In January 2018, I started Elements Technology, with no background in manufacturing, and no ability to code or create any form of software product. In fact, the first time I’d stepped foot in a factory was just a few months earlier. To most that would seem absolutely bonkers.
Whilst working in wearable technology as a biomechanics consultant for a global sportswear manufacturer, I had started looking at whether the textile-integrated technologies we had been developing could be used to capture human movement in other industries like High Value Manufacturing, so arranged to visit Laing O’Rourke, Bentley and Rolls Royce to understand the market opportunity.
As I researched the area and read about Industry 4.0, I spotted a potential gap for the use of consumer technologies like mobile phones to provide a cost-effective and intuitive alternative to the existing Industry 4.0 solutions. So, I decided to take the money I’d saved up for a deposit on my first home, and put it all on black, creating Elements Technology as a company that would transform off-the-shelf consumer technologies into simple and intuitive tools to improve health and safety in manufacturing.
Less than two months after starting the company, I took part in the Digital Catapult Hack and Pitch at the Industry 4.0 Summit in Manchester. The challenge was to present novel solutions to Rolls Royce that could help them to reduce waste in the manufacturing process. Amongst a host of AI and Machine Learning based solutions, I presented the idea of capturing the manufacturing process by using a simple mobile app and contactless technology to track orders (using a similar method to bar code or RFID based tracking), and then using this mass of captured data to identify the root cause of the problem, enabling Rolls Royce to improve their manufacturing processes and reduce waste….and I won. After less than two months Elements Technology was now the winner of the Digital Catapult Hack and Pitch and the owner of a Rolls Royce Innovation Award.
Following this, the company underwent a series of pivots including major changes to a focus on order tracking and SME manufacturers, and most crucially, I brought in a technical co-founder in the shape of Dr. Peter Harding, an international expert in Machine Learning and Mathematics. The first year of Elements was spent learning the industry, touring the country meeting manufacturers and manufacturing organisations, making sure that we had a product that solved real problems for manufacturers. All of this experience culminating in us successfully raising of £250k from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund in November 2018, to bring the product idea to market.
Less than six months later, we released the first version of our product, Elements Docket, a simple way to track production using contactless technology, digitising orders and providing work-in-progress to staff across a company. A product that went way beyond my original plans, and with so much room to grow.
And less than a year after that (and only two years since the Hack and Pitch) we announced in February 2020, our first foray into using the data captured by Docket, providing SMEs with not only work-in-progress but also providing them with information on how to improve their production. The very idea that was spawned at the Hack and Pitch just two years previously…