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Episode 11: Knowing When to Automate, Digitize, and Modernize While Moving Quickly in R&D

August 04, 2023

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Meet David Merrill, CEO and Co-Founder of Elroy Air

"The leader of the lab asked me, 'So what are you really all about? Do you love building things or doing research?' And in my heart, I knew that the answer was building things." For David Merrill, it was his love of building things and his realization that "logistics needs better solutions” that led him to create a new approach to enable same-day shipping to every person on the planet: Elroy Air.

By using autonomous cargo aircraft systems, Elroy Air is doing more than just making sure your package gets to you quickly. They envision the ability to provide humanitarian aid, disaster relief, and resupply in locations that may be challenging to reach with current aircraft. But building new types of aircraft requires finding ways to manage materials, product requirements, compliance, software updates, and more.

As Elroy Air continues to invest in R&D and prove that their technology works, the question now is: When do we begin to integrate technology to help scale our efforts? When do we transition from pen and paper that allowed us to move fast to digital systems that can standardize, automate, and scale our production? David talks about facing and answering these questions in our new episode of Manufacturing the Future.

In This Episode

Elroy Air has the opportunity to revolutionize logistics for a number of industries across the globe. Listen to our conversation with David Merrill to get a behind-the-scenes look at a manufacturing company at a digitization inflection point, and how they're beginning to implement technologies that will help them grow alongside with their goals.


  • How David started Elroy Air after realizing he wanted to build things and not go the academic route, and how they're solving express logistics across the planet.
  • The intersection of humans and technology, and the way in which computers, hardware, software, and robotics systems "become an extension of our intentions."
  • How Elroy Air is balancing moving quickly with their research and development with taking their time on implementing automation, digitization, and other technologies for standardization and scale.
  • The digitals tools that Elroy Air is embracing as they scale, like software tools, document tracking, specifications tracking, and ERP.
  • The questions David says they're asking in terms of what new technology to implement, and when is the right time to implement when you're still in the R&D phase.
  • Advice for entrepreneurs, including hiring a manufacturing expert, being efficient with capital, and digitizing what makes sense.