‘Huge opportunity’ for FactoryTech 50 star Intoware

Manufacturing

Intoware is absolutely flying as companies across a multitude of industries increasingly turn to digital workflow tools following COVID-19.

The startup recently enjoyed its most successful year since foundation in 2015, with revenues of almost £1 million and an increase in monthly recurring revenue of 40%. It followed this by coming in ninth on our FactoryTech 50 innovation ranking.

Based in the Ingenuity Center at Nottingham University, Intoware creates mobile and wearable technology – such as its flagship instruction tool WorkfloPlus, which takes advantage of mixed reality – to connect frontline workers with the data needed to make informed decisions.

“Even during COVID, we grew our recurring revenue. Our pipeline increased two- or three-fold,” CEO Keith Tilley tells BusinessCloud. “The pandemic has driven more people to our kind of software because it works very well with remote workers.

“We’re multiple-language and now in every continent except Antarctica.”

Intoware has a growing industrial client base from the utilities, manufacturing, rail transport, civil engineering and offshore oil sectors, including a number of FTSE 100 companies.

Spreadsheets

It recently released research which showed that three-quarters of manufacturing and engineering companies continue to rely on legacy systems and spreadsheets, with billions of business-critical tasks still manual or paper-based. These processes are difficult to audit, can be easily lost or damaged, and are tough to analyse.

WorkfloPlus – which can be accessed via smartphones, tablets, desktop and RealWear wearable devices – digitalises checklists and auto-generates instructions and reports.

“With the headset, you can verbally ask it to take a picture or a video, move on to the next step or input a piece of data – very useful in dangerous environments,” explains Tilley. “You can use both hands to get up that ladder!”

It also features remote expert video calling systems such as HPE MyRoom and Simply Video that allow workers to instantly share live video, audio and photos with colleagues and supervisors back at HQ.

“In the past, insurance companies would fly people out to oil rigs just to make sure everything was okay before they insured them,” he offers as an example. “During COVID they couldn’t do that… and now [if they have used our platform] they realise they don’t have to be on the rig at all, as long as someone is there with a connected helmet.

“Software such as ours makes the inspection fully auditable and dramatically reduces the cost. The inspector also no longer has to learn how to get out of a helicopter upside down!

“We think the opportunity for digital workflow is huge. This is where we will focus: we want to be number one or two in our chosen markets.”

Intoware WorkFloPlus platform

Kopin mechanism

Intoware was born within Kopin, an American company which makes glass for immersive technology such as pilot helmets. Having acquired a Nottingham consultancy to develop the software for its products, it ultimately decided to concentrate on the hardware side of its business, allowing Intoware to spin out with the help of angel investment. Kopin remains a key shareholder in Intoware.

“Like most software, ours is constantly evolving. It’s there for today but we’re designing it for tomorrow,” says Tilley, who joined Intoware’s second round of investment and was then persuaded to take the CEO reins in 2019. “If you wait till tomorrow, tomorrow never comes – and you don ‘t get any advantage now.

“Digital transformation can scare people – this is an easy way for them to start. It gives them a return on investment very quickly, and is easily accepted by people after they use it.

“That’s the whole point: if the people on the ground don’t use it, you may as well not bother.”

Intoware

He continues: “We have a pharmaceutical company who uses us as part of an inspection in between each run of tablets: you have to stop after X million tablets and clean the machine to a certain level. If they don’t do it properly, they may have to wipe the whole batch off.

“By making sure the process is followed properly, it’s also become more predictable: they know exactly how long is needed to take the plant down for that run. That’s very important because when it’s not making tablets, it’s not making money.”

While many of its clients are mid-sized businesses who can use Intoware’s ‘off-the-shelf’ products, the $3 billion oil & gas giant Petrofac needed a customized version of the product to connect into its ERP system Maximo Oil & Gas.

“Its team can now do something like 18 inspections where they only used to be able to do three,” claims Tilley.

FactoryTech 50 – UK’s most innovative manufacturing technology creators for 2022

Series A investment

Intoware, a lean business with a workforce in the ‘low-20s’ who recently appointed Brad Flook as its new sales director, is tentatively looking at raising a Series A round of investment next year.

“We are helping manufacturers with their key drivers: reducing cost; maximizing productivity; updating processes; step-by-step inspections and audited reports; maintenance and repairs; health and safety; and training, passing on knowledge to the next generation,” says Tilley, who also offered advice to fellow startup entrepreneurs.

“Our software then empowers them to make robust and easy changes where necessary. The data coming down is so much more powerful because you are capturing it in real-time – and the granularity allows you to see things that you wouldn’t from completing and scanning a checklist.”

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