Many companies may claim that their products and services are changing the world, but it’s rarely true. Only a small handful of innovators are doing something truly special, and Oakville, Ontario’s Javelin Technologies Inc. is one of those companies.
Founded by John Carlan and Ted Lee in 1997, the company offers SolidWorks mechanical and electrical design software and 3-D printers, as well as providing training to companies interested in utilizing these technologies to accomplish their unique goals. Initially, the secret behind their success was sensing that a revolution was coming—one that had 3-D design technologies changing the way that products were conceived and brought to market.
“In certain businesses, there’s inertia and disbelief,” Carlan says. “We were able to build our business on the fact that people underestimated the capabilities of our design and engineering software tools.”
with John Carlan & Ted Lee
1. What does innovation mean to your company?
Ted Lee: “Innovation” is an overused term, but to me it means creativity with implementation. There are many great ideas, but it’s not innovation until it’s implemented.
2. Is there a technology, idea, or trend that’s driving your company forward?
John Carlan: 3-D everything—it’s the next revolution. We want to provide our customers with a full 3-D experience for bringing their ideas to life. It’s the best way to convey and communicate information because it’s how we view the world, so why not view information the same way?
3. How do you innovate on a day-to-day basis?
TL: I question things daily. I always ask, why were we doing this in the first place? It’s a way to remain focused on the goal.
4. How has innovation changed in the past decade?
JC: As a company, pushing your limits is now an integral part of being successful and remaining competitive. In the past, it was about how you could execute, what you can deliver. Now, it’s about how you can evolve.
5. How can a company encourage innovation without breaking the bank?
TL: Ask all of your employees for suggestions. You’d be surprised where some of the best ideas come from. You can also pay attention to other industries. If you have a very enjoyable experience at a restaurant or department store, figure out how to apply their processes to your business.
JC: You can also spend a couple of bucks on a white board and place it in a strategic spot. Allowing employees to jot down ideas and get their creative juices flowing can lead to something truly innovative.
Essentially, the story of how Javelin started is the story of who the cofounders are. Both Carlan and Lee have the unique ability to spot emerging trends. That, paired with their expertise and knack for cutting-edge technology, has resulted in some interesting partnerships. For example, Javelin’s work with CHG Hospital Beds, Inc. has it assisting the company in its quest to create the best hospital beds in the world. Using Javelin’s analytical software, CHG is testing the bed’s breaking points, and using Javelin’s visualization software, CHG is using 3-D technology to get a sense of how the bed would work before a prototype is built.
CHG’s product designer, Jason Cerny, worked with Javelin and its SolidWorks software at his previous employer, and what the designer truly respects about Javelin is that the company does not try to “oversell” on software. The goal, rather, is to educate and equip its clients with the best tools it needs to get the job done.
“Javelin is always looking at the next best thing. They step out of their comfort zone to explore new ideas and business opportunities,” Cerny says. “They are not risk adverse, yet embrace change.”
Until its release, CHG is remaining quiet on the specifics of its new hospital beds, but one thing is for sure: Javelin’s technology is helping the company craft something the medical field has never seen before—and it’s not the only example. As diagnostic imaging becomes more commonplace, Javelin’s 3-D printing technology is taking centre stage, enabling medical professionals to print out 3-D images of body parts. Recently, a surgeon was able to use Javelin’s technology to print out an image of his patient’s heart to better brief his staff for this delicate surgery.
“Two heart surgeons recently came in for SolidWorks software training to learn how to use 3-D modeling to develop tools for heart surgery,” Lee says. “This has the power to change how they work. Now, they can basically hold their ideas in their hands; they can view every aspect of their prototype and work out any issues before they commit to having it manufactured.”
So not only does this technology help professionals better prepare for serious procedures, but it’s also changing the way custom prosthesis and braces are made. Essentially, Javelin is helping to revolutionize the medical field—and the dental field isn’t too far behind. Javelin is helping to change how dental labs operate. Mouths can now be scanned with lasers, and those images are e-mailed to a dental lab that can use Javelin’s 3-D printers to print out the impressions and construct what’s needed. This “digital dentistry” eliminates countless steps, cuts costs, and makes processes more efficient.
Carlan and Lee are incredibly humble, asserting that their technology is simply the next logical step and that it’s their clients who are doing the amazing work.
“We’re just glad to be a part of it,” Carlan says. “Our clients are doing great things every day. We’re the guys who give the tools to implement great ideas; we’re not the guys coming up with great ideas. Our role is to support them and ensure they can achieve their business goals.”