In an unusual and forward-thinking move, engineering and manufacturing specialist Tharsus is developing intellectual property for its customers.
Tharsus has developed the technology that sits at the heart of the patent application filed successfully by inventory management systems specialist Propeller GB’s Technology Director Jon Elwell. Whilst Tharsus Technical Director Dave Swan came up with the control mechanism that makes the Pro-Vyda work, legal ownership of the intellectual property and all associated rights have been assigned to Propeller.
Palmer explains the thinking behind the strategy, “We’ve developed a reputation for our expertise in taking a product concept and either developing new technologies or integrating existing techniques to build a fully resolved product ready for manufacture.”
“We would never have looked to develop the solution that underpins the patent application had we not been working with them. They understand their market and are well placed to take advantage of the innovation; we’re not.”
“Our interest is in creating market leading innovation that will help them succeed in their respective marketplaces and in return we benefit from long-term exclusive manufacturing agreements to fulfil the demand as it grows. It’s a real win-win.”
In the case of Propeller, their Pro-Vyda unit is attracting significant attention in the lucrative industrial line-side vending market having been successfully deployed for a number of leading suppliers in the automotive sector.
The unit features a patented drawer mechanism developed by Tharsus which compliments Propeller’s sophisticated software and has been instrumental in turning a ground-breaking concept into a high performance product.
Propeller’s John Elwell was responsible for the original idea, “Our expertise lies in the use of RFID to manage stock and we spotted an opportunity to create a vending unit that allows customers to make substantial savings on maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) spares and consumables.”
“Our relationship with Tharsus makes real economic sense. It allows us to tap into the engineering expertise that we lack, it brings a fresh perspective to help us develop our ideas and we can focus on developing our marketplace without the distraction of setting up our own manufacturing facility.”
“That’s a key factor for investors, as is the fact that we own the patented technology that sits at the heart of the product and will give us even greater traction in the marketplace.”
Tharsus Technical Director, Dave Swan explained how the project resulted in the patent application, “It was clear that Propeller had excellent market knowledge and a fantastic concept. Our role was to identify the technologies that would make it work and also create a product that could be customised during the manufacturing process for the drawers to accommodate almost any type and size of tool or component.”
“The biggest challenge was to create a drawer mechanism that was both automated and safe. By integrating our solution with Propeller’s intelligent software the Pro-Vyda is fully interlocked to prevent inventory being removed incorrectly.”
Tharsus have also developed technology that is currently part of a patent application submitted by fast growing glass recycling expert Ekko.
Alongside their patent application, Ayr-based Ekko are currently in discussion with a major pub and restaurant chain with a view to potential trials of their glass crushing unit that reduces glass waste volume by up to 80% resulting in significant savings for customers.
Brian Williamson, Ekko’s CEO, agrees that there’s a big advantage in working with engineers who bring a fresh perspective, “There were a number of issues with our original prototype that we weren’t in a position to resolve particularly around user safety, operational interlocking and ergonomics.”
“Tharsus also secured coverage in Big Hospitality and as a result we got a call that could accelerate the growth of our business. Working with Tharsus also means that as demand for the glass crusher builds we’ve got our manufacturing strategy in place already and that’s a big advantage.”
Brian Palmer believes that Tharsus are carving a new niche in the contract manufacturing world, “There’s an increasing number of companies offering assembly services who can bolt components together. Where we differ is in our ability to develop fully integrated solutions and resolving the engineering issues that are preventing our customers from taking full advantage of opportunities in their markets.”
“We offer a unique end-to-end design and manufacturing service that vertically integrates design and development capabilities with assembly, material conversion services and supply chain management. It’s the result of our experience in successfully developing, manufacturing and marketing our own product ranges in the outdoor advertising market.”
Tharsus are enjoying success with both spin-outs and start-ups and also market leaders with an international track record, as Palmer explains, “Our approach is ideal for businesses looking to accelerate the journey from concept to market. We’re effectively operating as an outsourced R & D department complimenting in-house expertise in some instances and, in the case of one customer with lease-service business model, we have full responsibility for the product that underpins the delivery of their service.”
2011 saw FW Capital back Propeller with a £750,000 equity investment. Michael Vassallo of FW Capital welcomes the tie-up between the two companies, “FW Capital backed Propeller because it is an ambitious company with a strong focus on innovation. We welcome this tie-up as both companies have a progressive approach to working together and the patented technology developed by Tharsus significantly enhances Propeller’s Pro-Vyda inventory control system.”