9 June 2021|Latest Posts, Meet the Successful Founder
Frank Jones has worked in commercial refrigeration for three decades, originally heading up a large UK food retailers entire maintenance division. For the past two decades, Frank has been committed to innovating in the IoT (Internet of Things) and Food Retail industries to deliver operational, financial and environmental benefits to a range of customers.
As the CEO and founder of the multi-award winning Milton Keynes-based retail technology company, IMS Evolve, Frank has led the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) technology across tens of thousands of food retail sites globally. Since founding the company in 1999, Frank has helped retailers to safeguard produce and minimise waste, drastically improve energy and maintenance efficiency and decrease infrastructure down time. We interviewed Frank recently to discover more about his entrepreneurship journey.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
Following my education in Computer Science, my early career took me into the world of commercial refrigeration, where I was responsible for refrigeration maintenance at one of the largest food retailers in the UK. It was in this role that I established the founding principles of IMS Evolve – what could Information Technology do to solve real-world commercial refrigeration challenges?
How did the idea come to you for the company?
At its core, food retail is based on the ability to sell and merchandise quality refrigerated products at good value, while providing a positive experience for their customers.
However, a large proportion of the machine and controls equipment in food retail stores is relatively agricultural in its approach and often doesn’t meet new and evolving IT standards. This is where I identified a gap in the market. No technology or product existed that enabled supermarkets to leverage the data locked in a store’s complex machine infrastructure. IMS Evolve was therefore established to develop this advanced technology and was built on the premise of using this newly unlocked data to enable better maintenance practices, enhanced engineering practices, and improve customer and quality practices.
How did you achieve awareness?
One of the challenges of bringing new technology to fruition is finding an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable team that can not only see the vision, but that can bring knowledge and experience to truly give a vision life.
We had – and still have – a wide breadth of knowledge and experience within the IMS team, which allows us to understand our customers’ needs and challenges and enabled us to transition from an idea into reality. In terms of awareness, when you are creating innovative technology in a close-knit marketplace, the other players are watching closely to see if you succeed or fail. Innovation is something that industries, such as food retail, both crave and consistently search for, so it was the appetite of our retail customers that essentially resulted in driving the awareness for what IMS Evolve was doing.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
Food retailers immediately saw value and engaged with our solution as it used new technology to connect to existing infrastructure in order to address the common challenges of escalating maintenance costs and excessive energy spends in the industry. Therefore, funding the first iteration of the IMS Evolve solution came directly from working closely alongside our first food retail customer to develop a solution that addressed their very clear needs. From this point, IMS Evolve was soon able to self-fund its growth.
What are the key successes?
Our successes become apparent when we think about what we set out to achieve: A real term reduction in energy consumption, significant reductions in stock loss, waste and the cost of maintenance, while ultimately reducing the cost of service for both the retailer and the supplier. Not only have we been able to establish these significant reductions for multiple retailers around the world, another of our key successes over the last few years has been establishing a consensus around the IMS Evolve mission of ‘Better Choices Made Possible.’ Every day, we provide our customers with the possibility to make better choices for their business that were previously unobtainable, and for me, that reiterates true company success.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
The biggest challenge has been a technological one. One of our fundamental differentiators is not requiring our customers to change, replace or upgrade their existing infrastructure to enable implement our solution, even when that infrastructure has not been chosen for its technological capabilities. Bridging that IT void has been both the biggest challenge, and one of our biggest successes.
We were able to overcome this challenge by building a cross-functional team of experts and collaborating to create a technological solution that both supports and enables the technology, while supporting and promoting best practices.
What are your plans now/for the future?
Working alongside some of the UK’s leading organisations in their field, we are currently leading the IoT development to support the world’s first ‘Digital Sandwich’ project, an open platform designed to digitalise the food supply chain.
The project extends the use of advanced IoT, Blockchain and AI technologies to the ready-made food supply chain to ensure complete trackability and traceability of every ingredient from primary production to retail. With inadequate service levels across the chain destroying trust in practices and food safety issues accumulating, we must consider how information can be used to democratise the supply chain process to ensure best practices of quality and standards. This enhanced connectivity, visibility and control will increase productivity and flexibility for suppliers and producers and will not only enable traceability and assurance regarding the provenance and safety of products, but will also deliver a consistent reduction in the significant levels of waste across the supply chain.
The consortiums vision and priority are to share best practices, technology and learnings across multiple industrial domains that have complex, fast-moving and high-trust supply chains, such as pharmaceuticals, aerospace and automotive.
What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey?
Invest in your dream and ask others to invest with you. Entrepreneurship is as much about building a presence and/or product as it is about building a team that can go on that journey with you.
Can you share you top 5-10 tips for entrepreneurial success?
1. Build yourself a dedicated and knowledgeable team that share your vision
2. Believe in yourself
3. Learn how to communicate effectively
4. Innovate, Innovate, Innovate
5. Never be happy with what you did yesterday
6. Never give up
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most? and why.
1. Linus Torvalds – Linus created the Linux operating system, on which the worlds internal runs on and he didn’t patent it, he published it under general public licence. He essentially created the thing that the entire internet is based on, and then gave it away!
2. Mary Stewart – Mary is the Vice Chancellor of Lincoln University. Throughout her life, she faced many challenges and adversity yet displayed huge levels of determination and self-belief to overcome this and achieve greatness. It is a true demonstration of the power of living by your own morals and standards.
3. Alan Turing – For a man that largely gets credited for his mathematics, mental agility, ability to code-break etc, he inspires me for reasons that aren’t as well known, for example, he hypothesized an artificial intelligence proposition way before it became widely known and dedicated his life and mind to solving important problems.
4. Aurel Stein – Although best known for being an archaeologist, Stein was also an ethnographer, geographer, linguist and surveyor. His collection of books and manuscripts on Dunhuang caves is important for the study of the history of Central Asia and the art and literature of Buddhism. Together with Sven Hedin, he brought the importance in human history of the silk road, back to life.
What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes?
“He who never made a mistake, never made anything.”
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