Manufacturing AUTOMATION

Top 10 Under 40 2023: Meet Brent Bell, director of project management, JMP Solutions

July 4, 2023
By Sukanya Ray Ghosh

Manufacturing AUTOMATION’s second annual Top 10 Under 40 highlights the next generation of leaders who have demonstrated exemplary work ethic. They are leading the charge in their workspaces and inspiring their peers with their commitment to innovation.

This year, the winners share what they enjoy the most about working in the automation space, what plans they have for their future and suggestions on getting more people into this industry.

To highlight the achievements of each individual selected for the Top 10 Under 40 list, Manufacturing AUTOMATION will feature one of 2023’s winners every week for the next 10 weeks.

This week, we introduce Brent Bell, director of project management at JMP Solutions. Bell shares his thoughts on his role, background and future plans.

Manufacturing AUTOMATION: What do you enjoy the most about working in the manufacturing/automation space?

Brent Bell: Constant variety!  For the last 15 years at JMP Solutions, I’ve been collaborating with an incredible multi-discipline team that prioritizes providing extraordinary customer experience while delivering world-class turnkey automation solutions.  I have had the pleasure of tackling technically and operationally demanding applications in multiple industries including food, consumer packaged goods (CPG), and tube and pipe. No two days are the same!

My team members, customers, and partners all seem to have fun because we get to see the direct results of our efforts. Each automation opportunity has a unique blend of technical and operational constraints and goals that demand creative problem-solving. I have also enjoyed transforming JMP’s turnkey solutions into modular solutions that can be rapidly and cost-effectively deployed when engineering from scratch simply is not needed.

As an integrator, I love how robot, sensor, actuator, and controls hardware manufacturers have continuously innovated because we are able to provide robotic automation solutions to our customers in new ways.  I have seen enormous growth in the technical offerings in the washdown and hygienic side of the food industry in particular.  It is fun to “wow” a customer with a solution that redefines what is possible!

MA: Besides professional training, what has helped you develop your skills the most?

BB: I feel like the best decision I made in my path to developing skills has been to deeply immerse myself in multiple roles. It began in 2008 when I joined JMP as the company’s first mechanical designer wearing too many hats to count in adjacent responsibilities such as procurement, assembly, shipping/receiving, customer support, and pre-sales concept generation. From mechanical design to applications/pre-sales engineering to project management to operational leadership, I’ve jumped into multiple roles with both feet and strived to become an expert.  This has accelerated my understanding of how the industry works and how to deliver projects to customers effectively by understanding how the whole process works and how interconnected everything is.

I have always found that the best lessons are learned when the tough problems are prioritized, as opposed to the easy wins. Things do not always go according to plan and it is common in our industry to have to improvise, adapt, and pivot on a nearly daily basis in order to be successful.  Having an open mind and the courage to “do hard things” has benefited my career development.

MA: What are your future plans within the industry?

BB: I plan to continue to help the manufacturing and automation segment grow by bridging the gap between producer and integrator in industries that are not yet heavily saturated with robotic automation. Through empathic listening, coaching and trust building, I believe I can help manufacturers successfully adopt automation solutions that help them do more with less, make the workplace safer, and provide stability in their own journey to growth.

It can be impressive to develop a radically complex robotic system to automate a difficult manufacturing or material handling process, but the real magic is effective change management, training, support, and transfer of ownership. This determines the long-term success and value of the system.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  The operators, the maintenance staff, and the plant-level leadership all need to be aligned and contribute to the automation project plan.

MA: How can this industry encourage more people to join and pursue successful careers here?

BB: It is important to look at the undeniable trends in the manufacturing and automation segment; the growth is inevitable and virtually limitless.  Industrial automation continues to grow at an increasing rate and as new industries emerge and old industries adapt, there is no end in sight.  This industry provides many fulfilling opportunities for different career trajectories for those in the engineering field, skilled trades, leadership, and even supporting roles in accounting, human resources, and IT. State-of-the-art technology is constantly expanding and overlapping in new ways. This creates endless possibilities in the future. For example, at JMP Solutions, we offer a suite of technical offerings that combine industrial robots, autonomous mobile robots (AMR), industrial controls, plant-wide data collection, and cybersecurity layered on top.

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