Swope Design Solutions (SDS) is a mechanical engineering and product design firm that specializes in medical devices, consumer products, and robotics.
SDS started in 2006 and has grown to 8 employees today – including one who started as a college intern through SFMade and was hired after graduating college. Their staff has expertise in all areas of a product life cycle, from initial concept generation to high-volume production, and they expect to create 1 or 2 jobs in the next 12 months.
In addition to their consulting and prototyping services, SDS also makes a few CNC machined products that are sold online and through brick and mortar stores.
In late 2018, SDS moved into The Manufacturing Foundry at 150 Hooper, joining our vibrant local manufacturing building.
SFMade interviewed SDS’s Owner, Brett Swope, in May 2019.
|COMPANY FACTSHEET||Swope Design Solutions|
|Useful links||Consulting Website, Product Website|
Brett, what is your background, and how did you start SDS?
I’m a mechanical engineer by training and really enjoy applying creative problem solving to challenges of all shapes and sizes. I started the company in 2006 as a way to work on projects with colleagues that I’d met over the course of my career.
At first, I was simply taking on a few projects a year, on nights and weekends, but by 2013 we had enough business that I was able to support myself, hire staff, and start purchasing some equipment.
When I started consulting, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be a ‘laptop consultant’ and I needed a space and prototyping equipment to deliver the kind of value to projects that I felt was necessary. I saw a need for (and wanted to build) a well-equipped mechanical engineering and product design firm full of hands-on engineers.
Ever since then, we’ve been slowly growing and acquiring more tools, software, and equipment to enable us to tackle larger and more complex projects.
What are your main projects, and can you give us an idea of their scale?
In 2018, we worked with approximately 40 clients on over 100 projects, and projects vary highly in nature and duration. We have some projects that are long term, 1 year plus, and others that are only a couple of weeks. There are always a variety of deliverables for each.
If we’re machining parts, we can easily kick out hundreds in a week. If we’re prototyping something, that’s generally a more involved process that doesn’t require a large production run of parts.
Given the nature of our business, most of our clients and projects are confidential, but I can say that we’ve worked with the entire spectrum of clients from solo entrepreneurs who are starting a company in their garage to fortune 100 companies with an international presence.
In addition to engineering consulting, we’ve also spun out a simple machined aluminum wine bottle holder called The Oblique. We also have a few new products we are currently incubating and look forward to unveiling in 2019!
What are your company’s core values?
As cliché as it may sound, our goal is to work on challenging problems and projects that help better people’s lives, the community, or the world. We aim to provide excellent results, problem solve on projects that have complex requirements, maintain open lines of communication in-house and with clients, and to create and establish a level of trust that keeps our clients coming back.
How are your employees learning on the job and getting upskilled?
By design we have an incredibly hands-on staff with both great depth and breadth of skills.
If someone has a machining focus, they’ll be exposed to all of the top-notch equipment in our shop (Haas UMC-750 5-Axis CNC Mill, Haas VF2 SS 3-Axis CNC Mill, Hardinge Lathe, Manual Mill, Laserstar Laser Welder, Form 2 SLA 3D Printer, Markforged Onyx Pro Printer, Force testing equipment, 6-Axis UR10 Industrial Robot, Silicone Transfer Press, etc.), become more versed in CNC programming, and continually evolve in their innovation and efficiency.
Those that handle more of the CAD design learn and grow in the level of design and engineering solutions they are able to arrive at for clients.
Employees will attend conferences, classes, and workshops to network, brush up on skills, or to learn new ones in areas where they’d like to grow. Staff also frequently shadow and teach each other skills.
What should we look forward to from SDS?
More top-secret projects! We’re also looking to continue to grow as a team and a company and work in the aerospace field more frequently.
Why manufacture locally?
Our reasons at SDS for manufacturing locally are varied and change based on the project/application.
For our consulting projects, keeping the prototype fabrication and iteration in-house allows us to provide incredible value to our clients through dramatically shortening time to market for their products.
For products that we manufacture and sell, local manufacturing allows us to produce in smaller batches and squeeze in jobs when we have machine availability. In general, faster turnaround times and quality control are also great reasons for producing locally. Finally, it also minimizes the potential for error because there are fewer channels to go through and less opportunity for miscommunication or items getting missed.
In addition, there are many opportunities to introduce automation into a manufacturing process to enable a product to be produced locally, but these steps must be considered at the front end of the design process, not as an afterthought.
Why did you join SFMade?
Your mission and support were impossible to pass up. Everyone at SFMade adds something positive to the organization and that is abundantly clear in the work you do to help your member companies.
How has SFMade been most valuable to the growth of your business?
You have helped us hire and train employees, find interns, and connected us with advisors to provide business support and advice in various stages of our growth.
You have made the largest impact on our business by working tirelessly with us over the last 1.5 years to create our amazing new space at 150 Hooper. Truly, the support and involvement of SFMade in our new space has been invaluable and a complete game changer for us. Employee pride and morale are sky high, clients and customers come to work in our space just to ‘get away’ from their offices and I’ve been told that we have an ‘inspiring space’. We never had experiences like that in our previous office.
~An interview by Pierre @ SFMade. Thank you Brett!