How DTG Came To Be – Or Almost Not to Be
It all began with balls…
It’s interesting how business success can be a slow, agonizing, drawn-out process. Alternatively, it can come quickly and surprise you when you least suspect it.
Let’s go back to Spring 2017, a time when Definitive Technology Group (DTG) is doing well. We finished development and began selling the industry’s most advanced battery systems and mobile workstations (carts) to hospitals. One day, I had an idea to make these carts more rugged for industrial use. Based on some experience I had in the retail fulfillment space, I knew there was a need for something better. We developed a prototype and approached some close contacts in the retail and e-commerce space, but nothing really took-off. We were reasonably successful selling other products into the medical market, so we kept our focus there.
Fast forward a few months: Our EVP of Business Development and DTG co-founder Patrick Ney was building a large ball pit, like the ones that you find in a McDonald’s playroom, for his two-year-old son’s upcoming birthday. After receiving several shipments of plastic balls to fill the inflatable pool, he realized he didn’t have enough, so he ordered 1,000 more balls from a giant e-commerce company that provides 2-day shipping. He was growing frustrated when the balls had not arrived 10-days later. One day, his phone rang with an unknown number, so like most people, he put the call to voicemail. After a few hours he retrieved the message that said, “this is Joe from [the e-commerce giant], please call me.” He thought, “finally, an update on my order!” He returned the call and asked very directly, “where the [heck] are my balls?” A rather confused director of purchasing responded, “Sir, I have no idea where your balls are but I’m calling you about the battery system and mobile workstations that your company developed.” The phone went silent. Patrick describes the feeling as “I was immediately nauseous; I just asked the biggest prospect in the world… ‘where are my balls?’ It could have been steak knives or literally anything else, but I was waiting for plastic balls.”
So it all began. Once the confusion was cleared up, I understood that they were interested in taking a closer look at our powered workstations. We packed up our only prototype and, not trusting a shipper, drove 15 hours to Indianapolis for evaluation. We met with the company’s team, did some final integrations and one week later, we were told they liked what we had to offer. They told us they were not able to find another company that offered a turnkey solution for picking, packing and returning items in their fulfillment centers. Most of what they were looking at was coming out of the medical industry and not able to provide anywhere near the durability and maneuverability required by their staff. The carts that they were using at the time were simply not rugged enough for the environment and didn’t have hot swappable batteries to eliminate downtime of computers, scanners and printing devices.
The company liked that DTG not only provided the ruggedness needed, but that we were also leading the way in safe/intelligent LiFE battery design, along with strict attention to ergonomics that enable DTG carts to be height adjustable and easily maneuverable to reduce worker fatigue and repetitive stress.
To say that we were thrilled (albeit slightly terrified) that we won the business is an understatement. We quickly got to work building upon the prototype and scaling production to meet the required demand. When I asked the director of purchasing what it would take to maintain the contract indefinitely, he responded, “most vendors last only 18 months, since there is so much unpredictable demand, changing requirements and extremely high expectations.”
We’re happy to report that the comment was said almost five years ago. And, 800 fulfillment centers, 75,000-plus batteries and 40,000 carts later, we’re still going strong with virtually limitless scalability and continuous improvement.
…it all began with the germ of an idea of how to expand our product line to meet different market needs – and a frustrated dad looking to fill a ball pit for his son’s birthday party. You just never know what opportunity lies right around the corner.
STEVE SHAHEEN: CEO & Founder
Steve has worked in the mobile workstation and battery systems business since they became popular for use in healthcare and was a Value Added Reseller for over 30 years. He co-founded Definitive Technology Group to help companies in a wide range of industries solve workflow problems and decrease costs by leveraging the power of mobility. Steve enjoys offshore fishing, surfing, martial arts and spending time with his family.