"Maestro is not interested in incremental improvement. We are looking at step change, and we typically do that by disruption. The type of disruption we pursue is about simplifying our products."
Can you provide an update on the most significant events of 2022 for Maestro’s business?
We had two large new wins with Newmont and Yamana in Argentina and Dundee Precious Metals in Bulgaria. Overall, we are in 40 countries now, and our technology is in over 200 mines. We are also getting orders from unexpected markets like India, Denmark, and Norway. On the product side, we released our ModuDrive, which is an IoT actuator that is used on our MaestroFlex regulators to control the air to different mine levels. This drives out 30% of the capex using IoT technology. Similar to what we have done with our Vigilate, Zephyr and Marquee products, we are now doing on control devices. We also released the software for our Vigilante 2, and we grew at 15% YoY despite supply chain issues. Unfortunately, this was accompanied by a 40% increase in inventory, which was largely driven by the automotive industry's move from just in time manufacturing to inventory. We are paying 10-15x for microchips than we were previously. Another accomplishment is that we increased our engineering and software team by 30%, and we expect revenues to increase 20-25% in 2023. If we can get everything out the back door, revenue will be even higher, but we are still suffering from supply chain problems.
What are the keys to Maestro’s success in consistently introducing new technology into mines?
Product development is about predicting what the next phase of evolution is going to be. In that respect, you must understand the mining industry, and the new technologies that are available. You must then tailor those technologies for the industry. Maestro is not interested in incremental improvement. We are looking at step change, and we typically do that by disruption. The type of disruption we pursue is about simplifying our products. For example, we try to avoid adding a PLC, panel or any other associated pieces of software, or engineering services.
What products are driving the most revenue today, and what customer needs are they meeting?
It is an equal split between our last mile networking devices, and our IoT products, which are mostly made for ventilation monitoring and control. Looking at our network devices, in spite of this new shiny thing called LTE, people are realizing that the Plexus PowerNet can do all the things that they need it to do. That means increasing productivity and safety in an efficient and effective manner. The Plexus is low jitter, low latency, and high bandwidth, and this allows you to do tele-remote operations, which is the most burdensome application. The other aspect is our IoT devices for ventilation. Now we have our new ModuDrives which are a full digital system that allows real time data to come up and control ventilation, resulting in lower energy costs.
Can you outline the importance of your partnerships with Exyn Technologies and Boston Dynamics?
Maestro has two key ecosystem partnerships and both are with autonomous devices. One is with Exyn on their autonomous drones that can find their way around a mine. The other one is Boston Dynamics' Spot, the robotic autonomous dog. We are lucky to have been identified by both of these companies as being the ideal partner for technology and gas monitoring. The whole application is about getting data back to the face, and both Exyn and Boston Dynamics enable technology to go into places where there is no network. I see this foremost as a worker safety apparatus. If you have an explosion in a mine and the network is down, you can send in either Spot with a big payload or you can send in an Exyn drone to get the job done quicker.
How would you assess the overall health of the mining ecosystem in Sudbury today?
At Maestro we are currently trying to scale our business, but sending products out in tens of thousands rather than thousands is a very different challenge. The same old talent pool that we have had before in Sudbury is just not suited for high volume exporting. Instead, we have had to get people that have come into Canada and come from a manufacturing background.