Etion Create is making efforts to catch up on time lost caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, continuing with delivering on its many orders, and proceed with business expansion.
Tobie van Loggerenberg, Executive Manager – Business Development at Etion Create, told defenceWeb that the company’s main priority is to deliver on orders after having lost the whole of April and some of May/June due to the level 5 coronavirus lockdown restrictions. “We have to catch up. We have lots of orders we have to deliver on,” he said.
COVID-19 has impacted the company’s production side and closed the factory for a month, but “it didn’t take us long to get back to running at full steam again…We have definitely made provision for people to work extra over weekends etc. catching up with lost revenue from April to June,” van Loggerenberg said.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw Etion Create manufacture Cube 25 non-invasive ventilators under license from the German original equipment manufacturer JFR Medical Instruments. The first round of production has concluded and the company has an agreement with a local distributor on sales, with interest from the southern African region and beyond. The device is intended for therapy of spontaneously breathing patients who suffer from respiratory insufficiency and conditions like sleep apnoea and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Etion Create is already registered with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) and awaits authorisation of the Cube 25 NIV for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Certification should be completed in the first quarter of 2021.
“Once we’ve reached sufficient momentum, we may look at other medical items,” van Loggerenberg said, as Etion Create diversifies its product portfolio.
The travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have fortunately not interrupted sales efforts much and Etion Create continues with its business development and sales initiatives, especially in the key market of the Middle East. “We are busy finalising contracts with Middle Eastern clients,” van Loggerenberg said, particularly for its CheetahNAV navigation system. There have also been some requests from systems integrators in the United States for this product for opportunities in Southeast Asia.
The CheetahNAV product is a tactical navigation system for light military vehicles. Designed for harsh environments and battlefield conditions, CheetahNAV can integrate with any number of different inertial navigation system (INS) systems and can be aligned with any of the satellite navigation constellations. Combined with GNSS and compass information, the system enables dead-reckoning and accurate positioning of a vehicle in tactical situations. It allows for jamming-free operation, which is an important consideration in today’s environment.
Van Loggerenberg said that the display component of CheetahNAV is being spun off as a separate product in response to customer requests. The resulting DS620 smart/rugged display is aimed at video applications but systems integrators or OEMs can put their own software in and link it to various hardware items.
As part of its efforts to build up business in the Middle East, Etion Create will be taking part in the IDEX exhibition in Abu Dhabi in February next year, with the CheetahNAV being the core focus. The company would have been at the September 2020 edition of Africa Aerospace and Defence, but this has been postponed to 2022.
Much of Etion Create’s business comes from international contracts but it is doing work for the South African market and local companies. “We’ve been supplying high quality electronic products through our advanced production facility to a number of local OEMs and subsystems integrators for a number of years,” van Loggerenberg said. “They rely on our expertise. We are one of two main roleplayers in producing high quality electronic products for defence. That’s definitely one of our bigger contributions the South African defence industry. Together with that there’s always maintenance and support services. We have some products that are installed on platforms of the local end user as well. Those items need continuous maintenance and support. We are definitely active and have contribution from that perspective.”
On the defence side, Etion Create’s offerings include signal processing platforms for radar; signal processing units for electronic warfare, weapons integration and weapon control systems, military standard communication interfaces, mission computers and display electronic units, secure communications, and test equipment.
Van Loggerenberg believes one of the biggest challenges facing the industry is the lack of acquisitions from the local end user “and the fact that this is not happening will impact future international sales. You need to have the local client support products we are trying to sell abroad – this is one of the bigger challenges going forward.” As a result, Etion Create is not just playing in the defence industry and has its eggs spread over a number of baskets.
For example, Etion Create works with its sister company LAWtrust, which is the distributor for Etion Create’s information security products. “That has been quite good for us. Some of the business that we are delivering on today is coming from that relationship with them,” van Loggerenberg said. Network/cyber security products include the HSNE9008 network encryption device, which is a portable USB powered network encryption gateway implementing the IPsec protocol. The company has other similar products, such as a USB encryption token that provides point to point encryption. Another cyber security offering is the mobile app SOLIDChat, an encrypted communications solution similar to Whatsapp that runs on the client’s own server, giving the customer full control and auditability.
Etion Create also recently incorporated the group’s rail business, which has created a new business line for Etion Create. Formerly Ansys Rail, the division provides digital safety and environmental management systems ranging from sensors, asset management, telematics and IoT and maintenance.
The Etion group also does a lot of work for the mining sector. It has two main lines of business there including health and safety products such as collision avoidance systems and gas monitoring systems. “We are growing definitely in the mining sector, and coming up with new products for our clients,” van Loggerenberg said.