Enjoying the ride
With an ever-expanding product range and an eye for future innovation, Simworx is able to offer the finest media-based simulation attractions to customers all over the world
Recognized as being a global leader in the supply of 4D Effects Cinemas and Motion Simulation Attractions for the entertainment, education and corporate markets, it has been Manufacturing Today’s pleasure to have documented the activities of UK-based business Simworx in the past. It was at the turn of 2018, to be precise, that we delved into the inner workings of this designer, builder, and installer of media-based attractions, which have been successfully delivered to locations throughout Europe, North America, South America, Asia, New Zealand, and the Middle East, since it was founded in 2005.
In speaking with Simworx’s Chief Operating Officer, Andy Roberts, in late June 2021, our conversation begins with an overview of how the last three-plus years have been for the business. “In the two years to early 2020, we experienced what I think is best described as pretty exponential growth, going from a point where we turned over approximately £10 million in 2017, to reaching close to £20 million in 2019,” Andy details.
What followed in early 2020 was, as we all now know, was the emergence of Covid-19. “With the pandemic spreading around the world, almost every project slowed to a halt virtually overnight, including, of course, our forecast order intake,” Andy continues. “Fortunately, we were able to keep most of our people employed and the business ticking over. Then, towards the tail end of 2020, several of the projects on our order book, which had gone into hibernation, were turned back on by January of this year and we were very much back up and running.
“In the months since, we have managed to secure several new orders for theme parks and, while we are not quite back up to full speed compared to where we were in 2019, more and more projects are also being switched back on. At the same time we have been able to further stimulate efforts in our sales function and, with the momentum we currently have behind us, we aim to have the business back on track with the growth plans we had in place in pre-pandemic times.”
As would have been the case with almost every business across the sector, Covid-19 brought with it significant challenges and changes in how Simworx operated during 2020/2021. The most immediate change involved ensuring its people could work remotely, a move that would help to highlight a number of efficiencies that the business could leverage. Meanwhile, while the factory side of Simworx slowed due to a lack of products to build, the company took the opportunity to embark upon several strategic initiatives in the field of sustainable product development. One particular result of these efforts has seen the company refine and perfect its approach to delivering attractions to smaller venues than those it would historically do so.
“As different regions and countries emerge from lockdowns and restrictions at various paces, it is understandable that businesses are somewhat nervous about investing tens of millions of pounds into things like theme parks,” Andy explains. “What we have seen, however, is the emergence of a lot of smaller venues, especially as retail space and high-street space has been increasingly turned into entertainment venues. We refer to this as our indoor family entertainment (FEC) market, and we have developed a range of products specifically to serve it. This has helped to support the business massively and to keep our supply chain operational, and we are now able to combine these with the bigger build projects that are now re-emerging.”
Geographically, while Western Europe is what Andy describes as being a somewhat saturated marketplace, North America continues to possess what he calls phenomenal growth potential. Meanwhile, the company has also been turning to developing and emerging economies elsewhere, winning contracts in countries such as China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and others that are continuing to spend a great deal of money on theme parks and entertainment attractions. Russia has also become a market of interest for Simworx, with a few projects now in different stages of development in and around Moscow.
No matter where a Simworx project may be taking shape – nor its physical size – the company continues to approach each with the same ‘empty room’ mind-set, where it will develop all the software/hardware from scratch, before working on the design, manufacture and installation of the attraction itself. “It is this philosophy that differentiates us as a business; that and being the only company of our kind to offer a truly turnkey service,” Andy states.
Another characteristic that Simworx has been shown to possess on countless occasions is its desire to innovate and think about how to utilize technology to create the next generation of attractions. “The challenge we presently face,” Andy goes on to note, “is how do we get today’s children and teenagers off their sofas and away from their televisions or computer consoles, and into a theme park or entertainment venue. Our role in this is, clearly, to develop rides and attractions that appeal to them, and up to now a lot of this has been done by connecting these to well-known and popular Intellectual Property, e.g. Marvel superheroes.
“As a way of extending the home experience to the outside world, we are looking at how we integrate a series of games and the way players accumulate points or rewards, and give them the opportunity to continue their virtual progress through the game, but on a large, media-based attraction. What this would mean, essentially, is that a player would be able to register their gaming account with the attraction, battle it out virtually with other players in an immersive environment, and keep any points/rewards that they earn to use later. It is therefore about achieving a level of continuity between a person’s home entertainment and what will appeal to them in the outside world which, we feel, will could be a huge driver of growth in the coming years.”
At the time of writing, Simworx had three projects that it was in the process of closing in the coming weeks, while the second half of 2021 will see it focus on designs ready for manufacture in early-2022. “Clearly our plan for the coming years is to continue to grow the business and, to do that, we need to continue to develop and utilize advances in technology, while also targeting alternative markets wherever possible,” Andy reveals. “One area that we are presently exploring is the corporate world, with one project that we are now developing being all about creating a complete entertainment experience. This takes us away somewhat from our core markets of theme parks and entertainment venues – which will remain our staples – but it is an area that we feel has the potential to deliver considerable future growth, which is very exciting indeed!”
Products: Media-based attractions and simulator rides