Podcast: Tony Fonk Speaks to AIM on Management, and Industry Standardization

Podcast: Tony Fonk Speaks to AIM on Management, and Industry Standardization

Jun 28, 2021

SpotSee CEO Tony Fonk recently was appointed to the board of directors of AIM Global, an international industry association that connects, standardizes and advances automatic identification technologies.

SpotSee CEO Tony Fonk has a soft spot for privately-owned businesses. As a child, he watched his grandfather and father manage the family dry-cleaning business. As an adult, he took on active management roles himself in public, private, and private-equity-owned companies.

In the process, “I found one structure – privately-owned business – that I really enjoy. Private ownership gives management a lot of flexibility to execute strategy. One of the best things is being able to develop as a team. That means bringing out the best in everybody to achieve a common goal, aligning the business with what’s happening in the marketplace and rallying everybody around that.”

Both as CEO of SpotSee and as a board member of AIM, Fonk is passionate about three key areas:

  • Customers and new opportunities
  • Innovation
  • Solving operational challenges

“At SpotSee, this means monitoring or managing a condition in the supply chain, operations, or even products,” Fonk says. “That breadth is one of the benefits of being CEO. You get to dabble in a little bit in each area.” Clearly, Fonk’s excited by challenges, and he’s serious about meeting them.

When it comes to management, he says he’s learned from masters. Some of his most impactful mentors hail from his days at Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway company manufacturing premium insulation, roofing, and building materials.

For example, Fonk says, “Steve Hochhauser (now former chairman of the board and CEO) is an excellent team builder. Jeff Gray (director, operational excellence and manufacturing information systems) is an excellent operator. Dion Persson (now SVP of strategy and business development for ServiceMaster) is an extremely creative thinker who knows how to build and grow businesses.” Their examples accelerated Fonk’s own learning and inform his management style today.

Joining the AIM board of directors, therefore, is a natural fit and an extension of his mission. “At SpotSee, our goal is to help customers spot and see changing conditions in their supply chain and in their operations. We’ve spent a lot of time in the past six years, particularly, helping our customers do that in the most cost-effective ways, be it RFID, barcode, cellular, satellite, WiFi, etc. The vision of AIM aligns with ours.”

Looking forward, Fonk is excited about standardization that will enable greater interoperability of technologies throughout the supply chain. Before that can happen, however, many more people and organizations need to be involved, and protocols need to be developed and/or harmonized.

There’s an additional element, too, he says. “We need to remove the fear of changing processes and procedures in terms of using and capturing data.” Better defining the Internet of Things (IoT) and what it can do for industry, broadly, is one step in that direction.

He also hopes to help companies work together more effectively. “There are a lot of start-ups trying to do a lot of the same things, but they are missing points of commonality. I think AIM can help bring them together.” Once that happens, the IoT industry can expand its user base.

Coupling track and trace to condition monitoring will be the next big trend, he predicts. “It’s a big deal when you think about it. Some $2.3 billion in damage occurs annually. One of the biggest opportunities is around the unique identifications of pharmaceuticals, which will be accelerated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Several years ago, the U.S. and many other countries mandated detailed serialization down to the individual item. “Now,” he says, “I think we’ll see even more acceleration as people want to see what’s happening in the supply chain.”

As ever, communication and cooperation are the keys to success. “Often we’re competitors,” Fonk acknowledges to the AIM members, “but let’s pick the things we agree on and propel them forward. AIM is here to advocate for you and people like you.”

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