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Lessons from the Pandemic: Why IoT-Enabled Factories Rebounded so Quickly and How that Sets the Stage for Industry 5.0 – ReadWrite

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John Keever


Saying the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted manufacturing might be the biggest understatement since “Houston, we have a problem.” But where there are problems, there are opportunities.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is key to unlocking many of those opportunities. This includes deeper insights into production and equipment condition, increased efficiency and productivity, greater resilience against disruptions, new business models and more.

In the process, IIoT also lays the foundation for Industry 5.0, which includes “lights out” factories where industrial robots, autonomous material handlers, and other machines will manage themselves — potentially even during major disruptions such as blizzards, hurricanes and pandemics.

“We have vaulted five years forward in business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks,” McKinsey said in May. “Manufacturers are actively developing plans for lights out factories and supply chains.”

Rebounding Quickly from Shutdowns

To understand the how and why — first consider all the ways that COVID-19 disrupted the manufacturing ecosystem. For example, in a McKinsey survey of Asian manufacturers:

  • 45 percent reported sudden materials shortages.
  • 41 percent experienced steep drops in demand.
  • 30 percent struggled with employee unavailability.

These kinds of disruptions are especially problematic for manufacturers with lean and just-in-time (JIT) business models. One example is an automaker whose production grinds to a halt when upstream suppliers of brake assemblies and dashboards suddenly can’t deliver on schedule.

Manufacturers that went through digital transformations—often referred to as Industry 4.0—were best prepared to mitigate the pandemic’s disruptions and then rebound quickly.

Even with lockdowns limiting employee access, they were still able to reopen thanks to IIoT. For example, engineers working from home could remotely access IIoT nodes on machinery to restart them, monitor their performance and health as production restarted, troubleshoot them, update their software and more.

None of that would have been possible if they hadn’t invested in IIoT before the pandemic. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that IIoT helped lay the foundation for the global economy’s rebound by enabling the manufacturing ecosystem to restart so quickly.

Work Smarter

IIoT is equally valuable in normal times, too. For example, some IIoT devices are sensors that track vibration, voltage levels, temperature, lubricant viscosity, and other metrics that provide deep insights into equipment health. With this data:

  • Engineers can identify emerging problems before they escalate into extensive, expensive damage and downtime.
  • Management knows when to shift production to other lines or other plants before that maintenance starts so the company can meet its JIT targets and other goals.
  • The plant saves money by ordering replacement parts just in time rather than stockpiling them.
  • The company can save money and maximize productivity by performing routine maintenance less frequently: only when the data indicates it’s necessary rather than whenever the vendor’s maintenance schedule recommends it.
  • The company can track the uptime, downtime, and maintenance costs for each piece of equipment. So, when it’s time to replace equipment or build another factory, it can make deeply informed purchasing decisions.

IIoT also provides greater control, flexibility, and resiliency for supply chains, including raw materials and finished products.

For example, production managers, supply chain managers, and others can use IIoT to get up-to-the-second inventory data, monitor the status of raw materials in transit, provide customers with real-time status updates and comply with requirements such as chain of custody.

This data also can be stored for future analysis, such as optimizing warehouse space and identify ways to maximize efficiency.

Maximizing Security and Ease of Integration

The business side of manufacturing always recognized these kinds of benefits and embraced IIoT, while their operations peers often were reluctant, with security being a top concern. But IIoT’s benefits don’t have to come at the expense of security.

When it comes to deploying IIoT on the factory floor, wireless is often faster and cheaper than pulling hundreds of miles of cable to each piece of equipment.

Wi-Fi is one wireless option, but manufacturers are increasingly choosing private cellular networks. These provide direct control over bandwidth, data prioritization, signal coverage and other key aspects. Control that would be impossible if they leased service from a mobile operator.

Private 4G LTE networks also are inherently more secure than Wi-Fi.

For example, it’s virtually impossible to eavesdrop on them, so there’s very low risk of industrial espionage. For additional protection, manufacturers also can layer on technologies that isolate their private 4G LTE networks from the internet and restrict access to pre-authorized users.

Another common barrier to IIoT adoption is the perception that it’s difficult to integrate with software such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and proprietary vendor applications.

Not so. There are IIoT platforms designed to support a wide variety of manufacturing hardware and software so all devices and applications — including those on Amazon, SAP, and IBM Watson — can communicate with one another easily.

These platforms also don’t require custom code, saving time and money during implementation.

These solutions also can help maximize security by protecting old software that vendors no longer support, such as Windows NT, XP, and 2003.

Those capabilities show that IIoT isn’t limited to greenfield factories. It’s equally applicable and beneficial for decades-old equipment, enabling manufacturers to maximize productivity and efficiency of their brownfield plants.

A Bright Future, Even When the Lights are Out

For years, many businesses, including manufacturers, were skeptical about remote work. The pandemic quickly changed that mindset, proving that with the right tools, employees could be just as productive —often even more so.

“Today, we are witnessing what will surely be remembered as a historic deployment of remote work and digital access to services across every domain,” Intel CEO Bob Swan said early on in the pandemic.

The pandemic highlighted the business benefits of engineers using IIoT to remotely manage equipment. These capabilities also can be used during normal times to create new business benefits.

For example, IIoT enables highly-skilled, highly compensated, and often hard-to-find engineers to support multiple plants scattered around a country, region or the world. That’s less expensive and more agile than the traditional model of having one or more on staff at each factory or having them constantly traveling between plants.

IIoT also is ideal for supporting lights-out factories, which go beyond today’s high automation levels into the realm of autonomy.

The lights can be out because, as with data centers, human employees aren’t required most of the time. Instead, the industrial robots, automated material handlers, and other equipment use IIoT to communicate with one another to orchestrate the entire manufacturing process, from the input of raw materials to loading finished products onto trucks.

Lights-out factories are a rarity today, but they’ll be commonplace in Industry 5.0, thanks to advances in IIoT technology.

“That is when machines will make better new machines than humans can, among other things,” says Lee Coulter, IEEE Working Group Chair on Standards for Intelligent Process Automation. “Depending on whose data you like, that’s about 10 years away. Did this pandemic accelerate us toward the already inevitable Industry 5.0? Yes.”

Coulter’s working group is responsible for the IEEE 2755.1-2019 standard, also known as the IEEE Guide for Taxonomy for Intelligent Process Automation Product Features and Functionality.

This standard helps manufacturers understand how to use artificial intelligence, IIoT, and other technologies to enable automated factories.

Another key enabler of Industry 5.0 is 5G cellular. It includes sophisticated new features such as ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), which provides latencies as low as 1 millisecond and 99.999 percent reliability.

Another valuable feature is network slicing, where resources can be tailored to each application’s unique needs, such as multi-gigabit throughput for downloading CAD files to industrial robots or 1 ms latency for tight coordination between equipment. And as with 4G LTE, manufacturers can choose to operate their own private 5G networks.

Whether it’s Industry 4.0 today or Industry 5.0 tomorrow, IIoT is playing a foundational role in enabling highly nimble, resilient, efficient and productive factories and supply chains. That means a bright future for the global economy.

Image Credit: miguel á padriñá; pexels

John Keever

Chief Technology Officer, Telit IoT Platforms Business Unit

John Keever currently serves as the CTO of the Telit IoT Platforms Business Unit. He came to Telit from ILS Technology, a company that Telit acquired in 2013. Mr. Keever founded ILS Technology and began serving as an executive vice president and chief technology officer in October 2000. He has more than 30 years of experience in automation software engineering and design. Mr. Keever holds patents in both hardware and software.
Mr. Keever came to ILS Technology from IBM Corporation where he was a global services principle responsible for e-production solution architectures and deployments. Mr. Keever enjoyed over 18 years of plant floor automation experience with IBM and is the former world-wide development and support manager for Automation Connection, Distributed Applications Environment, PlantWorks and Data Collection hardware and software products. His prior experience within IBM includes lead marketing and solutions architecture responsibilities for General Motors, BMW, Chrysler, Tokyo Electron, Glaxo-Wellcome, and numerous other global manufacturing companies.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University, a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, with minors in both electrical engineering and mathematics, from North Carolina State University. He has also completed post-graduate work in computer engineering and operating systems design at Duke University.
I’ve always been passionate about mechanical, electrical and computer engineering, having pursued them in my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Founding my own company, ILS Technology, and working for a global IoT enabler like Telit has given me valuable insight into both the business and technical sides of IoT and technology that I would like to share with the ReadWrite community.
Along with founding my own company, I hold over 30 years of experience in automation software engineering and design and 18 years of plant floor automation experience with IBM. This experience, coupled with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, gives me the foundation and knowledge necessary to contribute valuable insights for ReadWrite’s audience that can help improve their technical knowledge and share new ideas on legacy practices.
ReadWrite strives to produce content that favors reader’s productivity and provide quality information. With 30 years of experience in automation software engineering and design and 18 years of plant floor automation experience with IBM, I believe I have the foundation and knowledge necessary to contribute valuable and quality insights for ReadWrite’s audience that will not only help improve their technical knowledge, but also share new ideas on legacy practices.

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Why (and How) Startups Should Implement Performance Management Early – ReadWrite

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Why (and How) Startups Should Implement Performance Management Early – ReadWrite


A company is only as successful as its people. However, early-stage companies often deprioritize proper talent management and place all their focus on the day-to-day operations of the business. These companies eventually find themselves reaching a point where their talent management processes aren’t keeping up with growth.

Hiring and retaining the right talent for your organization is just as crucial as having a great service or product, especially in the early stages of building a company. In this article, we list some important considerations in implementing employee performance management for startups.

Implementing Employee Performance Management Early

1) Define company values

Firstly, startups should define their company values. Values are the guiding principles and fundamental beliefs of an organization, and there are many benefits in defining company values early on. For example, having a core set of company values makes it easier for a company to hire and retain employees with the right aptitudes. Moreover, values help shape company culture, which will influence employee experience, engagement, and productivity.

In addition to defining values, startups need to ensure that their values are communicated frequently. Only 27 percent of U.S. employees strongly agree that they believe in their organization’s values. Instead of simply listing values on your website, startups need to integrate values into their talent management process. They can do this by:

  • clearly and frequently communicating the company’s values
  • aligning core values with behaviors expected from employees
  • continuously monitoring employees’ actions and behaviors

Integrating values into the performance management process enables the employees to live and practice company values on a day-to-day basis. Companies can also make their values known during the hiring process – write the values in the job description and reiterate these values during the recruiting process.

Candidates and current employees should always be aware of the fundamental beliefs of the company. One tip on values – make them as actionable as possible. If one of your values is “honesty,” define specific behaviors that enforce and demonstrate honesty. (There are many resources (Korn Ferry, Iota Consultants, Ignition Group, etc.) that can help you define or adapt company values.)

“If I could go back and do Zappos all over again, I would actually come up with our values from day one.” – Tony Hsieh

2) Align goals

Effective performance management begins with goal alignment. Understanding company objectives is imperative. Half of the workforce doesn’t know what is expected of them. Managers should understand every company’s mission, clearly communicate the objectives, and make them easily accessible and visible for all team members (e.g., team-wide monthly progress report).

In terms of goal alignment, a common question that startups often face is “should I use OKRs?”

OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) are often used to cascade goals from the organizational level to the individual level. This can help create goal alignment as it helps employees understand how they contribute to organizational objectives.

OKRs are powerful; however, if a company’s strategies and objectives are frequently adapting (which is often the case in startups), the structured top-down approach of setting OKRs from the organizational level to department- and then to individual levels can be a hassle.

OKRs would need to be adjusted each time overall organizational strategies are changed. Frankly, this is a significant exercise that is not worth the time.

This doesn’t mean a company shouldn’t align goals. One approach is to set up OKRs at the organizational and department levels on a monthly basis and let managers delegate and own their key results and adapt as often as needed.

“Building a visionary company requires one percent vision and 99 percent alignment.” – Jim Collins and Jerry Porra

3) Develop a culture of feedback

Feedback is crucial in the talent management process. There are many benefits to having regular feedback conversations with employees. Firstly, it motivates employees, thus increasing employee engagement & productivity. Secondly, it generates lots of employee performance data which can enable better training and talent decisions. Finally, it enables better work relationships which can have a significant impact on company culture.

While managers may avoid giving feedback due to fear of hurting an employee’s feelings, more than half of employees want corrective feedback over praise and recognition! Most employees want real-time feedback and recognition for jobs well done.

The younger generations (Millennials and Generation Z) want 50 percent more feedback than other generations. Sharing feedback can be challenging at first. Enforcing the right processes and rituals early on will help ingrain feedback into your company culture. It is worth noting that creating and sustaining a culture of feedback is easiest to implement early on.

When it comes to documenting feedback, pen-and-paper approaches can be sufficient for early-stage companies. If an organization has more than 15 people, it will highly benefit from a performance management system that helps store and analyze feedback, objectives, etc., in one place. Ultimately, this will help simplify the performance management process and enable people analytics to help make better talent and training decisions.

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

Conclusion

Implementing a performance management process in the workplace early on will better equip startups in developing and motivating their employees and ultimately improve a startup’s success and growth.

Remember that culture and people cannot be replicated – these two factors often differentiate a startup from its competitors. Your culture and people are worth the investment upfront.

Image Credit: ron lach; pexels; thank you!

Chiara Toselli

Chiara Toselli is the Head of Marketing & Sales at Pavestep. She helps businesses manage their most important asset – their talent. She has published a variety of content about employee performance management, company culture, and many more topics in HR.

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Gabb Wireless Raises $14M in Series A Funding Led by Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill – ReadWrite

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Deanna Ritchie


Gabb Wireless Raises $14M in Series A Funding Led by Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill

Gabb Wireless™ set itself apart from the crowd in 2018 when Founder and CEO, Stephen Dalby said, “enough is enough,” and began his journey to provide the only safe phones-for-kids.

LEHI, UTAH – APRIL 20, 2021

 

Dave Jensen, Managing Partner of Sandlot Partners, announced today that, “Sandlot Partners is investing and partnering with Gabb Wireless not only because of its impressive growth and positioning to lead the $30 billion smartphones-for-kids market — but also because it is providing solutions to address the significant screen time addiction problem in our society.”

Gabb Wireless™ is the first of its kind — a company determined to protect children by providing a safe cellular network for kids and their phones. Gabb created the only safe phones-for-kids serving this underserved demographic. Gabb announced this week that it closed a $14 million round of Series A, led by Sandlot Partners and New Orleans Saints quarterback, Taysom Hill.

“As an investor, Gabb checked all the boxes with its impressive growth, founding team and total addressable market. But it’s so much more than that for me. It’s the emotional side of the investment. I love the idea that we can help build something to help save kids in an area with so much need and demand. My wife Emily and I try to be pretty selective of who we tie our brand to — and when considering the chance to invest and partner with Gabb, it was a no-brainer for us and something that we are extremely excited about,” said Saints quarterback, Taysom Hill.

Stephen Dalby, Gabb Founder & CEO, announced the partnership with Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill. “We’re excited to announce our partnership with Sandlot Partners and Taysom Hill, who share our passion for driving impact and providing solutions to the growing screen addiction among adolescents.”

“Sandlot has a strong track record of fueling growth and adding value to their portfolio companies. Taysom’s accomplishments as a BYU and Saints quarterback are well documented, and he’s also very impressive off the field and will be a great brand ambassador for the younger demographic Gabb is targeting.”

Gabb Wireless

Kids need to be protected — and Gabb resolved on an action to do just that. Gabb set itself apart from the crowd in 2018 with a steadfast purpose to get safe, effective phones into the hands of parents who want to protect their children from inappropriate content and disturbing practices on social media and games, and other screen-time issues on the internet.

For some time, it’s been known that social media is affecting our youth with cyberbullying and other societal ills. The average child or pre-teen spends about four to seven hours a day of screen time. This disproportionate amount of time in front of a screen has caused depression, anxiety, and even sexual abuse among young adolescents.

Gabb said, “enough is enough,” and began its journey as a mobile virtual network operator, creating the safest technology available for children today. Gabb offers age-appropriate products to give kids the freedom to explore and their parent’s peace of mind. Children can enjoy their first phone experience with the affordable, $100 phone that protects them from internet dangers. Learn more at www.gabbwireless.com.

Gabb has had an unprecedented year of 471% growth and will use the proceeds from the Series A financing to accelerate efforts to provide safe phones for kids and expand its product lines — increasing Gabb’s total addressable market with these safe alternatives for parents of kids ages five to 15.

Sandlot Partners

Sandlot Partners is an independent private investment firm partnering with noteworthy management owners and founders. Sandlot Partners help maximize the growth potential of businesses by providing companies with growth capital, strategic guidance, and partial liquidity. Sandlot leverages its network of founders and operators, identifies growth opportunities, helps structure, and offers additional strong risk-adjusted private investment opportunities. Sandlot investors also include family offices, strategic individuals, and like-minded institutions seeking strong alignment and providing patient capital.

Cooley, LLP, and VLP Law Group provided legal services for this transaction.

Deanna Ritchie

Managing Editor at ReadWrite

Deanna is the Managing Editor at ReadWrite. Previously she worked as the Editor in Chief for Startup Grind and has over 20+ years of experience in content management and content development.

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How to Build a Startup Team With an Entrepreneurial Mindset – ReadWrite

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Nate Nead


Much of your startup’s success will depend on the quality and integrity of the team you put together. With talented, committed, hardworking people, even a merely decent idea can turn into something groundbreaking. Conversely, even a great idea can struggle to survive if it doesn’t have a solid team in place to support it. 

Obviously, you’ll need to work hard to choose the right people for your team – individuals with a solid experiential background, proof of ample talent, and genuine passion for the business. But beyond that, you’ll need to work actively to equip your team with the right mindsets and philosophies to guide them to productive, innovative work. 

While there are conflicting opinions for what type of company culture works “best,” there’s no denying that your company can (and likely will) benefit from building a team with an “entrepreneurial mindset.” But what is this mentality, and how can you construct it from scratch? 

What Is an “Entrepreneurial Mindset?” 

Let’s start with a description of the “entrepreneurial mindset.” This is an internalized mentality, philosophy, and approach to working within the members of your team that mimics what the most ambitious entrepreneurs tend to feel. 

The mindset includes: 

  • Creativity. Entrepreneurs are creative types. They want to create new ideas, modify existing ones, and come up with inventive new ways to deal with problems. They’re not afraid to think outside the box and try out new concepts – even if they don’t work out. They also like to encourage and promote creative ideas from other people, providing feedback, direction, and motivation to their teammates. 
  • Autonomy and independence. The entrepreneurial mindset also prioritizes autonomy and independence. Entrepreneurs in a business environment don’t wait for someone else to tell them what to do, and they generally don’t have to run their ideas through a bureaucratic chain of command to take action. Instead, they trust themselves, they operate decisively, and they remain agile. In an entrepreneurial environment, your employees will function autonomously in most cases as well. 
  • Change and growth. To be an entrepreneur is to accept the importance of change and growth. The only way for your business to reach more people and make more money is to evolve; that means adding new products and services, changing internal processes, and sometimes, pivoting the entire brand. 
  • Experimentation and adaptation. You probably already know how important it is to remain flexible and adaptable when growing your business. It’s also important for your workforce. With an entrepreneurial mindset, your team of employees will be much more likely to experiment with different approaches and adapt to new scenarios. 
  • Ambitious problem solving. Successful business owners are primarily ambitious problem solvers; they understand there’s some weakness or challenge in the world and are driven to “fix it.” With this mentality, your employees will be more likely to show enthusiasm when solving problems and rising to meet challenges. 

The Value of an Entrepreneurial Team 

So what’s the real value of an entrepreneurial team? 

For starters, you can cut back on direct management and oversight. When all members of your team feel like they have a direct impact on their work environment, and when they’re empowered to do their best, they don’t need as much direction or supervision. Instead of looking over their shoulder, giving them project details, or micromanaging your employees, you can set priorities for them, trust that they’re going to work toward them, and shift your attention to more important matters. This lends itself to a less stressed, more inviting workplace – and allows you to be more productive while tackling the most important projects for your startup

An entrepreneurial mindset also leads to a diversity of thought. When individuals are encouraged to have their own ideas, thoughts, and opinions, they tend to speak more openly in a collaborative environment. They’re more willing to volunteer ideas, offer constructive criticism, and provide meaningful feedback to each other. Such an environment makes it much easier to identify and get rid of bad ideas (before it’s too late), while simultaneously establishing the groundwork for the presentation of highly ingenious concepts. 

Additionally, startups need to keep adapting if they’re going to stay alive. Over time, your target market might change, you might face new competition, and new challenges will threaten your previous approaches. The only way forward is to adapt, incorporating new systems and processes and changing your infrastructure. Ordinarily, teams of employees are reluctant to adapt – after all, most of us don’t particularly like change. However, when the team accepts the importance and value of ongoing adaptability, they’ll be much more likely to be onboard with your latest changes and experiments. 

How to Build a Startup Team With an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Now for the big question – how can you build an entire startup team with a baked-in entrepreneurial mindset? 

  • Create the culture. Everything stems from your company culture. Before you employ any of the following strategies, make sure you have a solid idea for what you want your company culture to be. What are your core values? What is the “ideal” employee mindset? How should this mindset be fostered? What rules exist, if any, to enforce this? Document your company culture guidelines first. 
  • Choose the right candidates. With a culture document in place, you’ll find it much easier to interview candidates – and find out whether they’re a good fit for this environment. Even if they have a lot of talent and experience, they may not thrive in an entrepreneurial workplace; figure this out early, before you hire someone. 
  • Lead by example. You’re the leader, so set the tone. People will follow your example. Whatever habits you want your employees to practice, incorporate them into your own daily work. 
  • Nurture from the top down. You’re not the only leader within your organization, so make sure you select and support strong leaders who can embody and spread your desired entrepreneurial culture from the top down. 
  • Encourage independent management and decision making. Sometimes, employees will have to run their idea “up the ladder” before taking action. But as much as possible, it’s important to encourage autonomy and independent decision making. Empower your employees to make their own decisions, set their own goals, and devise their own approaches to work.  
  • Stimulate creativity. Creativity is vital for an entrepreneurial mindset to thrive. Use creative brainstorming sessions, music, art, and other exercises to encourage your team to think in novel ways. 
  • Get everyone to contribute in meetings. Encourage every member of your team to contribute in your meetings. More contributors will foster an environment of openness and collaborative sharing; it will also help you ferret out the best ideas, which otherwise might be held back by nervous participants. 
  • Reward good ideas. When a member of your team comes up with a good idea or solves a complex problem, reward them and publicly praise them. It will encourage further idea generation in the future and motivate other team members to volunteer their own ideas. 
  • Respect bad ideas. It’s not just about good ideas; it’s also important to tolerate and even respect bad ideas. When someone volunteers a questionable idea or makes a poor decision, show your support. Feel free to offer feedback and criticism, but don’t make the person feel bad for trying to do something inventive or helpful. You don’t want to punish people for trying something new. 
  • Remain adaptive. The most innovative, disruptive businesses are the ones that can adapt. Encourage your team members to remain similarly adaptable, keeping an open mind for new ideas and being willing to change when necessary. 

Once your team is full of people thinking and acting like entrepreneurs, your company will be much more flexible, innovative, and productive. And best of all, this entrepreneurial culture tends to be self-sustaining; your employees will naturally spread it to new recruits and continue to foster this creative, efficient environment. 

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.

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