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The digital transformation of a century-old manufacturer

The brief

“TXI has really helped Dickson transition from a manufacturing company to a technology company.”

Matt McNamara, VP of Product at Dickson

In the more than 20 years that Dickson and TXI have been working together, the manufacturer has transformed from a company known for its data loggers to an international leader in tech-powered environmental monitoring solutions. In many ways, Dickson is “living the dream” outlined by McKinsey in its primer on the Titanium economy, helping to usher the US industrial sector into the age of Industry 4.0.

Key to understanding both how Dickson managed its own ongoing transformation and how other manufacturers can replicate its success is to note that the process was gradual and iterative: a lot has changed in the last 20 years. Read on to hear how TXI helped Dickson push the boundaries of its own technology so it could deliver an ever-more-valuable experience to its customers.

The challenge

Seizing opportunities presented by ever-evolving technology

Phase 1: Understanding customer behavior in a new channel

Dickson Data, Dickson’s e-commerce website, initially brought Dickson to TXI. In 2002, Google Analytics didn’t exist, and the Dickson team wanted to understand how to better engage their customers and increase sales. We built a way to measure website performance, identified a number of issues in the site workflows and messaging, and helped improve Dickson’s conversion funnels.

We’ve since done two total redesigns of Dickson Data. We kicked the latest redesign off at the start of 2016, then continued iterating on it throughout the year. The biggest change was giving the Dickson team a content management system — based on the custom CMS we built for Chicago Ideas — that lets them easily update their site. It also integrates with Dickson’s custom product database, so the team can keep everything on the site up to date.

Phase 2: Moving data more efficiently

The second phase of our partnership with Dickson involved finding ways to move data from its atmospheric sensors more efficiently to the software that could process that data and turn it into actionable insights.

This project became DicksonOne, which is today the company’s flagship product.

In the mid-2000s, when Dickson had the idea to use cellular data to transmit data from sensors to its software (the standard at the time was manual transfer via USB), we pushed them to consider WiFi (then a nascent technology). They recognized the value of this suggestion and embraced what would become a new phase of operations, in which their sensors joined the Internet of Things (IoT) to seamlessly collect and deliver atmospheric data to software where users could analyze and respond to it.

The challenge

Phase 3: Turning data into proactive guidance

DicksonOne remains the company’s core product. As WiFi and then smartphones and tablets became ubiquitous, TXI helped Dickson develop a mobile app for DicksonOne that included push notifications to alert customers when facility conditions went out of range. The proactive, mobile component means that DicksonOne can now proactively guide customers to prevent damage before it occurs.

Phase 4: Expanding internationally

In 2019, Dickson closed a deal to acquire Oceasoft, a European environmental monitoring leader. The move let Dickson expand to the European market without undergoing the grueling process of clearing regulatory hurdles necessary to sell in the EU.

On the ground, though, there were multiple cultural hurdles to clear to blend the two teams. Again, Dickson turned to TXI to help introduce the Oceasoft team to Dickson’s Agile-forward innovation culture while preserving what employees loved about Oceasoft (and what enabled it to rise to the top of the EU market). We brought our human-first approach to this work, embedding a project manager in the Oceasoft team to ensure the transition felt collaborative and mutually beneficial.

  • Leveraging established standards, Dickson could spend its R&D cycles improving the instruments they’re known for, instead of building a new pipe for data transmission and integration.

  • Establish a baseline of shared knowledge and new ways to store and transmit the data collected from its atmospheric sensors.

  • Deliver a more attractive user experience with IoT for customers to access their data anytime, anywhere because the data — stored securely in the cloud — could be accessed by a web browser or mobile app.

  • Onboard an international team to Dickson’s Agile-forward way of operating to ensure a consistent culture of innovation throughout Dickson-owned properties.

The solution

  • Custom website tracking system at the dawn of the e-commerce era
  • IoT wireless network connectivity to roll out a string of new features
  • Real-time alerting system for customers when atmospheric conditions change
  • Access to data anywhere through a cross-platform mobile application
  • Operations guidance to facilitate a culture of ongoing innovation

The outcome

A company poised to seize opportunities as they emerge

TXI has acted as a kind of sounding board for Dickson in the last 20 years, as well as a technical and operational partner. In addition to supporting the manufacturing leader in developing and evolving its flagship product, we have helped Dickson embrace a culture of continuous innovation.

More than any single piece of technology, this culture — and the mindsets it nurtures among employees — positions Dickson to take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. Whether that means responding to customer feedback to add new features or product capabilities or recognizing the potential for a new technology to improve user experience, an innovation mindset enables Dickson to adjust as conditions change and stay ahead of the competition.

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