Podcasts > Ep. 179 - Bridging the gap between consumers and factories
Ep. 179
Bridging the gap between consumers and factories
Leonard Marano, President of the Americas, Lectra
Monday, June 05, 2023

In this episode, we talked with Leonard Marano, President of the Americas at Lectra. Lectra provides Industry 4.0 solutions to bridge the gap between the consumer and the factory bringing precision and flexibility to the design to production process.

In this talk, we discussed market trends driving Industry 4.0 adoption including mass customization, sustainability, nearshoring, and workforce shortages. We also explored how manufacturing in the fashion industry is evolving its supply chains to differentiate quality, cost, and speed to market.

Key Questions: 

●      How does mass customization affect the current market trends?

●      What factors affect people to invest more in technologies that promote sustainability?

●      How do nearshoring and workforce shortages drive automation?


Erik: Lenny, thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

Leonard: Thanks for having me, Erik. Looking forward to the conversation today.

Erik: Yeah, me as well. I think this is going to be a very practical conversation. So you're president of Americas at Lectra. Recently, I've been interviewing a lot of CXOs/founders of tech startup. Lectra is a bit more of a mature company, although also pushing new technologies around Industry 4.0. But give me a little bit of background on how you did end up in this role as leading Americas for Lectra.

Leonard: Sure. So I started as president of the Americas for Lectra in June of 2021. So about two years in now. I joined through the acquisition of Gerber Technology. Lectra acquired Gerber June 1, 2021. They are the two biggest competitors in the markets that we serve on, being integrated solutions providers for people in the textile value stream. At Gerber, I was — most recently before the acquisition — their Global Chief Commercial Officer. Then I had come up over seven years prior in various product marketing, sales operations roles before I was the CTO. But my career has been built around integrated solutions, businesses that combine equipment, software, consumables, services, recurring revenue with this industry 4.0 industrial intelligence umbrella. I started at Fuji film, where it was going through the digital transformation in imaging and photography. Then I went over into the dentistry space, where we took dental labs across the country from traditional manual processes with ceramic and porcelain over into CAD/CAM visual dentistry. So this is my third business where an industry is really going through a digital transformation.

Erik: Interesting timing. So 2021, I mean, a lot going on there due to COVID and I guess some challenges, I'm sure, just in getting people into the field and also a lot of new demand coming out of just the operational challenges that your clients were facing. How did that impact the two businesses?

Leonard: It was interesting. When you look at our apparel customers, what was already a really unsustainable supply chain and way of operating was really just exacerbated by COVID, where we had our apparel customers — which is about half of our business, by the way. About 50% of our business is in apparel — sitting on just boatloads of inventory. When we're at the height of the pandemic, everybody was looking at it and saying, "Okay. You know what? We really need to look at how we operate, how we manufacture, where our supply chain is, what tools that we have to make ourselves more efficient. We need to come out of this, doing things differently." Three years since the world has shut down and since rebounded, I would say about half of the customers went back to the old way of doing things. The other half really said, "Okay. I'm going to start looking at how we do things a little bit differently."

From a business standpoint, one of the things that I was really proud of is the apparel value stream in America pivoted over to making PPE. We were really enablers of that. Customers that were making sportswear suits went over to making masks and gowns and other things to keep people safe. We provided a lot of technical support, a lot of application support, patterns for different types of garments and things like that. So it was also pretty cool to see the flexibility of the apparel value stream through that time.

Erik: Yeah, interesting. I've got a buddy who's CTO of a German company but a system integrator with significant business here in China. They shifted pretty much from very heavy automotive focused — they build supply chains, or they build production lines that is. So integrated equipment. It was 80% portfolio in automotive and then shifting over almost entirely to production lines for PPE within a matter of six weeks or two months. A lot of their competitors didn't. So that ability to be agile is a huge competitive advantage.

Leonard: Absolutely. Because we are a global business, we saw it was coming. We know we're going to sway over across the ocean. So we were ready.

Erik: Well, let's start then with just a little bit more background on the industries that we're going to be focusing on here. Because I think that's important when we start talking about trends and what's happening. So you've already mentioned fashion. What are the other big industries for you?

Leonard: Automotive is about 30% of our business. Furniture is about 10% of our business. Then the rest is a mix of other industrial markets like marine, aerospace, sign and graphics, things like that. Fashion is half. Automotive is 30%. Furniture is 10%. The rest is other industrial markets.

Erik: Got you. On your website, you highlighted a few themes that run through these different verticals. That's quality, fit, and speed. I don't know. Sometimes the marketing team comes up with language that makes sense to them, and sometimes the language really is deeply embedded in the product portfolio and the objective of the company. So I don't know if those three terms are actually the way that you would describe this. But when you think about what you're trying to accomplish for your clients, how would you define that?

Leonard: I think quality, fit, and speed is something that applies to all the markets, right? Whether it's the quality of a garment coming off the production line, or the quality of the furniture that you're sitting on in your living room, or the quality of the car seat that you're riding to work on, that's important. From a fit standpoint, what we do is we take a series of patterns throughout our ecosystem and make sure that they fit together, regardless of what the end product is being produced. Fit certainly applies.

And then speed, getting its speed to market. That's whether you're an OEM in the automotive space or whether you're a fashion designer, getting your product to market quickly in the way that the designer really intended is important. All of those things have to work together. Really, the solutions that we provide under that industry 4.0 umbrella allow our customers to accomplish those three things really through integrated workflows, regardless of the market.

Erik: Okay. Got it. Then I guess those three, you could say they're kind of permanent requirements, right? So they are requirements that have evolved, but they've always been there to some extent. Then we have some new expectations that probably put pressure on you. One of those, for example, might be mass customization, which probably in fashion, in furniture, very much also in automotive starting to become more of a requirement. If we look at the topic of mass customization, is that a topic that's driving a lot of business for you? Is it a topic that's more top of the pyramid or pilot projects today?

Leonard: No, I wouldn't say it is driving business for us. It's a growing area of our business, and it's certainly evolutionary. When you look at mass customization and traditional mass production, they very much coexist. Mass production isn't going to go away. There's always going to be a set of products that it makes sense to go and do large runs of in different parts of the world. But you had said mass customization in all three markets, it certainly applies.

On the fashion side, this jacket I'm wearing, that's customized. It's a made-to-measure jacket. From one of our customers, just to pay back. We have solutions like Fashion On Demand that enable that made to measure data to go through the design process, to get nested in plan for production in the cloud leveraging the power of cloud computing, and then come off the line in an efficient way at a time that gives our customers a time to market for that made-to-measure customized product. That's no different than if it was actually being mass produced.

On the furniture side, it's interesting. I like to tell the story because I think I'm very symbolic of the furniture consumer base at this point in my life. I'm an old millennial. I'm born in the early '80s. I turned 40 last year. When you look at my journey as a furniture consumer, you start out with buying at a cheap mass production house or a mass market retailer where the stuff is cheap. Then you evolve into a little bit higher quality. And now I'm at a point in my life where we ordered actually furniture that's tailored fit for our family without breaking the bank. So mass customization in furniture has been around for a long time. But as, I think, the millennial consumer base becomes a little bit older, as people have come out of COVID and have spent a little bit more time in their homes, and they continue to invest in furniture, that mass customization piece in that market has grown significantly.

We have a furniture on-demand system that actually leverages the same cloud platform as fashion on-demand. But it allows you to pass orders from the retail location or online through an ERP over into cloud nesting, planning and marker making over into production. Again, it's mass customized production in a way that gives you the same time to market as you would have on the mass production side.

Erik: I guess, let's see. With furniture, mass customization has been, to some extent, a part of the industry for a long time. Because it's still an industry that has a lot of manual labor in it. If we look at automotive, not quite the case, right? So you do have some businesses that are highly customized, but they tend to be very luxury vehicles. And now we seem to be seeing the more mass-market companies trying to figure that out. Then the question is, how do we do this for a million vehicles?

So what is it that's enabling this today? Is it particular technologies like a better coordination software? Is it just the companies getting comfortable enough with the existing technologies and integrating them, to the point where we start to be able to do things at scale and with a certain level of stability that we weren't before?

Leonard: The technologies have certainly caught up to it. On the automotive side, we just launched our Cutting Room 4.0 which leverages the power of the cloud to allow our customers to make markers more efficiently to better plan production so there's not the production gaps. And they can increase their overall operational effectiveness throughout their factories so there's not as much downtime. In a way, that ensures the consistency of quality of those cut parts coming off the line.

I think in automotive, in particular, what's driving it is a change in almost business model. So if you look at 2021-2022, the big talk in automotive was about the chip shortage, right? Nobody can get chips to produce the quantity of vehicles that they were used to. We saw empty lots all over the place. That allowed the OEMs and I think dealers around the country to change their mindset and said, "Look. Okay. Fine. We can't get the chips. We can't produce the quantity of inventory. That was going to be sitting on the lot anywhere from 90 to 180 days. Instead, if you're going to have to wait that long anyway, why don't you order what you want instead? Then you could customize it, and then you could get it the way you want because you're going to wait anyway." So I think that's what's driving it from the automotive side.

Erik: Got you. Okay. Great. There's another trend that we were touching on previously when we were getting set up here, which is the topic of sustainability and then the importance of digitalization, which I think if you ask the layperson what's the relationship with sustainability and digitalization, they might not intuitively find the connection. But once you really get into the topic of sustainability, you find out that it's really impossible to do anything aside from regulation without digitalization, right? Doing any kind of implementation requires basically tracking, analyzing, and automating to some extent. What are you looking at in that topic here?

Leonard: With sustainability, it's interesting that it used to be, when I started at Gerber in 2014, it was kind of like the cool, trendy, socially conscious thing that everybody talked about. Now it's a necessity. As Lectra, we've evolved to make sustainability absolutely part of our DNA. It's something that our customers demand. It's something that consumers are starting to demand more and more of. When you look at the tools that we have that are sustainability enablers, they're not only enabling sustainability. They're enabling profitability for our customers. So when you look at things like leveraging our industry 4.0 solutions in the cloud to make markers, you're making markers that are going to be cut in a way that's going to optimize your material usage and produce less waste coming off the machine. By eliminating that waste, the customer has to buy less materials. It's less waste going to get destroyed ultimately. It's something that has a very meaningful impact on the bottom line but also on the environment.

When you look at our Kubix platform — which is a combination of product lifecycle management, product information management, digital asset management — it allows our customers to better plan and optimize what their inventories are going to be and actually make what they can sell, which means that a dump truck of apparel isn't getting destroyed every minute like it was when we were coming into COVID. In the production side, with the heavy metal cam equipment that we produce, having machines that produce more in less time and less footprint with less energy is something that we've been focused on for really 50 years. We are sustainability enablers. We design products in our portfolio to drive sustainability, and we do it in a way that helps drive profitability and return on investment for our customers.

Erik: Let's see. So if I think about the topic of sustainability, I guess to some extent, you could say it's coming out of a corporate strategy. They need to adhere and meet particular internal targets. Some of those might be intrinsic targets of a company and a board saying, "We want to be more sustainable. We feel this is important." But I'm a little jaded here. So I think that there's often underneath that one of a few push factors. It could be government regulation. It could be downstream customers, kind of b2b customers in the supply chain who are saying, "You need to help us meet our targets." Or, it could be the end consumer saying, "There's a particular market segment. I'm willing to pay a premium for this." Then you meet that demand. So if you look at your customers, what would you say? Maybe this differs across the different industries. But what do you say is the underlying push behind their decision to now invest in technologies that enable them to be more sustainable?

Leonard: It's definitely a combination of all of those factors that you just said. But it also has a meaningful impact on profitability, and I believe that. It's profitability coming from a number of areas. One is waste reduction, like I had mentioned. Two is production efficiency. And three is having a sustainable business practice that makes you more favorable to consumers, which helps drive your business volume. So it's really a factor of those three things.

One of the topics we talked about sustainability that we hear our customers mentioned more and more is on traceability — making sure that from the fields to the consumer, we know how our products are being sourced, how our raw materials are being sourced, how things are being produced. Are they being produced in a socially conscious way? We know where the real sources of the materials are. When you look at things like sanctioned countries, when you look at Xinjiang cotton, when you look at raw materials that use it from Russia, particularly in furniture, traceability has become way more important. It's something that particularly the larger customers don't want to get caught not understanding what their actual supply chain looks like.

On the furniture side, we heard a lot of the plywood actually used to get imported from Russia. That had a stop. One of our customers used to outsource their production to India, but found out that India was using all Russian — the factory in India was using all Russian gas and natural resources, so they stopped that. So traceability is incredibly important. We, actually, in January of this year, acquired a company called TextileGenesis, which is a digital traceability platform that uses proprietary tokens that pass information along all the different areas of the value stream to provide digital map, digital thread for products being produced in fashion. So that's something that we're excited about as well.

Erik: Yeah, interesting. Just a quick check here because you mentioned the word token. I'm always curious if companies managed to find a practical use for blockchain. Token is certainly one of those terminologies that's using the blockchain. But often, I find that maybe certain concepts are used without actually building that blockchain infrastructure because it tends to be quite expensive and cumbersome to build.

Leonard: It's not actually blockchain, no. It's a proprietary algorithm that we have.

Erik: Okay. Clear. Then there's one other topic here that I'm curious in your thoughts on because I know you serve a lot of American businesses — the topic of nearshoring and then this related topic of workforce shortages that a lot of companies in the U.S. and also in other parts of the world are facing right now. To what extent is this a driver of automation? I mean, I've heard of some companies that are facing a situation where they say, "Yeah, we've got a couple of critical people that are going to be retiring in the next three years. And if we don't manage to digitalize their processes, there's nobody on the bench to fill their shoes." I don't know if that's just kind of an ad hoc situation or if that's something that is really happening in mass. But what are you seeing in terms of this trend of reshoring and then the related trend of trying to actually find qualified technical talent in the U.S.?

Leonard: Sure. Technical talents are very hard to find. It's absolutely happening in mass. People don't go to school to be operators, right? It's a job that you have to grow into, maybe it's regional or whatnot. But on the nearshoring side, nearshoring is very real. I'm not going to say reshoring because we don't necessarily see a lot of it coming back to the U.S. But we see it in Mexico. We see it in Central America, and we see it in the Caribbean, believe it or not. Where large brands and large manufacturers that were relying on the far east to go and get products produced have decided to make their investments closer. That means that they could do smaller runs. It means they don't need to over produce as much, and it means they can get it to market faster.

Automation definitely is an enabler of it. It's really about managing data, right? So if you have a industry 4.0 infrastructure setup that connects the dots between your planning, your product design, and your production, you could manage that nearshoring process a lot easier. So if you're designing something in New York City and sending it to China or India for production, and you have the data fidelity between design and production set up already, moving that production closer isn't going to be very difficult for you if you have the right solutions. We talked about fashion and furniture on-demand, right? That's meant to help offset the labor required to go and get a product produced. Sure. You need to still saw it, or you need to assemble the furniture side. But the process of order from consumer through production is meant to take labor steps out, because it's an automated passing of data throughout that process.

Erik: Got you. Great. Thanks. I think that gives us a nice background for some of the drivers of automation in the Americas right now. Let's take a bit more of a systematic look at Lectra's business. So you've already touched on some of the solutions that you're providing and also the customer segments. Maybe we can start with just a higher-level look at the portfolio. What are the major elements? How do you break it down? Then we can get into the topics of differentiation in the tech stack.

Leonard: Sure. So we're a strategic partner to our customers that are in the apparel, automotive, furniture, and other industrial markets like we had mentioned earlier. We provide a unique combination of different types of software, both perpetual software and cloud-based software, equipment, and services and consumables and parts with an industrial intelligence and industry 4.0 umbrella. We connect through integrated solutions throughout the value stream with products like Kubix Link — which is a platform for product lifecycle management, product information management, digital asset management — through design on the CAD side, where we have AccuMark CAD software, where have Modaris CAD software, over through production planning software with products like Flex Offer, which leverages the power of cloud computing to optimize how our customers are making their markers prior to production through the actual production equipment side where we have our cutters, which we've certainly become known for over the last 50 years on the factory floor.

Our investments over the last several years have been around leveraging cloud-based solutions to provide value to our customers. We acquired, a few years back, a competitive intelligence company called Retviews, which is a scraping technology where our customers in fashion can monitor the competitive landscape by SKU, by color, by different type of fashion offering. We acquired a company called Neteven, which is a marketplace management tool for our customers in fashion. I mentioned a TextileGenesis acquisition. So we continue to expand to other areas of the value stream where we could add value for our customers in the different spaces.

Erik: Maybe I'm wrong here. But it looks like Cutting Room was kind of the — maybe we shouldn't say the legacy business but the foundation, right? Really an equipment-driven business. Then on top of that, you have product development solutions that are more software-oriented. Then you have, around the fashion industry, you have also PLM. You have intelligence. It looks like, in fashion, you've already extended out. You're even covering e-commerce here.

Leonard: Yeah.

Erik: What's the strategic — I'm sure there's a coherent strategic decision behind this. I'm interested in understanding, for fashion in particular, why e-commerce? Why competitive intelligence platform?

Leonard: Because data management throughout the fashion value stream is going to become more and more important. Having systems that can pass information to each other and have that digital thread throughout that stream is what's going to allow our customers to make intelligent decisions about the products they're designing, about the products that they're producing, and then really get them to the production far more efficiently. So it's about connecting a broader area of the value stream with one digital thread, from the consumer all the way through production.

Erik: Okay. Interesting. Okay, yeah. So for fashion, this element of speed or agility is much more important than for, I guess, automotive, you know what products are coming out the production line. You have a couple of years foresight. And in fashion, it's really next three months, what's the trend? And how do you react to be able to produce to meet that trend?

Leonard: In fashion, you had four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. Now you have companies that have 14, 15, 16 different fashion cycles per year. Being able to manage that in a way where you're not over producing inventory, you're not having to mark down stuff on the shelf because it's not selling, all of that is very important to the profitability of brands and manufacturers in that space what's already a very low margin business. Where we can help differentiate themselves and command higher margins is on things like the mass customization side, as well with our on-demand industry 4.0-based platform.

Erik: Got you. Great. Well, I think it'd be useful to walk through a couple of case studies. It's always nice to go end to end. So who are the stakeholders that you're working with? What's the underlying problem being solved? Then we can get into the technology deployed and the outcomes.

Leonard: Sure. So the first one I want to talk about, which is pretty cool, is a company called Fire-Dex. When you think of fire suits, you don't think of fashion. They're obviously made of very expensive material. They're made-to-measure for the firefighter. It has to be the right fit in order to keep the firefighters safe. Fire-Dex actually implemented our Fashion On Demand platform. What they do is they take the firefighters' measurements. They put it through the on-demand platform. The patterns are generated based off of the unique dimensions. Then it goes through the cloud where the markers are nested in a way that minimizes the material being used, and then sent over to production. Fire-Dex, I think, implemented it maybe two years ago. It's improved their speed to market. It's saved them a lot of material, and it's taken labor out of the process.

Another company, a little bit more in higher fashion, that we deal with is an international company that has retailers here in the US. It's a company called called Plinko, where they instituted our Kubix platform and our Retviews platform. Now they have the competitive intelligence through Retviews to say, okay, what's my competition doing? What pricing are they charging? What's the assortment that they have? What's actually selling, so they can better plan their portfolio? Then they use the planning tool Kubix to say, okay, here's what I need to offer from Retviews. How much do I need to make? Where do I need to go and send it? How much can I expect to reasonably sell using the Kubix platform?

Erik: So if we look at these, I think the stakeholder dynamics have gotten a little bit more complex than they used to be when we were just in this mass market wave of manufacturing. You have, in the business side, marketing and the business leads who have particular needs that they want to address for the market. You then have the director of operations or the general manager of a factory who's delivering on that. Then you have IT. And I guess they all have a stake here in terms of driving. And so can you help me understand who's usually coming to you and saying, "Hey, we need a solution?" Where's the budget coming from? Then when it comes to defining, who are the actual users of the software?

Leonard: Sure. It really depends on the solution. On the Cutting Room side, it could be usually a Director of Operations, VP of Operations or COO that's coming out and saying, "Hey, look. I need to expand my capacity, or I have older equipment that I need to upgrade to help me get into that industry 4.0 environment." The Cutting Room was usually somebody a little bit more operational on the product development side. They're called technical designers. So there's the fashion designers that may have the concept. Technical designers are those that take the concept and make it producible. They're the users of our CAD software, AccuMark or Modaris. A lot of the times, the cut room operator and the CAD operator will fall under that same director of operations or maybe that COOO person.

When we look at competitive intelligence, when we look at product planning, it's a little bit different. A lot of brands now have competitive intelligence teams that fall under merchandising. Those are the ones that asked us about Retviews, and it's the supply chain teams that are engaging us when it comes to Kubix and PLM and PIM and DIM platforms. The one thread — you had mentioned it earlier — that is becoming more and more prevalent through all of it is our engagement with the IT teams, whether it's connecting solutions on the cut room floor.

By the way, we've had connected solutions on the cutting room floor since 2007. Before IoT was even a thing, we were IoT-enabled on the cut room floor. But on the CAD room side, being able to pass data to the cut room, the IT team gets involved. Then certainly, when it comes to data integrity, data security on competitive intelligence platforms or on a PLM platform, the IT team is always involved. It's usually around security in particular and helping pass the data through the different areas of the stream. I was talking in fashion about how we want to connect the dots using a digital thread through all of those areas. We need to have the IT team involved to make sure that the infrastructure is in place to be able to manage that.

Erik: Got you. The solutions that you're delivering here, is it always your team internally that's deploying the solution, integrating it? Do you also work through third-party integrators?

Leonard: No, we're all internal at this point. There are partnerships that we're exploring, particularly with the Kubix platform. But right now, we have our own professional services team that falls under our customer success team, which is about 200 people throughout the Americas. So we have a very deep bench of expertise. When you look at our customer success team, the average tenure with Lectra is about 20 years. So we have a lot of IP in our space that helps us go and implement these solutions very effectively for our customers.

Erik: Got you. Then I guess if you flip that around, do you often find yourself in the position where you are — I mean, you're obviously doing a lot of integration with third-party software, right? That's the nature of the business. But are you finding yourself in a situation where you're either packaging partner solutions into yours or where you're having more strategic integration partnerships where you're collaborating closely to say, let's make sure that we're kind of pre-integrated because we know we're going to be finding each other on the shop floor? Is that a situation that's becoming more prevalent, or is it just the status quo?

Leonard: It's evolving, actually. For instance, we have one customer. It's a furniture customer. I can't say their name, but they actually use Salesforce as their order management tool. They do all-customized furniture. What we did was we took our furniture on-demand platform, and integrate it with the order management tool in Salesforce. That was the first time that we had actually integrated with Salesforce that way, but we used our own internal team. We used some of the experts that were at the customer site. Now we're a little bit better armed when we go to do that next Salesforce integration.

Erik: Yeah, that's interesting. I'm seeing a lot more companies in the manufacturing space where a differentiator or a core competency is how easily we integrate with other technologies, which I think was not the case 20 years ago, right? 20 years, it was almost we make it difficult because that's how we protect our customer, to some extent.

Leonard: You know, it's really funny when you say that, Erik. Because I had mentioned earlier on that I've gone through three businesses where there's a digital transformation. In all three businesses, it was always the debate of open versus closed. Are we open to integrate with third parties, or are we closed? Where we add value and what our competitive differentiator is, is that by having all the solutions that we do have across that value stream, we get to maintain a higher level of data integrity as that information gets shared. There's always going to be a secret sauce that you have in your own proprietary work environment, but you have to be a little bit nimble and flexible and integrate where it makes sense.

Erik: Yeah, great. Well, maybe that leads us to the last question that I have here. I don't know if there's one or two other things you wanted to cover. But the question about the future outlook. So you've had a big integration in 2021, so I guess you're still in the process of integrating the businesses. But if you look out over the next 12 months, the next 24 months, what's exciting for you in terms of new product development, new business expansion or, maybe just in the ecosystem, particular trends that you're excited about?

Leonard: Sure. Actually, just even recently, we had two new software releases. We launched a new version of AccuMark, the AccuMark 16. We launched a new version of Modaris version 8 or 5. I mentioned the Cutting Room 4.0 that we launched for the automotive space at the end of last year. I see that accelerating. That's something that's new to the market. That platform is something that we're going to expand to other markets as well. When you look at another acquisition that we made in 2021 with Gemini CAD, to really give a foundation for the future of CAD and pattern development, I think you're going to see us taking the best of the CAD worlds between Gemini, Modaris, and AccuMark and really melding those together over time.

The other thing is inorganic portfolio enhancement, like the acquisition of textile Genesis that I mentioned that happened at the beginning of the year. Our strategy, we're a very well-capitalized organization. We're publicly traded on the Euronext exchange out of Paris. We put over 10% of our revenues into R&D. But we're in a very unique position between our internal development and our ability to go acquire sophisticated companies outside of what we could do organically to put us on a growth path, to continue to add value for our customers in the markets that we serve but to continue to grow in the areas of the value stream that we play in.

Erik: Great. Well, I actually have one last question here. I've got to do this because I'm doing a little bit of a survey here. It's the question of GPT-4. Are you finding ways to use that, that are either directly integrated into your business, for example, on the UX interface with customers or that are just purely internal process automations that help with the cost structure? Is there anything that you found to be useful yet?

Leonard: It's still being looked at. Anything that we've implemented, we're very cautious of it. Especially, when you look at the markets that we serve — from automotive to aerospace, even in fashion — they consider their data very, very proprietary. We're still trying to figure out, from a customer standpoint and from an internal standpoint, how it fits and how we leverage it in way that still protects of the IP for ourselves and the customers that we have.

Erik: Okay. Interesting. Yeah, I know. I'm trying to talk to as many people about this as possible. I get the same answer a lot, which is, "Yeah, we're kind of looking at it. But we don't quite know how our data is going to be handled." It really feels like that's something where Microsoft or open AI just has to come out and say, "Here's the rulebook. Here's exactly what we're going to be doing here."

Leonard: Yeah, it's a little crazy, to be honest. There's just too much unknown right now, I think, for us to effectively implement anything with it at any kind of scale.

Erik: Yeah, got it.

Leonard: And we're very cautious of it.

Erik: Great. Well, Lenny, I really appreciate you taking the time to come on today.

Leonard: Thanks for having me, Erik. I really enjoyed the conversation. Thank you.

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