OxTS is passionate and committed to driving innovation in inertial navigation. We’re continuously pushing boundaries and challenging technology to deliver highly accurate, reliable solutions so that our customers can measure with confidence. We are the proud and trusted technology partner for industry bodies, large manufacturers, established system developers, service providers, and innovative start-ups, globally. Brendan Watts has been directing OxTS’ passion, vision and values since creating the Company in 1998. He shares his thoughts in our ‘Meet the Team’ interview below:
1. What drove you to create OxTS?
My interest in new, interesting, technology drove me to create OxTS. I wanted to develop a reliable, commercial inertial navigation product, aided by GPS, and explore markets that would benefit from this new and exciting technology. In the late 1990’s inertial navigation remained expensive. GPS was showing promise for position. Position, velocity and orientation, with inherent reliability, at a high data rate, could be achieved by combining inexpensive inertial sensors and GPS. Several academic papers proposed algorithms but no commercial realisations using low-cost sensors existed. As an inquisitive engineer I wanted to be first to get a useful product to market.
2. What are the most significant changes you have experienced during the 23 years since you founded the Company?
I had to change and adapt all the time while growing the company. Initially I was designing electronics, writing software and making metalwork drawings. Once the prototype was developed and working my role changed to showing customers and listening to their concerns. We responded to customer feedback on the first product we launched by developing the RT3000, which has stood the test of time and will become 20 years old in 2022.
Once launched, I had to set up international distribution, and engage and train our channel partners while continuing to gather accurate customer feedback. We grew from one-off prototypes to reliable documented quality-assured production as volumes increased. As the company expanded, we developed a management team to run OxTS. Now I am a non-executive director, helping our competent management team run and grow.
3. Please can you describe a typical day in your role as a Director of OxTS?
As a non-executive director, I don’t have daily tasks. I attend the board meetings and ensure that the management team is operating in the interests of the customers, employees, suppliers and shareholder. We review the goals, strategy and plans for the business.
4. Which of the projects you’ve been involved with so far has been the most satisfying and why?
Wow! There have been so many, and all satisfying. Hitting a great formula with the RT3000 is probably the most satisfying. The RT3000 has had many upgrades and improvements, but if you had a 20 year-old version, you would still be able to use it for many automotive tests. Other interesting projects include contributing to the path-following robot with AB Dynamics, producing the first RT-Range from Volvo’s detailed specification and watching our NAVsuite post-processing software improvements become more attractive for survey applications. At heart, I’m a technology person, so seeing customers use our products, understanding and solving their problems, is most satisfying.
5. What’s been your greatest challenge at OxTS, and how have you overcome this?
Founding a business has so many challenges and not too many people are lucky enough to manage to bring new technology to a new market. This has obvious challenges such as overcoming customer scepticism, as back when we started many didn’t believe that aiding an inertial navigation system with GPS would lead to better results, but we managed it.
Other challenges include ensuring finances are always secure, and developing the technology to work. Transitioning a micro business to a medium-sized business entails training and developing a new team, and as a founder, realising when a strong management team is ready to lead the business.
6. How would you describe the OxTS company culture?
I know what I want the culture to be: fair and efficient. As I keep telling my children, there is no such thing as ‘fair’, but we all know what we mean. We can strive to ensure everyone is treated equally, justly, has appropriate reward, opportunities, etc. Fairness should be applied to all our stakeholders: customers, employees, suppliers, and even our competitors. Efficient, or maybe minimising waste, seems to be something that all humanity should aim for. Efficient with our time, efficient with our resources and, of course, efficient with time and resources of the people we interact with. We want to make sure our customers and suppliers can be efficient with us too. A great way to efficiency is ‘right first time’ and we love our products to always deliver.
7. What’s one thing you’re learning now, and why is it important?
For me, learning to keep quiet and let the team continue to do a fantastic job is important. They have been developing themselves into very capable people over the last 10 years and are more than capable of arriving at brilliant solutions without my daily help.
8. What are your work-related goals for the next 12 months?
As a non-executive director, I no longer have work-related goals. OxTS has to continue to supply and service quality products to our current customers and invest in the products, markets and customers of the future. Our strategy is to increase the size of our teams so we can continue to satisfy our current customers while dedicating as much as 50% of our work on innovation. We have achieved much, but OxTS has ambitious goals for the next 12 months and beyond.
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