Business intelligence tools developed internally have the potential to be commercialised which justifies the cost of producing those tools from scratch, says Marc Michel, BCS general manager of services. The Auckland-based firm manufactures and services baggage handling and logistics automation systems throughout the Asia Pacific. It operates and maintains airport baggage systems in all the major Australian airports except Adelaide. In 2008 BCS and FKL Logistics were selected to build Courier Post’s $50 million automated sorting centre in Highbrook.
This year, BCS forecasts $76 million in revenue.
From the late 1990s, BCS started developing a 3D simulation program to test its conveyor designs and visualise installations for its customers. What started as a simple computer aided design (CAD) tool grew into a system that could virtually commission 80 percent of an installation before construction ever begins, says Michel.
“To start with it was purely an in house engineering tool. Engineers tend to be very product focused. They looked at this tool and thought ‘how can this help me deliver my product’”, he says.
“My background is entirely commercial and I identified quickly that this was a fabulous sales tool.”
One of Michel’s first goals when he took up his role at BCS in 2007 was to commercialise this decade-old intellectual property. In 2010, BCS launched the first part of the program called Sym3 which dealt with the project implementation and commissioning of conveyor systems. With funding from what was then the Ministry of Science and Innovation, BCS has accelerated the development of the software to a point it can be sold commercially from 2013.
To make it more commercially appealing, Michel says further developments had to be made. By 2013 Sym3 will be able to design conveyor systems through a 3D modelling tool, and once installation is completed use the same program to monitor and operate the working baggage control system.
Michel says that working on mobile apps that connect to the system and further 3D display tools for baggage controllers has been a large part of recent development work.
WIth airports in Asia developing new terminals to cope with passenger demand, Michel says Sym3 has the potential to provide a large part of the company’s future revenue,
Michel says companies need to be open to diversifying their offerings to stay competitive in a financially unstable environment, and commercialising internally used-IP is one way to achieve this.
“A lot of Kiwi companies just don’t recognise the value of the IP that they have built up,” says Michel. “Why not take advantage of the work you’ve already done?”
Michel says there has already been interest in Sym3, including from competitors. He says he is not worried about giving competitors an advantage, but will monitor the situation as it unfolds.
“We will work with our competitors on a case by case basis,” he says.
Sim Ahmed (@simantics) is a reporter for CIO New Zealand.
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