The biggest pillar is the components business, and we offer lots of services to support people that want to buy the components.
Then we have our subsystem business, where we are trying to create solutions to solve common problems. For example, if someone wants a redesign and needs help to work out which cameras they need, which software they need to use to solve particular problems’ then we can do that. Inpicker is the first one in that example. We know if a business wants to do random bin picking, they can go and buy Halcon which we sell, you can buy a 3D camera and write the software but there is a lot of software to write. What we are saying is, ‘We’ll write 80 or 90 per cent of that’ The customer pays a little bit more but by doing so they save four months’ worth of development work. The subsystem business, while it is still relatively small, complements the components business.
The third pillar is projects, which again is something we have always done but never promoted. It’s never been something that is spoken about or on our website. So, what we are now doing is to make that a little bit more public. Typically what happens is we have lots of OEM customers that come along to us and they have no machine vision experience at all but they might be the world leader in, let’s say, meat slicing and they’ve built big slicers. They sell hundreds of these all round the world and machine vision can help them to massively improve the slicing accuracy and weights. So, the customers we’ve been writing the software for just need to buy the specialist sub systems for their production machines.
Our project business is now quite significant and is intended for companies where they have their own products. Firstly, we go into their factory, we work with them and get the first system integrated into their machine. Then, every time they build a machine, they just install the components and sell it. We are not doing installations and we don’t have a lot of installation engineers and mechanical engineers.
To summarise, all of this was happening before, but we are just making it clearer to differentiate what we are doing and what our added value is compared to other distributors, most of whom are purely box shifting.
Finally, there’s the financials. The VDMA indicated that the market last year would shrink. We probably won’t know for a few months, but the prediction is that a downturn has started happening and the market is shrinking. We are beating that trend, so for us we will still have organic growth last year which in this climate is pretty good.
MVPro: You’ve got the three pillars strategy. Looking at 2020, what do Stemmer Imaging want to achieve and how is the company going to do that?
MW: We’ve got a strategy and we are investing very heavily on our internal systems. What that effectively means is that our goal is to make machine vision easy and accessible. We are trying to put more tools onto the website, more internal tools to make our performance quicker, faster and with even better delivery.
The first thing we are doing is investing very heavily in our existing traditional business in making it as easy as possible for people to deal with us. At the system design level that means choosing the right product. Customers can now go on our website and literally design the system by inputting what they want and we will then suggest the right camera. We are putting all our knowledge into a platform within the website to guide people to the right products.
We are also investing quite heavily internally. Our Vision PC business, which is building the optimised PC’s for machine vision has been upgraded. We are refocusing and restructuring the way that people work with us again just to be more efficient. We did a survey a little while ago and 95 per cent of our customers said that we were very good or excellent in customer satisfaction. What we have now got to do is upscale that.
Inpicker is going to get rolled out across the whole company. At the moment it’s an Infaimon product and they have been very successful with it, so we are now deploying that across all of Europe.
Finally, we are still looking to acquire companies, expand into new territories and so I expect you are going to see more of that happening.
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