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Making sense with Industry 4.0 sensors

Matthew Gale, Founder of PolySense Solutions

“Is my equipment working correctly?”

The solution to this problem is what compelled Matthew Gale, Founder and CEO of PolySense Solutions Inc. to create Industry 4.0 technology sensors and software, to help his customers know the answer anywhere, at any time.

Matthew is in the third of four stages of the North Forge Founders Program: Ascent (the incubator stage). His advice to other founders is to “get honest feedback, experiment, and pivot. I think it would really help somebody as they venture into entrepreneurship.” 

“I first started solving simple problems for a company with some basic electronics and software. They just wanted to know if their equipment was still running over the weekend to reduce the cost of employing someone to physically watch the equipment. There’s a lot of stress when you’re running a high-priority project over the weekend, and you don’t know whether the equipment stops on a Friday at midnight until you arrive on Monday morning, only to find nothing productive happened over the weekend. This can be stressful and expensive. So I started solving that problem in a very simple way using a text message.

Then I found the scope just kept increasing.” Matthew explained.

“Customers requested to know when their machine’s temperature got too warm or if we could predict an equipment failure before it happened. They asked if I could track certain things like consumables, inventory, manufacturing waste, etc., so that drove me to produce the sensors and software that we’re using now: they are smarter, more versatile, and able to answer multiple questions. We can teach the sensors what conditions the customer wants to monitor and to tell the end-user. Our customers have peace of mind knowing the health of their machines in real-time.

For example, we have a customer in Ontario who owns Metal 3D printers and they manufacture parts for multiple sectors. Their primary customers are in the medical space, but they would also make stuff for oil and gas customers. They wanted to have visibility of their assets and their facility. Our sensors analyse any equipment and are not OEM (original equipment manufacturer) specific. Our clients can see and visualize the status of their equipment from anywhere at any time. They get peace of mind knowing that they’re receiving alerts for different machine issues. As many alerts as they want – ten different types of machines from ten different manufacturers, all producing whatever is to be produced. We can monitor and have all that in one central hub where they can see the status of their equipment. They can see what it’s doing, when was the last time it was calibrated, what maintenance needs to be done, or what project is working, etc.”

Matthew develops his prototypes at the FabLab in Winnipeg's Historic Exchange District
Matthew develops his prototypes at the FabLab in Winnipeg’s Historic Exchange District

Matthew discussed a common advanced manufacturing pain point, “Measuring powder or metal waste during manufacturing will let you know how much is available to recycle into new products or parts.

I realized there are a lot of these companies that don’t fit the traditional ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution. My customers wanted better visibility of their equipment in their facilities. That was the reason I created PolySense. Our mission is to help organizations leverage Industry 4.0 technologies into their visibility. We combine advanced manufacturing and Industrial IoT (Internet of Things).” 

Building a company in the local SaaS (Software as a Service) environment was different than Matthew expected. “We’re still working on getting more local business, but found the majority of our clients reside in the USA or Eastern Canada.[MG1] 

Establishing our business here in Winnipeg has been super helpful because the mentors here at North Forge have either developed or been at arm’s length from a software company. They’ve had a lot of really great tips on cautions and lessons learned that have helped me to a great extent. Winnipeg is a little big city. Inventors here have a lot of knowledge and a lot of international knowledge to help.”

“Getting a mentor is extremely valuable,” Matthew shared, “just having someone to talk to who has a successful business, who has been in the trenches, and who can help you along the way. Making all the million decisions you have to make is difficult. It’s a crucial thing to have people bounce things off of here at North Forge. It has been huge for me!”

Part of Matthew’s entrepreneurial success is to not only know when to ask for help from his mentors, see opportunities, and pivot, but also to research and learn what he needs to meet his client’s needs. “I’m not a formally trained developer,” Matthew revealed, “I did take some programming. I also completed the Engineering Technology Program at Red River College, but everything else has been self-taught. I am fluent in quite a few different programming languages. I’ve programmed pretty much the entire PolySense application – 20,000 lines of code. Our web application (PolySense One) is a cloud application that is the software that you log into and use. I also programmed all of the hardware and the controllers, with some help from another local business, Valley Prototyping Solutions.”[MG2] 

Matthew utilizes North Forge's co-working space for work and meetings
Matthew utilizes North Forge’s co-working space for work and meetings

Product development, component design, and manufacturing are also done here in Winnipeg. “We make as much as we can from local raw materials and then order components from all over the world to assemble in Winnipeg. I make electronic enclosures and solder circuit boards at the FabLab™. They all have the PolySense logo, a ‘Proudly made in Canada’ logo, a serial and model number. We engrave those four items using the fibre laser at the FabLab,” Matthew stated proudly.

New features and products are created when problems arise for his customers. Matthew’s successful onboarding and continued use by his customers come from “Getting honest feedback from people at every stage. I was having trouble getting solutions to them quickly, I still have a lot of trouble with that” Matthew laughed, “But one thing I’ve learned over time is that perfection is your enemy. I really don’t like to release anything out there that has bugs in it or isn’t polished. I’ve learned that you just have to get it out there and have people using it. I’ve got some great early adopters of our technology who have been really fantastic putting up with all the bugs. They’ll tell you ‘hey, it was doing this, you know I got this error, or it would be great if…’

“If you just sit there and keep trying to anticipate what features your customers are going to use, you won’t bring anything to market. You have to get out there and get them to use it. If you don’t then you take an unreasonable amount of time to develop a feature to finally get it out there and find nobody actually wants to use it. You’ll learn the hard way that they wanted something completely different. Get as much feedback as you can early before you spend too much time polishing it and making it perfect.” 

Matthew Gale, Founder of PolySense Solutions
Matthew Gale, Founder of PolySense Solutions

“It’s a good strategy of ours lately, it wasn’t earlier, and we learned a lot of hard lessons from that.” Matthew shared. “Even just saying things out loud and meeting with my mentors at least every two weeks to just talk about what’s happening. It’s good to get different perspectives where people have done this before who’ll give you honest feedback. This has saved me from quite a few pitfalls. I look back and think of the decisions I probably would have made had I not bounced things off of our customers or mentors. My friends and family are great for sure, but you know they’re probably gonna give you something you want to hear instead of what you need to hear.”

Do you have 10+ years of experience in tech or advanced manufacturing? Would you like to share your knowledge with up-and-coming entrepreneurs? If mentoring piques your interest, let us know and we’ll set up a meeting to discuss how you could help our founders.

Are you an inventor that sees a gap in your industry? Do you have an idea that would solve a problem? We would love to hear from you! Contact our Program and Communications Manager, Krista Kowaluk, or apply online and Krista will contact you to set up a meeting and chat about your business idea. We are excited to hear from you!

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