Design outsourcing: Symphony Services has grown by harmonizing with client needs
Leaner staffs undoubtedly will cause manufacturers to do more outsourcing of manufacturing and product design tasks, even when the economy rebounds. In selecting companies for these jobs, however, manufacturers are likely to be looking for companies they can view as true business partners, rather than mere suppliers.
This will be especially important when it comes to product design, which is where manufacturers develop the innovative ideas that differentiate them from the competition.
Gordon Brooks, CEO, of Symphony Services , says an ability to “deliver value to clients” has propelled that Palo Alto, Calif.-based outsourcing firm to “an above industry [average] rate of growth” and fueled plans for its expansion into India and China.
“With more than 35 new clients in 2008, and 41 percent year-over-year revenue growth, we are building for our future,” Brook says. “To continue this trajectory, expansion of our development facilities has become an integral part of our growth strategy in India and China.”
In addition to geographic expansion, Symphony Services is adding to the menu of services its offers. The company, founded in 2002, started out providing embedded software that controls its clients’ products. A major success story is BigBelly Solar , a Needham, Mass.-based manufacturer of solar-powered trash compacting receptacles.
BigBelly—which sells its products to cities, schools, park districts, and businesses—already had differentiated itself in the market by offering receptacles with two distinct features:
• The ability to compact trash, meaning they hold five times as much as traditional receptacles; and
• They operate completely on solar power, eliminating the need for electricity.
Symphony Services developed a wireless monitoring application called CLEAN (Collection Logistics Efficiency and Notification) that allows for connecting all BigBelly receptacles in a given area to central database so clients can determine exactly when individual receptacles need to be emptied or otherwise serviced.
“As our compaction system continued to gain traction in the marketplace, we believed it was imperative to engineer even greater intelligence into each system to enhance both the cost-savings and environmental impact our systems can make,” says Jim Poss, CEO, BigBelly Solar. “The Symphony team brought an appreciation for—and professional approach toward—product development that we needed to take our products to the next level. They were very thorough in their assessment of our needs—even before the work began—and developed a differentiated product vision and a resulting technology that will greatly help us expand our business.”
The CLEAN system uses standard text messaging technology to send status information from the receptacles to the central database. Symphony Services also built an interface to Google Maps that allows customers to save time and money buy mapping out the most efficient routes when going out to service the receptacles.
As part of its growth strategy, Symphony Services recently began designing discrete products—primarily components for automotive and aerospace companies.
“We still develop embedded software for clients, but we also now can design high-level deliverables such as wings and propellers for aerospace clients,” says Alok Sinha, a senior VP with Symphony Services. “For instance, we do the design and analysis of parts like aircraft wings that involves 300 to 400 design experiments.”
The company’s first manufacturing engineering services client was CeBeNetwork , Bremen, Germany. A Voith Industrial Services company, CeBeNetwork is a tier one supplier to aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus .
“As shifted some operations to India, CeBeNetwork originally planned to build its own facility there as well,” Sinha says. “In the end, however, leadership decided to partner with Symphony Services in India instead, leveraging our facility and presence.”
Symphony Services will work as an extended enterprise of CeBeNetwork’s European-based team of technical engineers, and will build intellectual property to be owned by CeBeNetwork over the course of the companies’ multi-year contract. The scope of Symphony’s work covers aerodynamic data analysis, load analysis, mass properties (weight and balance assessment), computational flow dynamics (CFD) analysis, and simulation, says Sinha.
– Jim Fulcher, contributing editor, www.mbtmag.com