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26th July 2018

Our First Birthday

Today is our first birthday!

In our first year Ignys has:

  • Helped multiple customers with their product development.
  • Moved into office space, with dedicated lab area, on the University of Nottingham’s Innovation Park
  • Recruited a Senior Electronics Engineer
  • Invested in software tools and equipment for our fully-kitted electronics labs, allowing us to design electronics, layout printed circuit boards, populate low volume prototypes for test, undertake full design proving and do basic conducted and radiated emission Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) pre-compliance.
  • Established tools and processes to robustly support our future growth
  • Over-achieved our first year revenue targets by 160%

In the first year we have helped:

  • A startup to improve their firmware delivery management for energy storage systems and motor drives. This gave them control, visibility and predictability in their firmware development.
  • A leading smart home IoT company to cost reduce their main IoT smart home hub and sensors. We improved the radio range on WiFi and Zigbee and check alternate components for suitability in difficult supply chain environment. Forecast savings on the smart hub alone are in excess of $2.5 million (£1.9million) per year
  • A well established design and manufacturing company to get up to speed with Altium Designer for schematic, pcb and mechanical design integration. We also reviewed and laid out a complex, multi-radio printed circuit board for them which worked first time.
  • A company with radio interlinked products resolve battery voltage reading issues, review and update of the system design for their new product, act as technical lead for product approvals, and undertake hardware design of their main platform and ancillary board electronics.
  • A contract electronics manufacturer with a large development project establishing form factor and breakdown of design between circuit boards. We have been focusing on cost and quality, and delivering a rigid flex interconnect board and designs for power supplies, audio amplifier, microphone pre-amp, Gigabit ethernet switch and USB3 connectivity.
  • An Australian based start up company with an innovative idea for a trailer and caravan towing product to produce market research test equipment which was used to ensure the design specification was correct.
  • Supported a new company which has struggled with a previous failed product development project with project review and project kickoff meeting help.  We supported them as technical advisers ensuring their outsourced project had robust plans and could start on a sure footing

Learning Curve

This first year has been a steep learning curve. The learning has not all been in the technology aspects. Although working on new and interesting projects always brings some additional learning, the learnings have mainly been in ways to best help our customers achieve their goals.

From the outset we set a target of delivering projects on time and working to specification.  This sounds obvious as our help is often only part of a larger project involving plastics design, marketing, production ramp up and product launch.  Our customers rely on us delivering our parts of the project on time as expected.  Things can, of course, change during development. But, by sticking to the principles of checking the hard parts first, we can often de-risk projects and add value during the development journey.

One example of this was on a project where, early on, we worked with the project plastics enclosure product designer. We put together a rough schematic of major silicon components and connectors and wiring up critical high speed and power nets.  Trial placement of components and routing of critical nets allowed the project plastics design to progress with confidence in parallel with the electronics design.  If this step wasn’t taken, it was likely that the electronics design in the project would have been compromised. At best this could have resulted in having to populate components on both sides of the printed circuit board increasing complexity and processing cost. At worst the signal integrity of the critical high speed nets would have been compromised, leading to an unreliable or non-working design.

Another key learning is  ensuring the delivery scope of each project phase is well defined, this ensures that our customers are clear what is being delivered and allows discussions early on to ensure the development fits into the customer project.

Scheduling of activities is key to ensuring we can deliver on project activities.  We use MS Project to plan project activity and to then act as an activity scheduling tool to ensure that every day is only spent once and that we are keenly aware of key dates, production shutdown times and team holidays.

Cashflow is king

A key responsibility of the business is to stay in business to ensure we can serve our customers needs on their various projects. Both now and in the future.  To do this we have a focus on cash flow. This means ensuring timely project stage gate invoicing and follow up where invoices are late being paid and on maintaining a cash flow forecast to review before investing in additional capital equipment.

We’ve learned that the typical time from initially talking to a customer about a project and actually starting the project itself can be around three months. Then projects are like buses – nothing happens for a while and then two or three come along at once.

The Right Resources at the right time

From the outset we knew there was a lack of experienced, capable and talented electronics engineers available in the market. This was why Ignys was set up in the first place.  The many SMEs we have talked to over the last year have confirmed this. That’s great for our business but a challenge for UK SMEs.  One company we spoke to captured it very well, he said that “once we’ve had a product idea we’re losing money until its in the market”.

Working with a variety of companies also confirmed how effective it can be to outsource electronics development.  Many companies don’t have their own lab facilities supported with world class software packages and systems and it wouldn’t be cost effective to spin up a team for a short term project.  We’ve seen projects where the project cost is in the region of £30-£40k for the full electronics development yet which allowed a product with a £4million per year revenue, good value indeed.

Our Key Principles

For each of the projects we have stuck to our key principles of:

  • testing the hardest/most risky parts first
  • do it right using capable and experienced engineers
  • involve the customer in key decisions
  • peer review the design
  • thoroughly test the design
  • document the design where necessary

It has been a great year; tough, but great. We’ve exceeded our financial target and we’ve set an even bigger one for this year. We’ve worked with some great clients and are actively looking for more. We want to add, at least, two more to the team this year too. If you’re reading this and have been a client: thank you. If you would like to be a client, give us a call.

Off to blow out the candles…..

2020 update: Want to see how we did in our 3rd year? Continue the story