Jim Barnhart recently joined Velodyne Lidar as our Chief Operating Officer. He is responsible for leading global automated mass manufacturing operations that produce world-class lidar sensors.
Jim is a results-delivering executive with a proven record in operations, general management, supply chain, services, manufacturing and engineering. Prior to joining Velodyne, Jim was Senior Vice President, Operations at Nanometrics Inc., a provider of advanced process control solutions. Previously, he served as Senior Vice President, Global Operations at Cymer LLC.
We chatted with Jim to learn more about him and how our global manufacturing supports our growing business.
Jim: Thank you! It’s great to be here! What an exciting time in Velodyne’s business. The notion of “democratizing safety” really resonates with me as well as the exploding demand in market segments from ADAS and AVs to smart city, robotics and delivery. We truly are in the right business with the right products at the right time. The strategic inflection point – moving from an innovative start-up creating a new industry to leading the way into a future of industrialized hypergrowth for lidar – makes our present situation a compelling and worthy challenge.
Jim: We have strategic partnerships with proven global suppliers that are able to reliably produce at scale. We have implemented powerful relationships with production experts including Nikon and Fabrinet that distinguish us in the market. A clear opportunity for Velodyne is to mature our product management, product development and demand forecast capabilities to enable unfettered growth. We are on the right path to create more efficient and effective operations that are honed for predictable, step and repeat execution to assure supply quality at minimized cost.
Jim: Our strategy is to develop new products with engineering and manufacturing teams collocated in our San Jose facility. This approach enables us to create stable technical transfer packages through the prototype and pilot production phases that can then be handed to our selected manufacturing partners for industrialized volume scale production. As our sales pipeline continues to fill with volumes of POs for specific products and delivery dates, our global manufacturing partners stand ready to ramp.
Jim: I learned to read the fine print on a contract! Yes, there’s a story there but it’s best shared over a beer with those who’d like to hear it. The Navy experience drove home the concept of teamwork to a level few civilians truly understand. The difference between leadership and management, how to distinguish between urgent and important tasks, and how to crisply communicate the essential message, all were a solid foundation from the U.S.N. to build a successful career.
On the day of my officer’s commission, I was pleased to hand my traditional silver dollar for my first-returned salute to a salty senior chief petty officer who had served as one of the OCS instructors. As I departed his company, offering sincere thanks for his sharing so many pearls of wisdom and naval folklore, he replied, “Always remember, sir, as an ensign you’re expected to be stupid. Just don’t abuse the privilege.”
What a great lesson! When new to any role, ask the silly questions early when everyone knows you’re on the learning curve. The same question that might have been asked in the early days may raise doubtful eyebrows if asked later.
Jim: There’s life outside of work?!? Who knew? Seriously though, I remember my first day of class at UC Berkeley’s business school when the dean welcomed us and observed, “You have at least three priorities in your life – work, family and ongoing education. The order of them must be family first, career second, and education third. Never get the order confused.” At the time, work was getting top mindshare, and I was preparing to put MBA studies in the second position. Those sage words on life’s priorities have served me well.
I start each day with a workout. Health and fitness are important. On weekends I’m outdoors, whether biking, hiking or just enjoying nature. My main hobby is nature photography. Taking time to appreciate nature, thinking about where I need to position myself relative to the subject, how to compose the desired photograph, what exposure to set to best memorialize the image, all are a relaxing way to release any stress accumulated during the work week.