Limerick start up finds smart way to keep track of things

Trish Dromey SmartFactory helps medical device manufacturers optimise their output, writes Trish Dromey.

Conor McCarthy, CONFIRM, Brendan Shepard, SmartFactory and Dirk Pesch, Nimbus Research Centre at the release of SmartFactory software for its Work Area Performance System at the University of Limerick. Photo: Oisin McHugh/True Media

Limerick start up SmartFactory is targeting the global medical device manufacturing sector with innovative solutions which have been designed to improve productivity by bringing intelligence to the manufacturing process.

“Companies can be good at innovating with new products but many have outdated production processes which haven’t changed in years,’’ said company co-founder and CEO Brendan Sheppard.

SmartFactory has developed a software platform which captures, analyses and visualises key performance indicators in order to keep track of the production process.

Set up two years ago by Mr Sheppard and co-founder Anthony Kelly, SmartFactory is unique in creating solutions specifically geared towards the medical device manufacturing sector.

Currently employing a staff of nine, it raised funding of €590,000 earlier this year and is making plans to scale up for rapid growth over the next year.

“Current customers include several global medical device companies with operations in Ireland as well as a global pharmaceutical company and a multinational car parts manufacturer,” said Mr Sheppard, explaining that although the main target is medical device companies, it has also developed sales to companies involved in the manufacture of fast-moving consumer goods.

Back in early 2016, the founders identified an opportunity for a company which could offer a visualisation solution for the medical device industry. This involved the creation of a key performance indicator dashboard which could be used by companies to optimise their production process, explained Mr Sheppard.

Researching the potential market, they very quickly discovered that there was also a need for technology to collect and analyse the production data, so the project expanded.

“We had already decided to target the medical device sector, there are over 450 medical device companies in Ireland — it is a leading international hub for the industry,” said Mr Sheppard.

Starting out at a Fablab incubation space in Cloughjordan, the founders approached two major multinational medical device manufacturers in Ireland who agreed to pilot their system in 2016.

“All we were offering at that stage was an idea,’’ said Mr Sheppard, adding that both multinationals went on to become paying customers by 2017.

Mr Sheppard and Mr Kelly had started out by developing visualisation solutions, but when they realised they needed to provide collection and analysis solutions, teamed up with Turck Banner, GE and Siemens, using hardware and software components to create an out of the box IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) solution.

Earning revenue from the sale of turnkey solutions, the company also charges an annual subscription for its software on an SaaS basis.

In late 2017, the company became an Enterprise Ireland High Potential Start Up with €250,000 in funding. Securing this and an additional €340,000 in private investment allowed the company to expand its team and continue with significant R&D investment.

Entering into a commercial partnership with CIT and CONFIRM, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Smart Manufacturing, SmartFactory launched an upgraded software platform early last month.

Mr Sheppard says the biggest constraint for the company, which operates from the Nexus Innovation centre in Limerick is finding software engineers with the required skills and had to go to India to hire its two latest recruits.

“We are now selling to some of the leading medical device companies operating in Ireland and are about to start two significant projects with multinational medical device companies based in Cork,” said Mr Sheppard, who hopes that contracts with Irish-based multinationals will lead to contracts with sister companies across the world.

Although 75% of the company’s business is in the medical device space, it is also attracting attention in the high speed manufacturing space. Currently installing a visualisation solution for one of the largest consumer goods manufacturing companies in the US, SmartFactory is also in discussion with several Swiss manufacturing companies as well as a large UK food distributor/retailer.

Mr Sheppard says SmartFactory is aiming to double in size over the next year, with a multimillion euro turnover within two to three years.


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