Great things often come in small packages. Take SmartDrive-S3, the best-selling product of Westline, a family-owned electronics engineering firm based in the Paris region, near Versailles. The device can operate motors and other moving parts in machines that assemble all kinds of goods from confectionery to cars.
Small, portable and easy to operate, this electronic automation device is what engineers call a stepper motor controller. It can be pre-programmed with motion-control sequences and can be adapted for any industry requiring accurate automation and handling for small objects.
Westline, co-founded by Rodica and Mircea Chiorean, sees huge sales potential for this device, given the growing need for manufacturers to conserve energy and increase productivity through automation. But as a small firm with less than 10 employees, Westline has limited resources to research new markets.
Its main challenge was moving into the international arena and finding a suitable foreign distributor to sell its products abroad.
Westline turned to its local Enterprise Europe Network branch, based at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Versailles. With 3 000 experts in more than 50 countries, the Network offers small businesses a direct connection to partnering opportunities.
"I was impressed when I discovered the versatility of SmartDrive" says Pierre Arribe, Network consultant at Versailles. "This is a truly global and multipurpose product, but it was hard for the company to find distributors. At the Network, we do the work for them." In essence, the Network branch was tasked to find a commercial partnership for a small French company in the whole European Union.
An electronics engineer by training, Arribe drafted a partner search request for the Enterprise Europe Network business matchmaking database. Some weeks later, a response came from Gryftec, a microprocessor systems engineering firm that works with its local Network branch in northern Poland, the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin. Jerzy Pieścikowski, founder of Gryftec was looking for a reliable partner with an innovative product. He got both thanks to the help of Michal Olan, Network technology advisor at Szczecin. "We know our client well, this meant we were able to quickly spot this business opportunity and Gryftec jumped on it!"
The main value-added service provided by the Network was finding a partner that Westline would perhaps never have found on its own. By using the Network, Westline finally signed a long-term collaboration and saved considerable time in its business development.
Introducing Westline products into Gryftec's product portfolio has since improved the attractiveness of the Gryftec offer and has allowed the Polish company to expand its client base. Gryftec is now distributing SmartDrive controllers in Poland, giving the firm its first foray into Central and Eastern Europe. "The Network delivered quick results, and we will continue to work with them as our company grows," said Westline co-founder, Rodica Chiorean.