The Silicon Review
In the digital world we live in, various things like misinformation and misconceptions are running rampant. Many products falsely claim to have certain specifications or characteristics and mislead consumers. For example, when a product is promoted as “rugged,” does it highlight the durability? Does it mean that it can endure harsh conditions? Or does it mean that the product is exclusive for certain workers in the field? Such questions have surrounded the rugged device industry since its inception. From extreme environments to uneven temperatures and back to the workplace again, rugged mobility devices are built robustly from inside out to endure hazards that consumer devices can’t stand a chance.
Globally, there are firms delivering excellent rugged devices, but Winmate Inc. stands out from the rest. For more than 25 years, Winmate Inc. has been the global leader in developing advanced rugged, mobile technologies for industries operating in the most challenging environments. These include warehouse/ logistics, Infrastructure, Healthcare, Automotive Industry, Marine, Military, Food & Chemical Industry, and Industry Automation.
In conversation with Ken Lu, CEO of Winmate Inc.
Q. Which market are you targeting now?
Winmate is at the forefront of the global mega-trend towards Enterprise Mobility. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we realized the need to embrace digital transformation to remain competitive. But now, with the accelerating pace, we expect the growing demand for mobility to continue even in the post-pandemic world due to the rising trend of Industry 4.0, Edge Computing, and intelligent manufacturing. Our products help clients to accelerate the process of rolling out these advanced technologies across their global operations.
Industries such as public utilities, mining, and energy are some of the earliest adopters of Enterprise Mobility solutions due to their widely dispersed workforce. These industries pose high-risk work environments, putting higher demands on the durability of mobile devices. Over the past decade, rugged tablets have become indispensable tools to these early adopters and have been the critical tool enabling Enterprise Mobility. Those behind the curve players are now investing heavily to catch up. We can and will supply their needs. We already have a complete line of rugged tablet PCs designed to withstand the harshest challenges of these operating environments, such as hard knocks, frequent drops, extreme high and low temperatures, moisture, dust, and even explosions.
At the same time, the demand for fixed devices such as rugged screen displays and embedded computers are starting to shift to rugged tablets and rugged notebooks. We believe that the sturdy tablet market will show double-digit annual growth, doubling in size over the next five years. With the combined momentum of this trend towards Enterprise Mobility and continued market share gains, we believe we can achieve top-line growth of 20-30% per year. Focusing on police and firefighter, the public safety industry will highlight Winmate’s 2022 target market. Besides providing rugged devices, we also aimed to offer a new way to communicate between analog and digital signals.
Q. What products will Winmate launch soon?
Winmate is a leading global provider of professional rugged computing technologies and solutions. With our industry-leading technologies and innovation capabilities, Winmate is committed to innovating and building trustworthy, intelligent, and integrated communication solutions for our users. At this year’s Global Industrial Summit, you will discover how Winmate’s innovative rugged solution enables public safety and various industries. Such as oil & gas, defense, and IIoT to achieve more with mobility, cloud services, and high-traffic data transmission. Winmate will also showcase the latest digital communication devices and solutions, such as multi-mode advanced radios, Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC), along with other products and applications for mission-critical users.
Q. Winmate has been developing advanced rugged mobile technologies for various industries ranging from healthcare to automation. How does Winmate provide products customization for all of those industries?
Most of Taiwan’s industrial computer manufacturers are ODM producers, and they are accustomed to following the lead of their customers. The ODM market is extremely competitive in pricing, yet it is not as demanding as the brand market regarding the management and engineering team. We constantly challenge staying in touch with trends and market demand as branded players by defining and creating new market segments. From the beginning, we were not satisfied with simply producing on an ODM basis. We focus on the needs of our end-market customers, searching out, and identifying key market segments. Through our intensive product design and development efforts, we have accumulated the ability to be responsive to the needs of these specific niche markets. As a result, we have a complete ‘library’ of rugged tablet solutions, which leads many customers to use our existing product solutions, saving them 18-24 months in development and certification time.
Winmate understands the need for ruggedness and uninterrupted productivity when operating in challenging environments. Our rugged, mobile tablets, handhelds, and fixed-mount displays increase operational efficiencies, integrate seamlessly into enterprise, and deliver low-cost reliability for data collection and communications.
Whether tracking a fleet, mapping a mine, or monitoring equipment and production, Winmate provides various rugged form factors with vast connectivity options, data collection, and management. We began our journey as product managers. So, when developing new products, our starting point is always the product applications. We learned about our end customers’ deepest needs by understanding the application’s demands. Moreover, we do not 100% rely on the distributors to provide industry knowledge. Instead, we visit the end customers with the distributors to fully grasp the relevant industry trends and understand end-market applications. As a result, we became adept at understanding the demands of each specific application.
Another must-have capability for rugged tablet manufacturers is successfully navigating the product certification process. As rugged products are used in various industries and often in demanding environments, they must be waterproof, dustproof, shock-proof, and even explosion-proof. In addition, they must have stable operation characteristics under adverse conditions. It causes the certification process to become complex and requires a significant up-front investment in R&D, testing equipment, and the experiences to meet the criteria. This is a challenging entry barrier for new entrants, so only a very few companies have developed these capabilities. It has been almost three decades for Winmate to invest in design and experience to navigate the multiple industry certification processes successfully. Two vital enabling factors of our industry-leading time-to-market product development capability are a certified laboratory and a self-developed testing system in our production facility. This allows our R&D and manufacturing engineers to test and debug new product prototypes in-house instead of outsourcing them to third-party labs, immensely shortening the new product development timeline. Additionally, we have a global presence and an international team. Our sales and service staff in the US, China, Germany, and Italy are hired locally and have extensive engineering and field application experience.
Q. What are your plans for the years ahead on defense tech and Public Safety solutions?
While Winmate is very happy with its success in the rugged tablet market over the past several years, the company’s missions do not end there. We have established a firm foothold in the rugged tablet market and have strong product solutions for the key demand segments. Next, we are targeting the rugged laptop market. Much like the rugged tablet market, the rugged laptop market has an oligopolistic structure with high barriers to entry. We understand this market and already have the technical know-how necessary to succeed. Our capabilities include laptop casing exterior design, heat dissipation expertise, and structural design for interior components, as well as product testing and certification expertise. We are excited about our prospects for success in the rugged laptop market and expect rugged laptops to contribute to revenue growth within the next 24 months while becoming a long-term sustainable driver of revenue growth. In addition, with our most recent acquisition of Maxkit Tech, a strong business in professional communications technologies and video cloud service solutions, we aim to provide faster, safer, and more versatile connectivity for enterprise and mission-critical users. The outlook for the remainder of the year is bright. The new team in our HQ will provide more opportunities to “help customers operate better” and contribute to our positive growth for 2022.