‘Sky’s the limit’ for sheffield design business since it started using ultrafast broadband

Electronic software and design company, Practical Control, says it has won new orders and is planning to expand its operation – thanks to ultrafast broadband.

Electronic software and design company, Practical Control, says it has won new orders and is planning to expand its operation – thanks to ultrafast broadband.

The Sheffield based firm was one of the first businesses to sign up to ultrafast Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband, which is capable of delivering speeds up to one gigabit per second (Gbps), as a result of support from Superfast South Yorkshire (SFSY).

Managing Director Ed Holdsworth, said the arrival of high-speed broadband to Practical Control’s Brightside Lane offices had provided a vital boost for the firm, which relies heavily on working collaboratively online for projects as diverse as jet fighters and blood monitors.

“The biggest impact has probably been in terms of contact with our clients. We’re able to do quite large multi-party video conferencing now – something we just didn’t have the bandwidth to do before. We have some projects where there’s maybe four or five partners involved so being able to collaborate online is really important.

“Without access to ultrafast broadband, we would definitely have had to consider moving the business away from this area. We couldn’t have continued with the connectivity that we had.”

The increase in bandwidth has also given the firm greater freedom and flexibility to grow the business by seeking out new clients outside of the UK and win new orders from existing clients.

Ed said: “One of the things about being able to collaborate online is that geography is no longer a barrier to the customer client relationship. It allows us to extend our reach to more clients – knowing that we have good communication links between us. This year, we are looking to expand the business with a view to recruiting new clients overseas.

“We are in direct contact with our customers on a much more regular basis. We can have design reviews more frequently and the immediate impact is that some of our customers have given us additional orders on the top of what we were already doing with them – just because of that continual contact.

“The more time you’re able to spend with the customer the more time they’re thinking about other things they might want to order from you.”

Improved data security has been another crucial benefit for a firm which is involved in electronic designs for parts of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II jet fighter, blood monitors used in military hospitals, various device innovations for the NHS and identification equipment for the anti-counterfeit industry.

Ed explained: “Before, if we wanted to transfer very large designs – as some of them are very complex – we would have to use a third party that had the bandwidth, which is always less secure than being able to send them directly from our office, from our own computer servers to the client.

“This is very important as we have a number of clients to whom we need to be able to send things very securely, for example electronic designs that go into military aircraft. You don’t want those disappearing or going astray.”

Having access to ultrafast broadband has also enabled Practical Control to streamline its internal operations. “One of the biggest frustrations before having ultrafast was the time taken to download operating system upgrades and updates for our development engineers and systems. Before, it was taking a day or day and a half, now it is literally a matter of minutes,” Ed said.

Natalie Ward, programme manager for Superfast South Yorkshire, commented: “SFSY understand the connectivity needs of business and that’s why we’ve invested £4.8m to bring ultrafast to South Yorkshire enterprise zones and key business parks. It’s great to hear how Practical Control have embraced this new connectivity.”

Tom Keeney, BT’s regional director for Yorkshire and the Humber, added: “Practical Control are a great example of how high-speed broadband enables small businesses to embrace new and more effective ways to collaborate with customers and suppliers and breaks down the barriers to competing in new global markets.”

Ultrafast is now available in parts of the Attercliffe area of Sheffield, with a host of businesses now able to connect to the service. More enterprise zones and business parks within South Yorkshire will ‘go live’ with this new technology over the coming months. For more information visit www.superfastsouthyorkshire.co.uk