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30 Fabulous Companies of the Year 2020

Rick Schweet, Kinetic Vision Founder and CEO: ‘We Know Machine Learning is Going to Influence Every Part of Our Personal Lives and Every Business Process, and we’re Going to be a Leader in that Revolution’

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“Our initial service offering was modeling and simulation of products and machinery, but today we’re a leading technology R&D company for 50 of the Fortune 500 companies.”

There are a myriad of companies that design new products, develop software and mobile apps, provide product engineering and simulation services, create augmented and virtual reality experiences, perform industrial scanning, or develop AI and machine learning systems - but are there companies that do all those things? Only one that we know of, and that’s Kinetic Vision.

Kinetic Vision is a leading research and development firm that integrates advanced technologies to accelerate product innovation within a broad array of industries, including medical, consumer electronics, transportation, aerospace, and consumer packaged goods. The company is an industry leader in multiple categories, including smart product and medical device development, packaging innovation, product quality engineering, software /app development, machine learning and synthetic training data, AR/VR/XR, and visual communication. Kinetic Vision’s breadth of expertise, powered by a full suite of software and hardware tools, enables them to meet complex R&D challenges with an efficient concept-to-production solution.

The company was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In Conversation with Rick Schweet, Kinetic Vision CEO

What was the reason behind the genesis of Kinetic Vision?

Kinetic Vision was started as a one-person consulting firm performing product modeling and simulation on a desktop personal computer. The project was a vibration simulation of airborne electronic equipment; its success convinced me that I could make my consulting business viable.

On what basis is your company’s business model built?

Our business success is based on three pillars: Quality, Timeliness, and Value. Most of our clients are “customers for life.” They know they can bring us tough problems that only we can solve, and those problems pushed us to become experts in many areas. It’s a continual process of adaptation and creation of new technologies to meet their needs.

What challenges did you face in your initial years?

I am a mechanical engineer by training, and the biggest problem I faced growing the company was my lack of a business background or education. I had to learn the basics of sales, marketing, accounting, finance, human resources, operations, etc. “on the job”, and that’s not the best way to do it. My advice to anyone starting a business: take basic courses in these areas early on if you plan to grow your business.

Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?

We’ve been honored to be selected as a ‘Top Workplace by Enquirer Media’ for six years in a row. That designation comes from a comprehensive, anonymous survey of our employees every year which compares us to other regional businesses of our size. We’re fortunate to have been selected every year we’ve entered, and we’re very proud of that. However, we understand that social and cultural shifts occur over time, and we need to be cognizant of those changes and adapt accordingly.

If you have to list five factors that have been/are the biggest assets to your organization, what would they be?

  • We hire only the brightest and best and they stay with us. Our annual employee turnover rate is 1-2%, which is very low for a high-tech company. We attribute this to our competitive pay and benefits, custom facilities, and excellent “work-life”: numerous company events, sports teams, clubs, summer half-day Fridays, food trucks, company cookouts, and other employee perks that make life at Kinetic Vision more than just completing customer projects.
  • Our executive management team hasn’t changed in over 15 years and our middle management has been intact for 10 years. That stability permeates throughout the company and drives our consistent quality and customer service.
  • The development of the “smart” products of today requires expertise in many different areas: design, engineering, embedded hardware, software/app development, prototype development, and even machine learning. There was a time where a new product could be developed using a few skill disciplines, now 4-7 are required. We haven’t found another company that has all these skills under one roof like we do, and that results in significant time and cost savings for our customers.
  • We’ve built three custom buildings totaling 28,000 square feet that were designed specifically for us. They not only provide the functionality we need for effective collaboration, but also the comfortable, high-tech environment our team members desire.
  • We are continually absorbing and integrating the latest technologies into our work, whether it is IoT, 3D printing, AR and VR, mobile computing, real-time simulation, or machine learning. That keeps us on the cutting-edge of technology, and we pass that knowledge and expertise on to our customers.

What makes your company stand out from the competition?

Our company has been built by creating innovative products and cutting-edge technologies for major companies for over 30 years, and valuing every relationship as if it was brand new. Start-ups get much of the media attention, but the reality is that 75 percent of them fail within five years. Our stability allows us to form synergistic long-term relationships that bring lasting value to our customers.

Do you have any new products ready to be/getting ready to be launched?

Yes, we are currently creating a virtual development platform for machine learning called aiVisionTM. It’s a concept similar to Waymo’s Carcraft or Nvidia’s DRIVE, but for the broader, non-autonomous vehicle market. We know AI is going to influence every facet of business but having enough of the right data to train these systems is the main roadblock to success; aiVision removes this roadblock by augmenting or totally replacing the physical training data.

Where do you see your company a couple of years from now?

We’ve had over 30 years of sustained growth. During that time, we’ve seen major technological changes like the rise of desktop computing, the internet, email, social media, mobile/cloud computing, AR/VR, and now AI. We know machine learning is going to influence every part of our personal lives and every business process, and we are going to be a leader in that revolution.

Behind the Success of Kinetic Vision

Rick Schweet, Founder, President, and CEO of  Kinetic Vision, started the company as a one-person consulting firm in 1985. With the addition of his first employee, he incorporated and moved to a 300 square foot office three years later. The company’s initial service offering was modeling and simulation of products and machinery, but today it is a leading technology R&D provider for 50 of the Fortune 500 companies and has grown to 170 employees.

“We change lives by developing great people and great products that, in turn, create great experiences.”