1115 Cottonwood Ave., Hartland
Industry: Touch-screen displays and controls for industrial, marine, fitness, banking, retail, military and other applications
Touch-screen displays and controls have become increasingly commonplace in recent years – showing up in applications such as ATMs, medical equipment, computerized mapping systems, fitness equipment and manufacturing and industrial machinery.
While the applications that use touch-screen controls can vary widely, they all share common elements – a controlling computer that is matched with a flat panel screen.
Hartland-based EmbedTek specializes in touch-screen control systems, and designs and builds controls used in applications as diverse as marine navigation, retail kiosks, high-end exercise equipment, automated dairies, and medical devices like MRI scanners. The company is also now beginning to do some military contracting.
All of the control and touch-screen systems that EmbeTek makes share common features – but each system is designed for its unique application. Systems that are used in the marine environment must be water-tight and resistant to saltwater, those used in dairy processing need to be stainless steel and watertight, and ATMs that are placed outside need to withstand the elements.
“Marine navigation systems need to have water tight seals,” said Kent Tabor, president and principal of the company. “Dairy automation (controls) need to be sealed from all types of material so they can handle pressure washing.”
All of the systems that EmbedTek sells are designed and built to order. The company’s engineers and programmers are able to design custom software programs for customers that need them, or to create applications that interface with existing or off-the-shelf software.
“We have done full turnkey software, but our customers, lots of times, will write their own software,” Tabor said. “We’ll do the apps.”
Because virtually every order is custom-designed and built, and frequently involves some sort of software or application design or integration, most projects require significant research and development, said Dan Aicher, chief operating officer and principal of EmbedTek.
“With our design cycle, it’s a good year-long process from the time of a handshake to being ready to ship (finished product),” he said. “We do the design, engineering, validation and the managing of the supply chain.”
Supply chain management becomes critical for military-related orders because of the need to ensure that each piece of equipment produced for an order contains exactly the same components and software for a lengthy period of time, Tabor said.
“Our customers are looking for a three- to five-year period where we won’t change anything,” he said. “In the field is where there’s an importance of consistency and longevity of components. You can’t deploy a (software) update to the field.”
EmbedTek was founded in 2003 by Tabor, who started Granite Microsystems in the mid-1980s. In January of this year, Aicher and two other senior managers joined the firm. The three new managers also became investors in the firm at the time.
EmbedTek saw solid growth this year and expects large increases in the next few years. The company began the year with 10 employees. Today it has 18.
“This has been a significant year of investment,” Aicher said. “We’ve won (contracts) worth $7 million in revenue, but they won’t show up this year.”
Because of the lengthy design process, EmbedTek expects about $1 million in revenue for 2010. However, the company anticipates between $6 million and $10 million in revenue for 2011, and roughly $20 million for 2012.
“Our goal is to make this a $40 million to $50 million business in the next five years,” Aicher said.
Aicher and Tabor believe EmbedTek will have about 30 employees by the end of 2011.
Aicher and the two other managers and investors who joined EmbedTek in early 2010 formerly worked at Dedicated Computing, a Waukesha-based builder of single-purpose computers for industrial and commercial customers. Dedicated Computing has more than 200 employees and has $120 million to $140 million in annual sales, Aicher said.
“We (the management team) have a clear understanding of how to get from A to B, and we’re investing significantly to get there,” he said.