SW Engineering firm finds new markets with its intelligent SMARTester range

SW engineering company SVI has not only released its new product range, SMARTester, but secured an entirely new customer base thanks to support from the innovate2succeed (i2s) programme.

The Department for Transport estimates that utility roadworks and other highway work, cost the UK economy £4 billion each year. In attempting to reduce this cost they are constantly looking at new ways of using of smart technology to help reduce environmental impact, social costs and at the same time provide economic alternatives to traditional “open cut” methods of installation, renewal or repair.

Steve Vick International (SVI). , has been at the forefront of developing and manufacturing products and techniques for the trenchless repair, renovation and decommissioning of pipes in the utilities industry and has recently introduced a new product that replaces the traditional use of water gauges for pressure testing. SMARTester tests the pressure in gas and water pipes and consolidates this with GPS positioning to not only allow accurate testing but provide documented evidence that a pressure test has been carried out.

SMARTester, a highly accurate Bluetooth pressure sensor transmits data to a smartphone, using a purpose built App. This allows the data from live pressure tests to be recorded and immediately sent back to an office database – saving both time and money.

SVI’s SMARTester guides the gas operative through all routine pressure tests, helping eliminate human error while providing accurate pressure test readings that are stored to a Cloud and used as evidence that the test has been carried out. 

“Using the SVI SMARTester will mean the 300,000 gas tightness readings we do every year will be even more accurate, allowing us to identify potential problems with gas supplies earlier on and making sure we can continue to keep the 7.5m people we serve safe and warm.”

Martyn Pallant, Project Lead, Wales & West Utilitie

Identifying customers

SVI approached i2s for advice on bringing this new product to market. Whilst the product had been jointly developed and adopted by Wales & West Utilities, it faced barriers in reaching more technology focused markets that existed outside of its traditional engineering base.

i2s specialists helped SVI to identify new customer segments - smart metering companies, wholesalers and trade companies – and develop marketing strategies to sell to these new markets. As part of this, SVI identified key sector based events and conferences to exhibit, build new contacts and raise awareness of this new product.

Diversifying into new markets was crucial as the company recognised that their lack of knowledge and resources to develop certain sectors would restrict their growth and potentially allow competitors to disrupt their market share.

With new markets identified SVI are now looking to diversify further and are exploring distribution opportunities within the nuclear decommissioning, water and contract service industries. 

i2s adviser Dee Temple-Multon, introduced SVI to Department of International Trade adviser, Karen Knight who is helping the company expand into international markets and they have identified customers in Australia, America and The Netherlands.

Innovation on the factory floor

The programme also helped the firm to look at how they could employ innovation to drive efficiencies in their current premises.

i2s experts assessed the company’s processes and made recommendations regarding a number of non-value adding operations that could be improved or removed. These recommendations included innovation in the use of space, changing the ‘U’-shaped layout of the factory floor, stock location and positioning and innovation in stock handling processes .

Significant savings were made through innovation in workflow. For example changing the workshop layout from a U shape to an ‘L’-shape meant that pallets could be brought right to the edge of workspaces, while relocating stock halved staff walking distance from around 12,000 steps a day to just 6,000.

These benefits, while allowing the space to be better utilised, improved staff morale, allowed new machinery to be introduced to the warehouse floor, and increased efficiency by seven per cent.

Speaking of the help from i2s, Andy White, Finance Director at SVI, said: 

“innovate2succeed has been so beneficial, not only from a product and efficiency point of view, but also from a softer HR angle. 

We have been able to increase efficiency while improving staff morale through really simple steps. We now have better preparation, better planning and better processes in place. I would absolutely recommend the programme.”

SVI has recently won an award on the back of the SMARTester product., with Mechanical Design Engineer, Matthew Maclennan, named IGEM’s 2017 Young Persons Paper Competition winner. 

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