“We want to help tech companies to see around the corners” - Dragon Innovation CEO Scott Miller.
Manufacturing a new tech product can be an incredibly complex process. From choosing the right factory and sourcing components to scaling and long-term planning, how a company navigates the various challenges in a hyper-competitive market is often the difference between whether their product ultimately succeeds or fails.
As specialists in providing scalable manufacturing solutions for high volume releases, Dragon Innovation are looking to simplify this process and provide the transparency and expertise needed to help tech companies to make intelligent long term decisions at the production stage.
A mechanical engineer with senior roles at both iRobot and Walt Disney Imagineering on his CV, Dragon’s CEO Scott Miller believes that his company’s grounding in deep manufacturing and hands-on engineering expertise helps to set them apart from the competition.
“There are several companies out there that can help a tech enterprise to get from prototype to production, and then there are other companies that can write planning software around it” he says. “But I don’t know of any other companies that combine deep hardware experience with a world-class software team to the degree that we do.”
An analytical approach
In the ten years that Scott has been running Dragon Innovation, the typical customer has been a tech start-up with a working prototype and a rough bill of materials, looking to figure out how to get through the pre-manufacture stage and into production. Using innovative software tools and project managers with extensive hands-on experience, Dragon can help these companies to think about core issues such as design, trimming, assembly, finding the right factory for manufacture and implementing long-term plans - ultimately guiding them through to high volume production and distribution.
“Our product planning software is really geared towards helping companies to understand the trade-offs of the decisions they make during the product development phase” explains Scott.
More recently, they’ve also been able to work with considerably larger companies on new hardware products. According to Scott, these companies often face similar challenges to independent start-ups in the sense that they may not have a lot of in-house experience creating hardware. What they do have is funding, reach and brand recognition to take a product to market faster and at higher volume - raising the stakes all round.
“These (manufacturing) decisions can really cast a long shadow. A small issue today can turn into a huge problem down the line. Let’s say, for example, a company is choosing a processor for their product. If they happen to pick one that is nearing end-of-life or becomes unavailable, the effect on their ability to deliver on schedule can be devastating.”
“Similarly, if a company is looking at building some sort of housing for their hardware, there’s a decision to make whether to use injection molding or CNC machining. That’s two different technologies with very different capital costs and lead times - all of which are very important factors to consider.”
Many of these potentially make-or-break decisions come down to the Bill of Materials, which is why providing a deep insight into the BoM process is the foundation of Dragon Innovation’s flagship software: Product Planner . In addition to a clear picture of how the BoM will shape a company’s cashflow, the software also offers scenario-planning functionality to help the user to anticipate the consequences of these early decisions and make smart choices for long-term growth and sustainability.
Joining the Avnet Family
In 2017, Dragon Innovation was acquired by Avnet, a partnership which has opened up new doors for the company, allowing them to work in collaboration with partner companies such as Premier Farnell and Hackster.io to significantly expand their offering.
“Coupling the manufacturing chops of Dragon with the reach and distribution of Avnet gives us an opportunity to make a much bigger impact than I believe we ever could have done as a standalone company” explains Scott.
“In addition to our own expertise in helping our customers to navigate the manufacturing process, we can now offer a complete end-to-end solution in a way that no other company is set up to do. At one end, we can now work with companies like Avid and Embest to support product development, and at the other we can leverage Avnet’s supply chain and logistics to deliver the finished product to the customer.”
Looking to the future
Now that Dragon Innovation is fully integrated into the Avnet family, Scott and his colleagues are looking forward to exciting developments in the months to come. These include a number of upcoming projects with major companies, the recent opening of their first permanent European office in Amsterdam and planned appearances at several key industry events including Electronica and CES.
“Our entire team is really energised about the future” says Scott. “We have an excellent pipeline in place that’s going to help us to really ramp up the work we’re doing with larger companies. Now that we’ve built the foundations, we can really focus on growth, development, and continuing to work with some really interesting, innovative customers.”
CEO/Co-founder Dragon Innovation
Scott has been fascinated with hardware since he was old enough to hold a screwdriver. He worked on a robotic tuna fish, life-size robotic dinosaurs for Disney Imagineering, and robotic baby dolls with Hasbro, before joining iRobot where he was responsible for leading the Roomba team to scale the functional prototype to high-volume production of the first three million units.