Considering new technology? Be curious and experiment
Once you implement technology, it can be tempting to stick with it for the duration. But technology is always evolving and, with it, new opportunities.
We spoke to one leader who isn’t afraid to experiment with new technology when it comes to improving business processes and products.
While some of the technology in this case study is quite niche and industry specific, it demonstrates how beneficial it can be for leaders to keep abreast with the latest developments in technology – and the positive impact an experimental approach can have.
New technology enables growth
A curious approach to adopting technology has been essential to growth for EcoCooling. By incorporating the latest technologies, the evaporative cooler manufacturer has expanded by 150-200 per cent year-on-year for the last ten years.
From humble beginnings importing coolers from China and tweaking components for the European industrial market, the business now services data centres and supercomputer networks with coolers that are designed and manufactured in the UK.
“By employing enabling technologies, we’ve gone from cooling simple buildings to data centres in less than ten years,” said Alan Beresford, managing director of EcoCooling.
Expand into new markets with technology
Not being afraid to employ new technologies has meant EcoCooling has been able to expand into several new markets.
The company’s first tech innovation was incorporating controls which use temperature and other sensors and perform processes to make fans run at the right speed according to the desired temperature.
A few years later, the company adopted additional technology that made these same coolers work more effectively. Now, multi-touch-enabled control panels have data-logging capabilities and can be controlled remotely via mobile technology.
For both innovations, the team learned to write the software which controlled them. Much of the basic software can be downloaded for free online, Alan said.
“How can I add value to a basic cooler? Control it better. Make it think better. So, you download some free software, buy [new tech] for a few hundred pounds, and suddenly you’ve got a cooler with an automatic control system. Innovation is all about joining technologies together,” he said.
As the products became more advanced, EcoCooling expanded into more sophisticated markets. Within a few years, the company went from cooling factories to pharmaceutical warehouses and data centres.
“Innovation is all about joining technologies together.”
Alan Beresford, managing director, EcoCooling
Use technology to bring manufacturing home
The next leap forward came when EcoCooling decided to stop importing coolers and set a goal of designing and manufacturing all of its products in the UK.
To achieve this, the company incorporated computer aided design (CAD) software and computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines into its design and manufacturing processes.
“Using SolidWorks software, we were able to design our own coolers, which are roughly twice the size of a vending machine, in full 3D. SolidWorks then converts all the bendy bits of metal into a flat sheet. This then goes into the CNC machine and all the components come back ready to fit together without having to cut any metal or drill any holes,” Alan said.
Now able to build its own bespoke products, EcoCooling designed a bespoke cooler for British Telecom (BT) to use in its telephone exchanges. It manufactured over 3,000 coolers for BT, ultimately saving the company many millions of pounds a year on their running costs.
The business was then approached by a data centre in the Arctic Circle, which required a cooler that would operate at -40°C where it’s so cold an electrical cable would snap like glass.
“Next, all these cryptocurrency mining companies saw what we were doing and asked us to design coolers for them. Then, because we understand cryptocurrency, which requires very powerful computers, we started supplying coolers for high performance computing businesses doing AI and 3D rendering,” Alan said.
Now the company is turning its attention to the poultry industry. By teaming up with a professor of animal welfare from Oxford University, leading veterinary groups and construction experts, the company is set to build a chicken shed with a revolutionary cooling system to improve the welfare and productivity of birds.
“I’m constantly looking at new technology to improve business processes and the products we make. We spend a lot of money on research and development. Adopting technology has been essential to our growth. My advice to business leaders is only work with technology that you understand. Finally, test, test and test again,” Alan said.
location: South East (England)
business size: 10-49 People
business type: Manufacturing
Top three takeaways
Incorporating technology into your products paves the way for expansion into new and more sophisticated markets.
Adopting the latest technology into your business processes can boost productivity and enable you to create bespoke products that are more innovative.
Dedicate time to keeping up-to-date with technology and test new innovations hard. However, only work with technology that you properly understand.