TOMRA recently announced the appointment of Felix Flemming as Head of Digital for TOMRA Sorting Solutions. In this role, Felix is leading TOMRA Sorting Solutions’ rapidly developing capabilities in digital technology and building a team of innovators to support this progress.
Felix joins TOMRA as a best-in-class digital innovator, senior-manager and engineer. He held several management positions with the Voith group prior to joining TOMRA. In his last position as Vice President of Incubation, he was responsible for developing Internet of Things solutions and business models for all Voith markets. Felix holds a Doctor of Engineering degree from the University of Darmstadt and a Master of Engineering degree from Cornell University.
“TOMRA’s pragmatic and forward-thinking approach to technology is what attracted me to the company,” says Felix. “It’s that kind of method I look forward to applying with my team and process as we rapidly develop and deploy TOMRA’s digital offering.”
Q1: Is there still potential for improvements in the Digital department of TOMRA Sorting Recycling?
There is always room for improvement. I typically work hard to constantly improve things. The beauty of digital solutions is that one can do this much faster and in smaller increments than for physical products. I am looking for motivated people who want to join the Digital department, but who also want to join the digital network within TOMRA Sorting globally.
Q2: Can you briefly tell us about your new role and its importance for TOMRA’s future?
The successful future of our company requires innovative solutions and products that serve our customers’ needs. We have been really successful with our sensor-based technology across different applications so far, but more and more important in the future will be the data generated by our machines. Preparing TOMRA Sorting for the future by utilizing the data and other new digital technologies to generate customer value is why TSS Digital is important. As Head of TSS Digital I am responsible for building the future digital offerings to our customers. An example would be TOMRA Insight, our customer portal and the technical backbone for new data-driven services towards our customers. The underlying use-cases are really similar between the different business streams and the technical solutions required are identical; this means my role and that of the TSS Digital organization is across all three business streams.
Q3: What do you believe will be your biggest challenge?
Building a successful digital organization is much more than just building a technical solution like TOMRA Insight. It is about understanding the hidden needs of our customers, tailoring the development to explicitly target those needs combined with new types of business models, and gaining our customers’ acceptance of these new solutions and business models – for example, transmitting data securely to the cloud, ensuring privacy of information, and making small recurring payments. This requires the whole organization to have an agile and customer-centric approach, as well as acting as a global cross-functional network. It also requires a change in the mindset of our customers. By building the digital organization, we are not only deploying new technology into the market, we are actually going to change and transform our organization, our customers, and our industry as a whole.
Q4: Where do you see the Digital department in five years’ time and will Artificial Intelligence be part of TOMRA´s technology?
In five years, the digital department and network will be fully established in the organization and contributing to the company’s bottom-line. Our customers will see TOMRA Insight as their tool of choice when it comes to data-driven services for sorting.
Artificial Intelligence is a very generic term which encompasses a lot of different technologies. I prefer the terms ‘machine vision’ and ‘machine learning’ as they are more explicit. Our machines are already intelligent and we’ve used machine vision for a long time. So in that sense, artificial intelligence is already part of TOMRA’s technology. The change in the future will be the machine learning portion. To me, this means self-learning and self-optimizing machines that are connected to each other and thereby optimize the overall process of our customers. At that point, the artificial intelligence starts to take autonomous decisions. This is when the real value of this technology will become visible and I believe it will be the next big thing in sorting.