Ernst & Young LLP announced Jim Rock, chief executive officer of Seegrid, as an Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2021 East Central Award winner, representing Ohio, western Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Although Rock was selected as a winner of the award, it’s a testament to the more than 350 passionate, diverse individuals at Seegrid—each building upon the singular purpose of the company’s founder and chief scientist, Hans Moravec—helping the company drive the future of mobile automation with intelligent machines and an entrepreneurial spirit.
In celebration of this achievement, we sat down with Jim Rock to take a look back at this past year, talk about what this award means for Seegrid, the journey he’s taken with the company, and what’s on the horizon for Seegrid. Watch the video here.
How have the events of the past year affected Seegrid?
Rock: The past year has been incredibly challenging for everybody on the planet. In our corner of the world of supply chain and industrial automation, businesses have been called on to step up and help. We remain steadfast, accelerating products to market that support our customers—many of which were defined as essential businesses.
Every day, our teams help the world’s largest manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics companies quickly realize and scale the benefits of automation with a flexible, turnkey solution.
Our company delivers mobile robots, enterprise software, and services that move the needle on that challenge. The pandemic reinforced that the supply chain gaps and disruptions are something worth solving. The holistic, connected solution that we deliver is something that the world is seeking.
As a company, we continue to focus on helping supply chains safely and effectively maintain flow of essential goods while keeping them profitable, despite the extreme evolving demands. This is a testament to our ability to deliver solutions that help orchestrate material flow around the world. Today, Seegrid continues our commitment, helping businesses in the supply chain network remain agile while ensuring flow of goods is both steady and safe.
We’ve been able to make an impact in terms of delivering on our solutions and the promises we've made to our customers. The pandemic has given us a chance to highlight what we can do and what we've been working towards for a long time.
In what ways has adversity fueled Seegrid’s success?
Rock: Seegrid continues to solve for labor shortages, increase throughput, and help businesses across the supply chain improve productivity. The pandemic presented hardships for so many, but seeing our solutions build supply chain resilience at the time of critical need reinforced our resolve, as we are providing our customers with the ability to quickly and strategically adjust to any disruption, change, or challenge. We take pride in our product, and more importantly, the people who make smart automation possible each day.
Like most companies during the pandemic, we had to adjust our working behaviors and patterns quickly without notice due to new, ever-changing safety regulations and guidelines. The more interesting and nuanced element of adversity for Seegrid has been responding to our customers’ needs in a continuous and effective manner throughout the past year. Our responsiveness has consistently been executed with resilience, passion, and purpose.
Our plan to stay focused and make thoughtful decisions kept us on course. This was a testament to our ability to come together and quickly adjust to the new and sometimes shifting rules. We remained both flexible and durable as we embraced new ideas and approaches to keep everyone productive and safe.
We have a very committed, talented, experienced, and motivated team that shares a passion for what we do. When you put that in place—great things can happen.
Could you describe a memorable moment where Seegrid persevered through hardship to achieve something you once thought was impossible?
Rock: One of the memorable moments at Seegrid involves a challenge that we faced during the pandemic. As a team, we were called upon by a customer that needed to quickly deploy a new fleet to automate a critical workflow, but because of COVID restrictions, could not permit any visitors onsite. We had to figure out how to install our mobile robots in a remote fashion without any Seegrid personnel present at their facility. At first, this seemed impossible to us. We take pride in our proven approach to automation and user adoption, and have always installed our robots on-site with customers for the history of our company.
The wonderful thing about this particular challenge is that we figured out a solution in the face of this unknown adversity. Our team collaborated, we challenged each other, and in the end, we nailed it. We came up with a solution that would work, and the team performed brilliantly.
It was amazing to see the incredible talent and teamwork that came together to solve a customer problem. This past year proved our collective ability to adapt and help one another reach our fullest potential.
What’s the lasting impact you want your company to make on the world?
Rock: Every day, Seegrid employees come to work with a passion for helping our manufacturing, warehousing, and logistics customers remain agile while ensuring flow of goods is both steady and safe. We are enablers and a propelling force that can make this ideal a reality while elevating human potential. Our team is excited about working in support of this purpose, as we keep our customers up and running, goods flowing, and workers safe with rewarding career opportunities.
We remain focused on creating intelligent automation that will empower current and future generations with safer workplaces rife with better and more jobs, providing access to goods without disruption, adding to economies and improving the well-being of the human workforce.
What’s on the horizon for Seegrid?
Rock: There are a number of really interesting, innovative solutions that we've been working on that will deliver a promising future for Seegrid and our customers. The first task, of course, has been to continue adding diverse talent to our team. Over the last couple of years, we’ve added a tremendous amount of talent to the company.
This year, we launched multiple new automated workflows for our Palion AMRs and will continue to advance software and hardware capabilities to safely move the right material, in the right way, to the right place, at the right time for enterprise-wide material orchestration.
We've been planning additional moves and product types, particularly around data analytics, offering our customers real-time actionable insights that enable them to continue using our solutions in an even more productive and meaningful way. Data is in our DNA and will continue to be the basis of our future, both in our approach to creating smart, safe robots as well as helping our customers gain insights, evaluate performance, and continuously improve.
We will continue to innovate and advance our offerings through strategic exploration, helping our customers safely and efficiently evolve to changing environments with intelligent mobile automation and the service they’ve learned to expect from us.
What does this award mean to you?
Rock: To win the Entrepreneur Of The Year award, it really means the team has won, because we operate under a mindset where we work and win together. Now more than ever before, our customers need safer and better ways to orchestrate material flow to safely keep up with evolving demands.
Our team has remained steadfast, collectively delivering on our mission and envisioned future of elevating human potential with intelligent mobile automation. Being recognized for this award is a direct result of the entire Seegrid team’s value and perseverance. I’m proud and honored to be a part of this incredible team.
If you could dedicate this win to someone, who would it be?
Rock: I dedicate this award to our founder and chief scientist, Hans Moravec. Hans continues to help us solve the incredibly complex problem of enabling mobile robots to move through a multi-dimensional world and complete meaningful work, safely alongside humans.
Hans spent decades perfecting innovative approaches to robot perception and navigation at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University. For anyone that knows Hans or studies his work, you know he has been inspired by artificial intelligence since early childhood, and has dedicated his life’s work to improving the human condition with technology.
Hans’ passion for creating intelligent machines combined with his willingness to take smart risks is why his navigation technology is truly breakthrough—and now in use by leading, global brands. His decisive moments of action that led to the starting of Seegrid in 2003, including innovation and risk-taking, ultimately brought us all here so that we may continue to build on his lifelong passion for creating intelligent machines. His original vision is a cornerstone of why Seegrid exists today: to elevate human potential.