Air Force Veteran Draws on Lessons Learned in the Military to Drive Growth, Mitigate Risk
To say that Patrick Ney, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at DTG, has a variety of roles at DTG is an understatement. Helping to forge success in key markets, such as healthcare, warehouse and logistics, and hospitality, Patrick is also the inventor of DTG’s Advanced Battery System, a core component of all its mobile PowerStations. With five academic degrees, the former Air Force medic is an industry expert in battery technology and is laser focused on ensuring operational excellence for DTG and its customers.
We spoke with Patrick recently as part of our Executive Spotlight series to learn more about his background, get his insights on market trends, and learn how his military background influences his approach to work and life.
Tell us about your background and the path that led you to DTG.
I started my career in the U.S. Air Force where I served as a medic for six years. I was then hired by an aerospace engineering company to develop night vision technology, and I worked with NASA and the Air Force Research Laboratory, which developed products for use in military operations worldwide. In that environment and in the Air Force, I learned how operational efficiency impacts every aspect of a business. I look at operations more holistically now, understanding that operational efficiency is at the heart of every function within an organization.
Has your role changed in recent years as the company has evolved into new markets?
We are continually adapting to new push and pull market dynamics. As we enter new markets, new suppliers are needed, new challenges are created, and new goals are set. Once an idea is generated, there is a set of standard operations that need to take place—we need to understand what the customer does and how they do it, identify the inefficiencies and sources of waste within their current systems, develop a pilot to address those issues, gather feedback and data, and modify and develop iterative prototypes. In operations, we need to be responsive to evolving requirements, which often involves creating solutions for a customer’s pain points with limited input.
As a battery technology expert, what impact do you think current battery metals shortages have on DTG and your customers? How are you mitigating that risk?
I’ve been focused on battery technology throughout my career and I’m always researching new technologies and new ways to do things better, faster, and cheaper. The current shortage in battery components is no different. We know the importance of mitigating supply chain shortages and have done a lot of planning, taking proactive steps to secure our supply over the next several years with solid partnerships on the manufacturing side. I’m confident about our ability to meet demand.
On a macro level, the metals shortages are due to anticipated demand for electric vehicles. Everything will stem from that projected demand, so it’s important to understand and track the shortages and pay attention to changing demand for electric vehicles.
What do you see as some of the most interesting trends impacting the markets DTG serves?
In the hospitality market, there hasn’t been much innovation for decades. So that space is ripe with opportunity. We have a unique value proposition to take food and beverage service operations to a new level by mobilizing them. With our mobile, battery-powered hospitality carts, hotels, resorts, stadiums, and other hospitality businesses can offer increased convenience, a great customer experience, and take advantage of every sales opportunity.
It’s a big difference in warehouse facilities and 3PL logistics which are slower market movers; however, there is a strong drive for more efficiency as those areas become more competitive. We’ve got a very strong position in those areas working with manufacturers and logistics facilities to mobilize workers to the point of task for operational speed and efficiency.
And, in healthcare, we’re seeing a lot of consolidation, which can create new opportunities, but not with the same level of intensity as in the other markets. In 2010, the federal government created the electronic medical records (EMR) market when they forced hospitals to improve medical efficiency and safety, creating both challenges and new opportunities for the cart companies that support frontline workers and optimize workflow.
Are there new areas DTG is looking at for further market expansion?
The DTG culture is focused on learning, developing, prototyping, and doing the research necessary to solve problems. That’s how we continue to evolve. Customers come to us with new ideas as well as new challenges. That’s the foundation of our business; that’s how we’ve entered new markets such as hospitality and life sciences. A recent example of this occurred this year when a large pharmaceutical company came to us with a set of challenges, and our solutions led to the development of our new battery powered cleanroom carts.
Are there any aspects of your military service that are applicable to your current role?
Yes, the level of discipline and efficiency that you develop in the military stays with you forever. I attack every situation, every challenge, head on. With extreme efficiency and discipline. It’s at the heart of every aspect of military training.
Everyone is talking about automation. Do you see it as a threat or an opportunity?
We see it as an opportunity. You can capture efficiency with all sorts of new tech, robots, drones, etc., but you need people engaged in the processes. Our battery powered carts enable them to take functionality to the point of task.
We work with one of the world’s largest ecommerce retailers in the world, and its operations are highly automated. That automation efficiency is really what puts DTG on the map. They brought us in, and our mobilized carts created more operational efficiencies and less motion waste for them and more opportunity for us, as they continue to bring us into more and more of their warehouses around the world.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Living my life in a constant state of curiosity is what enables me to be successful in business, and in life. Twenty years ago, I was involved in a car accident that put me in a coma for 5 days. That experience altered the way I view the world, opportunities and, most of all, time and people. I wake-up every morning as if I were shot out of a cannon. It can be annoying to those around me, but I get up and go immediately into creative problem-solving mode. On the weekends, I love playing baseball with my son, working on my tractor to improve the land that we live on, and finding new ways to approach business. I also enjoy wine-making, travel, playing golf terribly, and meeting new and interesting people.