Erie company is stoking production
Posted Feb 16, 2020 at 12:35 AM
Updated Feb 21, 2020 at 7:19 AM “If you’re going to throw the dice on someone, it’s going to be (Duane Clement).” -- Liz Wilson, Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Duane Clement founded Data Inventions six years ago to help manufacturers quickly collect and use data to improve operations.
The company is based in the ninth-floor Radius CoWork area of the Renaissance Centre at 10th and State streets in Erie.
Its software helps industrial machines and systems to talk to each other and to managers in real time.
In manufacturing, success boils down to labor time, machine time and the number of parts made, Clement said. Most companies have invested heavily in technology and data but get inaccurate data or get it too late to make meaningful corrections, he said.
“For these companies, time really is money,” Clement said. “We become the system to track the data that they need in real time.”
In mid-sized shops, one person often works on multiple machines and on multiple parts in one day, clocking in and out, checking order information, reporting a machine down and more — sometimes on a computer located across the shop floor, Clement said.
“One guy was walking three miles in a day to and from the computer,” he said.
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Tablet computers mounted on the machines now allow operators to record their time and to periodically report the number of parts made, when the machine is down and other information using Data Inventions software.
Bringing the tablets to the machines alone has saved one company an estimated $70,000 a year in employee and machine down time, Clement said.
Further, shop mangers can see on their program dashboards when a machine is down, when a part is awaiting quality control inspection and other production details.
“Our software applications allow companies to connect information from machines in real time, get it management to make real-time decisions and increase production, often over 20 percent, within 90 days,” Clement said.
For its flagship customer, Industrial Sales and Manufacturing on West 12th Street in Millcreek Township, even a 10-percent production increase would translate to an additional $750,000 a year, Clement said.
And some shops can increase production by as much as 40 percent, Clement said.
Clement is a Dunkirk, New York, native who returned to the region about 15 years ago to raise his family after a management career with Proctor & Gamble and other big-league companies. He founded several of his own companies, including a retail data firm, before launching Data Inventions in 2014.
The retail data firm focused on getting information to front-line workers at KFC, Taco Bell and other Yum Brands restaurants to help them better serve customers.
“I’m actually doing the same thing now only looking at the manufacturing community,” Clement said.
The potential of his manufacturing technology company helped Clement raise about $2.8 million from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, local industry and investors here and beyond Erie.
“Ben Franklin Technology Partners invested in Duane because we saw that a company could spend a half-million dollars for a new machine or use Duane’s product to use what they have more efficiently,” said Liz Wilson, director of marketing and communications for Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a statewide, technology-based economic development initiative.
Clement’s track record as an entrepreneur also encouraged investment, Wilson said.
“In Duane, investors see a successful serial entrepreneur. If you’re going to throw the dice on someone, it’s going to be him,” she said.
Erie investors were attracted by the company being based in Erie, Clement said.
“A lot of local investors are investing because they want Erie to be a place where their kids want to stay and work,” he said.
In the company’s first six years, Clement sank the majority of capital and revenues back into the business and worked with other developers, including Lojic LLC, a spinoff of Acutec Precision Aerospace in Meadville, to incorporate some capabilities without reinventing those wheels.
Data Inventions will go to market with its overall product this month, selling software subscriptions.
“We don’t have to build a sales force to get customers,” Clement said. “And there are close to 50,000 customers we can target.”
The company added three new customers last month and expects to have more than 20 customers by the end of 2020. In five years, Clement projects 800 customers and $30 million in annual sales.
Data Inventions will account for $100 million in economic impact to the region and provide 170 jobs, also within five years, according to an economic impact study.