Challenge: Guiding clients through the development of new products
Solution: Managing expectations from the outset and making the process manageable
Tim Fogarty is in the business of helping businesses solve problems. The founder of Area52.tech, a product development and automation company based in Moncton, New Brunswick, says his goal is to make customers feel like his team is part of their team.
“We work closely with clients so they feel like we’re their R&D company,” says Tim, who established Area52 two years ago and today has four full-time and two part-time employees.
Much of the work the tech company does is confidential and proprietary, but there are sectors that are turning to the firm for innovative ideas and implementation. One of those is the seafood industry. “The whole seafood sector is ancient in technology compared to other sectors,” says Tim.
One of the reasons for this is the problems the industry faces trying to automate and upgrade. “It’s easier to do automation when the product is consistent,” explains Tim. “A bottle is the same every time; a lobster is not.”
The technology developed by Area52 addresses these changing factors so that efficiency is enhanced. “The whole idea is to save labour,” says Tim. Ultimately, he notes, the use of innovative software and automated processes “translates into higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs in New Brunswick.”
As part of its product development service, Area52 works with clients through four phases. First, there is the proof of concept phase – the least you can spend to find a viable path forward. Next, there is development of a rapid prototype, which advances thinking and development in R&D. The third step involves working with the client to confirm the direction and elements for development.
Finally, there is a minimal viable product. “This is the first time the problem has been solved or a product created,” says Tim. “There will be problems, but the customer still gets payback.”
Understanding the stages is critical to developing a product that works and having a successful client relationship, he adds. “It’s important to break the job down into manageable chunks. Take it one step at a time. You can have small successes.”
Equally important: managing expectations. “There has to be some give and take,” says Tim. “Expectations have to be set from the beginning.”
Partnerships, such as the one with the Government of Canada, are helping Area52 develop new and innovative solutions for a sector that typically embraces tradition. With support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Government of Canada has invested over $280,000 to assist with the commercialization of an automated system for the seafood industry.
Area52 is a prime example of how innovation and resourcefulness fuel Atlantic Canada’s economy, at home and beyond.
For more information on programs and services available to businesses in Atlantic Canada call 1-800-561-7862 or go to www.acoa-apeca.gc.ca
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