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pREcise Fluids mEteRing EquipmEnt

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - REFEREE (pREcise Fluids mEteRing EquipmEnt)

Reporting period: 2015-01-01 to 2015-04-30

Referee is a high-accuracy, high-precision liquid dispensing and metering system, designed to be fully compliant with European Directive 2014/32/EU on legal metrology, also known as the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID), which comes into force from 20th April 2016. The aim of Referee is the same as MID, to eliminate fraud in commercial transactions based on measured quantities. Making this type of device available is essential to successfully applying the Directive.
Flexbimec has over 40 years of experience in producing equipment for lubricant handling, management and monitoring. Referee targets the automotive workshop sector for the dispensing of liquids including oil, AdBlue exhaust fluid, hydraulic fluid and engine coolant.
Referee applied for the SME Instrument H2020 Phase 1 in September 2014 and was awarded funding to carry out a detailed feasibility study. This feasibility study, including a business plan, funded by the SME Instrument Phase 1 grant, was conducted from January to April 2015, evaluates the technical and commercial feasibility of Referee, as well as the political environment and its impact on the market.
Technical aspects include the preparation and verification of a prototype system which has demonstrated its compliance with the accuracy and precision of MID certification. An integrated data management system is in development. A Freedom-to-Operate analysis has shown exploitation of the proposed system is not restricted by any existing intellectual property claims. A Work Plan is proposed for execution of the rest of the project; finalising data management system, adaptation of prototype for “as soon as possible” production (to take advantage of changes to MID) and future development for the next iteration of Referee.
A market study analyses the impact of MID on the industry and the potential market for Referee as a result, in Europe and worldwide. Due to the importance of MID to the Referee project, and vice versa, our exploitation plan includes a well-defined communication strategy with respect to adoption of the EU Directive. Financial projections have been prepared based on that market analysis.
This Feasibility Study concludes that Referee is a strong project that we will continue to pursue with a SME Instrument Phase 2 submission, to further develop the product which addresses a clear European need with respect to achieving the objectives of MID, while adding value for both vendors and consumers by eliminating fraudulent practices.
The Feasibility Study, based on the Work Plan proposed in the Phase 1 proposal, has been carried out as follows:
1. Technical Viability Plan
Led by Mr Zannoni, the prototype of Referee was developed to the stage that it was tested for compliance with MID. The result is that Referee has shown that it satisfies the criteria for accuracy and precision required for MID certification. The data management system was found to need further development to meet the requirements of MID, the work for which has been started and is awaiting testing.
With the basic hardware elements of the Referee prototype established and functioning correctly, a plan was developed for preparing Referee for production and release onto the market. This has been devised in two stages. The first is the adaptation and preparation of the prototype for production as a market-ready product. The second is the on-going development of Referee for future iteration of the product.
A Freedom-to-Operate analysis was performed to search for potential Intellectual Properties obstacles for Referee. This confirmed that there is no impediment to the commercial exploitation of Referee.
2. Marketing and Business Development
The market analysis, led by Mr Ruozi, involved analysing our past sales performance, as well as speaking with our major distributors and researching published data regarding the market. We believe that the new version of MID coming into effect in April 2016 has the potential to boost sales in this market and create an opportunity to increase our market share significantly.
A detailed strategy has been prepared to ensure maximum impact from MID, which is closely tied to the estimations of market size. A targeted communication strategy for each category of stakeholder was developed to mitigate the potential risks associated with the Directive.
3. Business Plan
Mr Ruozi has also supervised the elaboration of a business plan for the next three years, based upon the market analysis and focused on maximising the potential for Referee with the introduction of MID. Financial projections were prepared up to 2020, which show a highly positive impact for Flexbimec’s turnover and a solid return on investment.
Referee will transform the automotive workshop sector, and similar industries, in the area of liquid management and dispensing. Supporting, and supported by, the European Union directive on legal metrology, 2014/32/EU (MID), which comes into force on 20th April 2016, Referee makes it possible to fully adopt the Directive for this sector, thereby reducing, or eliminating, fraudulent business practices, protecting and adding value for both vendors and consumers.
The European Union has demonstrated, via MID, their commitment to eliminating unfair competition in commercial transactions based on measured quantities. While automotive workshops manage an increasing number of liquids that must be changed or refilled (and charged for), few, if any, manufacturers of liquid handling equipment in the workshop sector have demonstrated an interest in addressing the need for this type of measuring device for non-fuel liquids. As such, it is not possible for the relevant authorities to apply completely MID.
Referee changes that situation, with the objective of bring to market the first MID certified products. The availability of Referee makes the full application of MID feasible in this sector and could lead to a new category of measuring devices for suppliers to this sector. The full application of MID will protect consumers’ rights, ensure they are charged fairly for what they are receiving, as well as protecting vendors from unfair competition from unscrupulous competitors.
The impact for Flexbimec is clear, greatly increasing our output and turnover, allowing us to grow and increase the size of our labour force.