations in connectivity. Now it’s time for manufacturing, energy and water.

GE predicts that 20 billion machines will be connected by 2020. 20 billion machines.  Take that in for a second.

Everyday objects like your thermostat, lights and refrigerator all talk to each other through an internet connection. Now that connection is extending to factory machinery as operations are becoming digitized. It’s a revolutionary way to run more efficiently and save money.

You hear the term digital twin so often, but what does it really mean?

Simply put, creating a digital twin is the process of merging physical and digital worlds.

The process takes a physical machine and uses technology to get all the information about past states, present states and predictions.  That information creates a digital model that’s alive – taking in a stream of data – using that to adjust so the model is personalized to be a precise representation of the asset.

The software version is used for what used to be a physical inspection – requiring people to be right next to the machine. The virtual version can be done from anywhere and at any time, expanding the value of those inspections and allowing them to have more of a real-time impact. It creates a constant inspection that allows the operators to predict failures sooner.

The digital model of a machine, built and run in a virtual environment used to be available only to the biggest companies with the largest budgets. But the Industrial Internet and an explosion in sensor technology have lowered the cost and broadened the access beyond the elite.  People are not only connected to people, they’re connected to every kind of device at home and now work. Manufacturers stand to win big from this. Factory floors are outfitted with a tremendous amount of sensors to collect data, but because that data has been locked up it hasn’t provided value.

The digital twin allows us to unlock that data and not just for one asset at a time.  We can now model machines in groups – for example, a machine builder with thousands of machines installed across hundreds of customers – will now be able to operate best in class using digital twins.

There’s potential to unleash productivity and efficiencies like we’ve never seen before.

How Do We Get There

This is going to be the year where concepts like creating a digital twin become less of an idea and more of a reality.  So how do we get it done?

I believe one of the keys will be to link information technology and operational technology in a real way. The teams need to become one so there’s a full understanding on both sides. It can no longer be someone else’s problem – we’re all on the same team.

Our mission at Gray Matter is to transform operations and empower people.

Success in the Industrial Internet requires both parts equally. You create the digital twin and transform your operation by getting the information that allows you to be more productive and get the most out of your assets. But you also need the innovation and insight of people. Cultural and mentality changes will be just as important as the digital ones. Your people need to feel empowered by what they’re doing so they can make the best decisions and find new ways to take that increased productivity to new levels.

Let’s do this together and truly seek feedback from each other on how the next steps should look.

Happy New Year. Here’s to working together in 2017– I look forward to it.

The Picture of Who We Are

It’s been a busy, gratifying couple of months for Gray Matter Systems and as the Director of HR and Operations, I couldn’t be more proud.

We were named one of the Best Places to Work by Pittsburgh Business Times at the end of October. I still get excited every time I walk into work and see our plaque.

Before this honor, we were named one of Pittsburgh’s Fastest Growing Companies. As if we weren’t thrilled enough to represent our hometown, the momentum grew.

We were also recognized by Inc. Magazine as part of the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in our nation. This list has featured companies such as Microsoft, Vizio, Oracle and Intuit in the past. It’s truly an honor to join such an elite group.

As I accepted the Best Places to Work award for Gray Matter Systems, I couldn’t help but think of when I first walked in the door on my first day of work.

A Growing Gray Matter Family

The company had been steadily growing when I arrived on my first day but I still remember the team, admittedly smaller than it is now.

As any new job begins, I felt unsure about how I would fit in. Boy, were my fears unwarranted. The team welcomed me and I felt at ease almost instantly.

Whether I was learning how to talk shop with one of our long-time veteran employees, the processes in place, or even that a Starbucks run can be considered an emergency, I quickly felt like a part of the team.

Suddenly, I wasn’t a newbie any more.

As I look back now, I realize that’s the Gray Matter way. You join; you’re a part of the family. As we onboard and train new employees – it seems as though we’re welcoming new faces every week these days – it’s my priority to see to it that it’s similar to my first weeks here.

I think evidence of this accomplishment can be seen within the bond of the team and the vibe of our workplace.

The Team Bond

Gray Matter Team Bond

For the past 20 years, we’ve hosted our annual user group conference in Put-in-Bay, Ohio. Not only do we connect some of the newest technology and thought leadership to our long-time customers and new clients, but we also come together as a team every year.

It’s one of the busiest months at Gray Matter Systems and this year it produced one of my favorite pictures captured of our team. Of course, we have many photos of us hard at work at the conference. But this one actually came as we were leaving the event.

It was an exhausting (and rewarding) three days and the vans were packed and ready to make the trek back to the Pittsburgh area.

We had our ferry tickets in hand as we waited to cross Lake Erie back to our cars, back to reality. We soon found out there would be a significant delay and I watched several people from our team make the best of it and walk down to a small beach.

They didn’t realize that as they climbed down to the beach, I stood back, by the line of cars to capture the moment. I had the biggest smile on my face.

They were doing nothing more than skipping rocks, hanging out and laughing. I had to take a picture because this is my favorite part of our conference and why I love what I do.

This is the Gray Matter vibe I try to describe to candidates and new employees, friends and family. This is why we are a “Best Place to Work” and a “Fastest Growing Company.”

This is how we operate. It’s how we serve our customers to ensure we’re truly transforming their operations and empowering people.

The Next Five Years: Looking Ahead

As a part of our leadership team, one of the hats I wear ensures that we’re not just thinking about the day-to-day work, but how the future Gray Matter Systems can be bigger and better.

Simply put, the answer is people.

Our careers page is gaining additions all the time—great, new departments and innovative opportunities. The team of both new and veteran employees will take us where we want to go.

So what’s my vision for the next five years? We want to be a top technology provider, but mostly we aim to be the top trusted advisor.

Maybe it includes moving to a bigger office to accommodate the whole team, or maybe it’s the opportunity to take another great photo like the one at PIB 2016.

Either way, I know the “How Can I Help” vibe will be as strong as ever—no matter if it’s internal or for our customers and vendors.

I could go on and on, but I have to go help prepare for our annual Office Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition that can’t be missed, complete with a turkey and all the dressings.

I can’t wait to go around the table and hear what everyone’s thankful for this year. For me, it will be the faces looking back at me.

Can you see yourself on our team? We’re hiring.

Check Out the Careers Page

Innovation on the Brain

Gray Matter Systems celebrates 25 years of technology and software with a dedicated person-to-person approach.

By Tim Hayes, TEQ Magazine

Pittsburgh’s favorite neighbor, the late Fred Rogers, once said, “The thing I remember best about successful people I’ve met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they’re doing…and they love it in front of others.”

It may sound cliche, and even a little obvious, but people make the real difference. Mister Rogers said so. And with the right tools, people can make good organization run even better– all the way to great. Respecting their intelligence and enthusiasm provides a key.

That’s the impetus behind the success of Gray Matter Systems, based in Warrendale, which offers technology, innovative software, and a dedicated person-to-person approach to help some of the world’s leading manufacturers and critical infrastructure operators enhance their performance in meaningful measure.

“Our approach has always been how to control big data that transforms operations, while empowering people,” said Gray Matter Systems CEO Jim Gillespie.

Gray Matter Systems understands that using technology to run a successful operation is more than just software and products. It’s also about people: people who understand problems, can architect solutions within a budget, deliver benefit, and work with plant operators to adopt the solution.

“Everyone gets excited today about the ‘Internet of Things’ but we’ve been working with this approach for 25 years,” Gillespie said. “The technology of today enables it more easily and cost-effectively than ever, through smartphones and other devices.”

Gray Matter Systems creates a digital “twin” for the operational side of major manufacturers, a virtual operation running in parallel with the actual physical plant. Using this tool, Gray Matter Systems steers its customers to understand, identify, and address issues and opportunities in real time, thereby creating ROI that may not have been captured before.

One example is Erie-based GE Transportation, where Gray Matter Systems supports the “Brilliant Factory” program, allowing GE people to make better decisions about how it runs its operations hour-by-hour, day-by-day.

“By designing and implementing a real-time replica for GE Transportation, one where they can make decisions in real time without needing to interrupt or impact their actual manufacturing process, we have enabled them to make things better, right now,” Gillespie explained.

“Our system support is designed to make every operator the best operator, by addressing generational issues, digitizing data and enabling better decision support,” he added. “GE has told us that other firms have come in, consulted with them, and left. We go through the ebbs and flows that happen throughout a project.”

Each engagement is a custom fit. Gray Matter Systems gives bite-sized digestible steps, each with its own ROI, that create an appetite for more. Our customers say, ‘We need more of this, faster– why wouldn’t we?’

“It comes back to empowering people. How can your best people perform better, while operations need to keep running? We’re going to be with you to answer those questions. We’re not leaving you in the dust.”

In addition to firms like GE, Gray Matter Systems also works with global brands like Procter & Gamble and others, as well as major infrastructure providers like DC Water and Wastewater, which provides the nation’s capital with water and sanitation services. Gillespie’s company has offices and professional staff nationwide, serving customers around the world. Interestingly, however, cybersecurity has emerged as a growing category for the company — one that cuts across all verticals.

“People realize they don’t have adequate cyber protection,” he said. “It’s like, the front door is solid metal, with deadbolts, chains, locks and a motion detector– but the back porch window is wide open. The massive information breach, after all, began by hackers getting into information related to an HVAC provider. Our data-digitizing approach applies to customers hoping to enhance their online security, as well.”

Gray Matter Systems hopes to more than double its revenues organically within the next three years, partly by continuing to draw from the strong Pittsburgh connection. “We want to help Pittsburgh as much as Pittsburgh has helped us,” Gillespie said.

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