January is the month of reflection and resolutions. We asked Bob Hartline, President and CEO of Xymox Technologies, his thoughts on how COVID-19 has impacted the industry and how Xymox is moving forward in 2021. Here’s what he had to say:

With needs and technology evolving as well as the current COVID-19 pandemic, how does Xymox Technologies stand out and appeal to those looking for capacitive touch sensors or membrane switches?
When COVID-19 became part of our everyday vocabulary we had some serious concerns about our future business. There wasn’t much information about how the coronavirus spread early on and talk about transmission through touching surfaces had us concerned. Everything we make involves the use of “touch.” Our slogan is “Enabling the Power of Touch.” If touching surfaces is a fear in our population then what is the future of user interface devices?

We needed to revisit our approach to make sure we had the best recommendations for our customers as they look at future user interface designs. We needed to look into new material and controller technologies for the possibility of ways to combat the virus, or implement touchless technologies when possible.

More recent studies about COVID-19 point to respiratory droplets in the air as the main cause of transmission. Touching a surface and contracting COVID-19 is possible, but the circumstances that need to align in order for transmission to happen are almost impossible.

Our conclusion: normal user interface devices like membrane switches and touch screens will be around for a long time, but our strategy is now pushing us to new levels.

2020 was a year of upheaval. Could you share an experience in the past year that demonstrates that and how Xymox Technologies responded?
This past year was certainly a big shift for everyone. The pandemic shifted business norms, as well as our day-to-day lives. When the coronavirus started, we initially went into overdrive for our medical-based customers. We had to implement dramatic changes in our daily cleaning procedures, make sure appropriate distancing was in place and we really focused on the “we versus me” change that had to happen with every employee.

For example, prior to COVID-19 we might have had a stuffy nose, a little fever, maybe a cough, or a sore throat and still went to work because of the “me” impacts of daycare, sick days, or just missing out. It used to be easy to justify those “me” impacts in our minds as greater than the possible “we” impacts. But now if we have those symptoms, we need to think about the potential impact on other people. We spoke about this a lot to emphasize the “WE” has to always outweigh the “me,” and it has worked well for us. We are a stronger company as we focus on the needs of others first.

What are some of your 2021 goals for Xymox Technologies?
We are coming out of a year where the most frequently used business word was “Uncertainty!” In 2021 we are focused on creating a business that is proactively working on full turnkey user interface solutions for our customers. We learned we can insulate ourselves from uncertainty by following our core values and providing the right solution for our customers. When we focus on goals centered around those two items, we continue to grow and thrive.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the industry in 2021?
The biggest challenge has been the strain of the entire supply chain. As shutdowns and quarantines continue to occur in different parts of this country and the rest of the world the supply chain becomes unreliable and uncertain. For example, last February no one knew that sheets of acrylic would be entirely consumed by retail stores, businesses, and schools to make transparent sneeze guards to fight the spread of COVID-19. We use acrylic for front-panels on touch screen applications, and the lead-times for acrylic material has gone from weeks to months.

One focus area has been the pairing of Xymox touch sensors and SigmaSense controllers. What makes this so exciting and where do you think this will go in 2021?
SigmaSense has created a new touch screen controller for reading a capacitive sensor that works extremely well with our PEDOT touch sensors. This new controller can move us into much larger touch screens that were not possible with the PEDOT sensor. It also enables hover touch technology which is really appealing as we think about new user interface technologies for a world afraid to touch things.

You are proud of the culture at Xymox Technologies. How would you describe the most important values of the company?
We really focus everything we do at Xymox around our four main core values, which are Integrity, Service, Results, and Employee Culture. I like the definition of integrity that asks… “How do you act when no one is watching?” As a corporation I always want our customers to know that Xymox acts the same way every day, whether they are standing on our shop floor watching or sitting at their headquarters 1,000 miles away. It also ensures transparency, honesty, and focus. An attitude of service is the way we need to treat all our internal and external customers. We exist as a business because someone needs what we do. Our response has to be with an attitude of service.

The third core value is results – for us to continue to improve we need to measure what we do and generate good results. Of course, our next core value is the culture we provide for our employees. Roughly 24% of an employee’s year is spent at work, and I’ve always said if we want to have a healthy business, we need to have healthy employees. We provide health lessons for our team, we have an on-site chiropractor, and we have a fiduciary investment advisor to help employees make good investment decisions.

Xymox Technologies has more than 40 years of experience in printed electronics. What do you consider among the greatest successes along the way?
That is a difficult question… Since we are a custom manufacturer supporting Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), we very rarely have our own great successes, but we live vicariously through the great companies we have the privilege to serve. From a product standpoint, we are honored to be involved in manufacturing user interfaces for medical products that help healthcare providers save lives.

It’s that time of year for resolutions. Is there a personal goal that you want to achieve in 2021?
For various reasons (I have a comprehensive list) I have put off upgrading my motorcycle for quite a few years, and I think 2021 is the year for fulfilling that goal.