Below is an interview between David Leichner, CMO at Cybellum, and Ron Stupi of Bureau Veritas– originally published by Authority Magazine.

With the shortage of labor, companies are now looking at how robots can replace some of the lost labor force. The truth is that this is not really a novel idea, as companies like Amazon have been using robots for a while now. What can we expect to see in the robotics industry over the next few years? How will robots be used? What kinds of robots are being produced? To what extent can robots help address the shortage of labor? Which jobs can robots replace, and which jobs need humans? In our series called “The Future Of Robotics Over The Next Few Years” we are talking to leaders of Robotics companies, AI companies, and Hi-Tech Manufacturing companies who can address these questions and share insights from their experience. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ron Stupi.

Ron Stupi is SVP & COO of Bureau Veritas’ building and infrastructure (B&I) team, part of its Commodities, Infrastructure, and Facilities (CIF) division in North America. Stupi has responsibility for all building and infrastructure activities of Bureau Veritas North America, and leads the development of B&I related strategies across the region. With over 20 years of capital planning and B&I experience, Stupi has been with Bureau Veritas since 2018.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started in robotics?

I work at Bureau Veritas, a global leader in testing, inspection and certification and lead the building and infrastructure activities and strategy. We leverage robotics to help assess the condition of buildings, bridges, roadways and other infrastructure. This helps to better budget for maintenance and repairs and prolong an asset’s life expectancy through early detection. Additionally, remote robotics create safer conditions for workers and the public. I look forward to the continued adoption of advanced technology including drones, robotics, Google glasses and more.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My career has allowed me to travel the world. It’s taken me to 49 states and 10 countries — it would have been at least 15 if not due to Covid.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life? 

“Grade-point averages & pedigree don’t always correlate to success.” One of my early mentors went to a small school and graduated with a 2.1 average. He started in a mailroom and went onto become chairman & CEO of several large companies. He was extremely successful in his career, despite his background. I also went to a very small school and got a job that did not fully align with my degree. I ended up running a $2 million startup business which evolved into a $400 million international business. All this to say, you can create a successful career, regardless of your early academics. It’s about constantly learning and working hard to become an expert in your industry.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

I’m working on projects that allow for remote inspections and remote learning through technology. Think Google glasses, drones, Librestream (AR), AI (machine learning), vibration monitoring and electric vehicle adoption. Our inspectors can harness the power of robotics to assess the conditions of bridges, roadways and other infrastructure to ensure they are safe and meet today’s standards. For example, our CableScan® attaches directly to bridge cables and couples electromagnetic testing with high-definition video to inspect for corrosion, broken wires and damage.

How do you think this might change the world?

These projects reduce the travel needed and lowers the overall carbon footprint. Through early detection, we can predict when something is going to fail and schedule data-driven maintenance, which helps minimize unnecessary replacements and reduces downtime. Further, robotics enables real time decisions and information sharing. This shift will provide new workforce skills and opportunities to work alongside robotics for increased efficiencies. Most importantly, advanced technologies can make work safer for employees and the public. For example, instead of bridge inspectors harnessing themselves to the bridge stay cable to perform a visual inspection, they can use robotics to perform, up close and quantitative evaluations. This can make things safer for workers and the traveling public as several projects will no longer require lane closures or use bucket trucks.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The threat of data breach and loss is very real. It can expose details around when a component will fail and how, uncovering vulnerabilities. We must reskill the workforce for robotics and advanced technologies to help combat against this and keep pace with technology.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the robotics industry? Why?

I’m most excited about the pace of evolution, and new innovative uses that haven’t even been thought of yet. The robotics industry is just starting to take off and there are many applications across industries. Coupled with this is the low-cost barrier to entry, which will continue to increase over time, the portability of technology, as well as the scalability and access. This will allow more of the world’s population to leverage this technology. As technology continues to evolve, the potential is endless as humans work together with robots to reach new levels of achievement.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the robotics industry? Why?

On the flipside, the rapid pace of evolution is also a concern I have for the robotics industry. High initial costs and the cost of adoption (especially within the electric vehicle space) hinder widespread use. Additionally, robotics are vulnerable to security and data breaches, if not properly tested, which can harm operations. Lastly, the increased use of robotics will result in less human interaction, which is something we innately require as beings — it is essential to our health and well-being. We must take steps to ensure that robotics are integrated nondestructively in our lives, offering us efficiencies without losing the qualities of human interaction that simply cannot be replaced or substituted.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the potential to pose a danger to humanity in the future. What is your position about this?

I believe advanced AI can pose a danger. Humans can “hide” behind technology and use it for good just as easily as it can be used for bad. The more people have access to AI, the more uses will evolve from it. With great power comes great responsibility, as history has demonstrated.

My expertise is in product security, so I’m particularly interested in this question. In today’s environment, hackers break into the software running the robotics, for ransomware, to damage brands or for other malicious purposes. Based on your experience, what should manufacturing companies do to uncover vulnerabilities in the development process to safeguard their robotics?

Continue to test and try to uncover any vulnerabilities. Leverage the dark web and others to “break things” like Apple does. Do not rush before something is ready just to be first — which is often driven by greed. Be more collaborative and share research, like the St. Jude’s Hospital and research model.

Given the cost and resources that it takes to develop robotics, how do you safeguard your intellectual property during development and also once the robot is deployed in industry?

In a perfect world you don’t need to safeguard your enhancements. We’ll achieve more as a collective if we continue to share and grow. In the real world, I am not sure what you do uniquely, as you can’t have a single point of failure or reliance in the R&D process.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Create A Highly Successful Career In The Robotics Industry? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Remain flexible and b adaptive to change. Rapid change is a norm within the robotics industry and embracing the pace of technology is essential.
  2. Be willing to try and fail. Many innovations and versions often occur before the final solution or widespread adoption.
  3. Find a mentor that you can speak with openly. Two heads are better than one and it’s important to have someone to bounce ideas off of and talk through challenges. Be deliberate and consistent about this.
  4. Be willing to tell your story and speak to people. If you don’t get excited about it and shout it from the rooftops, no one will! You must educate people on how this device/creation solves a problem and help them understand the benefits. What frustration are you solving and what benefits does that create?
  5. Remember that to be successful it must be scaled and monetized. Always think of the business in mind, including costs, profit and marketing impacts. If needed, find someone on your team to do so.

As you know, there are not that many women in this industry. Can you advise what is needed to engage more women in the robotics industry?

Target female gamers, e-sports leagues and STEM careers earlier on. Be more deliberate telling the world what jobs and careers are out there, and how robotics are being used today.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We must be more collaborative and remove preconceived biases. When we work together, we can drive positive change within the industry and unlock new uses for robotics that improves our quality of life, safety and operations.

By Rafi Spiewak