Strength of interaction

As its global blue chip clients look to roll out digital systems across the world, Evoke’s goal to become a leading supplier of interactive digital solutions looks set to become a reality

With over 30 years in multisector product design there is no doubt that Evoke has the expertise behind it to design cutting edge and fit-for-purpose consumer products. The company experienced a management buyout in 2003 and four years later, amidst growing pressure in the UK market, a unique opportunity to diversify and refocus the business came about. “A normal design brief came our way from a company in Manchester looking for a self-service library kiosk,” explains Technical Director, Dean Ward. “Chinese manufacturing and low costs were taking over and we had to look at other ways of diversifying, keeping afloat and exploiting new avenues. We took the brief and decided that we could manufacture the product as well. From this point on, we set up as a design and manufacturer and eventually dropped our traditional design consultancy services to focus purely on interactive kiosks and digital solutions including signage and video walls.”

From a team of six in 2007, the company has now grown to almost 50 people and in 2015 drove sales growth of 70 per cent, thanks to major contracts with blue chip customers like McDonald’s and JD Sports. “The digital market is very challenging and moves incredibly rapidly with new technologies and innovations entering the sector all the time,” Dean says. “However, by bringing our breadth of design expertise to the table we are well suited to help customers come up with bespoke solutions. We sit down with customers like JD Sports, McDonald’s, Debenhams or Travelodge, who want to integrate unique digital solutions into their services, and we work from a blank canvas to make sure we can deliver this. It’s about understanding their brand, their customers’ needs and the experience they’re trying to offer, and then ensuring that we can align with that.”

Evoke’s size and structure have proven to play key roles in the success of the company over recent years. Steady growth has seen the business bring more and more talent into the organisation and now many of the skills required are held in-house. “We have designers, engineers, fabricators, software developers, assembly staff, support and installation engineers and so on,” outlines Dean. “Essentially, we are now at a point where we can manage the whole process very efficiently and this has born a great agility to turn things around very quickly. Where we are able to compete with major corporations is in our ability to react and turn around prototypes or upgrades in a matter of days. This is something that our major customers hold in high regard.”

Having a lean and highly flexible manufacturing facility has also helped to support this core strength. Evoke has moved several times to keep up with increased demand, but its own state-of-the-art production scheduling system affords it the visibility to assign projects in a lean and efficient process. Regular training and support is given to employees to ensure that workspaces remain as flexible as possible, as products from tablet-sized systems to five-metre video walls are assembled. Also contributing towards a lean manufacturing process is a strong supplier network of fabricators and engineering services. “Out-sourcing these services means that we don’t have our own machinery sitting around doing nothing when they’re not needed,” Dean points out. “This allows us to remain flexible and our supply partners bring a whole range of specialities to what we can achieve.”

Being able to perform with such flexibility is essential for Evoke in serving its customers in the best possible way. “Many of our customers are highly innovative, they are ahead of the curve and they want to be using the latest technology to remain a leader in their market,” says Dean. “They expect the same from us so it is vital that we can stay tuned in to the key technology trends in the market and understand the changing needs of their customers. Offering a digital experience in store is becoming a new way of attracting people into stores. It is allowing shops, hotels, restaurants, and so on, to become more lean, to scale down their operations into a smaller footprint, but still offer a wider range of products and services to their customers. There are lots of opportunities for technology to develop this interaction and we need to be able to remain at the leading edge in helping people adopt it.”

The last 18 months for Evoke have seen it do just that. A key contract with McDonald’s to design and supply self-service kiosks to its restaurants has arguably been a game changer. “We had to almost double our capacity over night when we won the contract and it has helped us to look internally to strengthen our processes and to build a better business,” Dean continues. “McDonald’s is a fantastic reference to have, and along with our work with JD Sports, which has also taken off over the last 12 months as they expand across Europe, we are now in a great position to offer some really innovative solutions to the market. Another big client, Bibliotheca, a library systems integrator, have just merged with 3M Library systems and are also looking at global implementation, so is another boost in activity for us.”

It truly is a strong position that Evoke has been able to solidify thanks to an array of flexible and cutting edge expertise. Dean remains aware that challenges from ever changing technological innovations will always put pressure on the company, but is confident that by continuing to expand across the world and into different sectors the business will be able to strengthen itself against them. As such, Evoke is targeting continued growth of around 50 to 60 per cent over 2016, which will be supported by continued improvements in its production facilities and internal competencies.

”There are lots of opportunities for a whole range of sectors to adopt digital technology to interact with their customers in new ways,” he concludes. “Going out to attract new customers, whilst continuing to deliver more to existing ones is key, and we will ensure to deliver this by working closely with them and driving even more innovation into the sector.”

Products: Award-winning designer and manufacturer of interactive kiosks and digital systems