The cost of a product recall can be staggering, both in dollars and reputation, enough to keep business executives awake at night.
Sparta Systems seeks to prevent those potential nightmares by helping its customers make safer products. The idea holds value in any age, but perhaps more so today, when news of faulty products can go viral in seconds.
"Let's face it," said Sparta Systems CEO Eileen Martinson, "in this world of social media, protecting your brand is paramount in the eyes of our customer."
Sparta sells quality management software that companies use to ensure their products are developed safely and consistently and in compliance with government regulations. It's a profitable niche that Sparta soon plans to expand into mobile platforms and the cloud.
The privately held company has seen its revenue approximately double in less than three years to nearly $100 million, fueling its move from Holmdel to larger quarters in Hamilton Township this year. Sparta is now negotiating further expansion of its Waterview Drive offices.
The growth is traceable to a focused strategy: Martinson, who assumed leadership in 2011, said her first priority was expanding Sparta's appeal to beyond that of a "single-trick pony," mainly serving the pharmaceutical industry.
Martinson was convinced that Sparta's flagship software product, TrackWise, could engage more industries, including medical device, electronics and consumer products manufacturers. About one third of Sparta's new customers this year are from consumer products companies, she said.
"We're getting some wonderful traction with consumer products," Martinson said. "Name brands that are at the top of the list, not obscure little companies."
Sparta doesn't publicly divulge its clients, which it says include the world's largest pharmaceutical companies, citing customers' privacy concerns given the sensitive nature of brand protection.
But the stakes are evident. A simple mistake in the supply chain can easily result in disaster.
Sparta plans to open more opportunities by expanding its product line. The company is about to unveil a mobile version of TrackWise, a business management tool that records things like sign offs and workflow queues.
So if white pills are coming down the assembly line where green pills should be, or if a prescription label is incorrect, Martinson says TrackWise helps a pharmaceutical company retrace its steps so that such errors are fixed and do not repeat.
Martinson said releasing TrackWise on mobile platforms — first on Apple systems and later Android — is a natural response to the on-the-go transactions and travel schedules of its customers.
But Martinson describes Sparta's next foray — the release of cloud product Stratas in early 2014 — as a "game changer."
Stratas is designed to help a company monitor quality throughout its supply chain, something Martinson said is more critical in an era of outsourcing. With manufacturing increasingly dispersed globally, it's easy for an executive to lose sight of certain operations.
"They lose visibility, but they don't lose executive responsibility," Martinson said. "Whether I made (a product) in my plant or it was produced in some remote country, I'm still liable."
Martinson said the cloud is ideal because it enables a manufacturer to communicate with a supplier — often from disparate locations — through a mobile device rather than through the manufacturer's internal systems. It makes for a quicker and more efficient process, she said.
"That's what makes it a game changer," Martinson said of Stratas. "That's what gets people here pretty excited. I say we're going to make the world a safer place, and we're going to save our customers money, and it's going to make us successful. So what's not good about that?"
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