With the launch of a new subsidiary, Boundless Corporation has established itself as a major player in two distinct businesses. David Gill relates the story behind this customer-focused provider of computer and Internet appliance products.
On January 11, 2000, Bound-less Corporation became officially schizophrenic. That was the day the Hauppauge, N.Y.-based custom manufacturer of computer products opened the doors to its new division, Merinta, and its line of media-rich Internet appliances. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Merinta immediately set to work marketing iBrow™, a package of hardware, software and services for financial corporations, service firms and telecommunications companies. The parent corporation, meanwhile, has two other subsidiaries: Boundless Technologies, Inc., offering text, Windows-based terminal and thin-client products; and Boundless Manufacturing Services, a build-to-order manufacturer and solutions provider of circuit boards and assemblies.
One year later, thanks to Merinta, Boundless now has two well-positioned personalities. “We are in two very, very attractive markets,” says Joseph V. Joy, president and chief operating officer of Boundless Manufacturing Services. “The manufacturing services sector is booming, with 26 percent compound annual growth. Early on, we’ve seen that Merinta has explosive potential as a technology and services enabler of the deployment and use of Internet appliance-based applications and services.”
Rookie of the Year
In its first year, Merinta began to realize this potential. In August, the subsidiary formed a strategic alliance with National Semiconductor, in which the latter would bundle its Geode™ WebPAD™ development kits with the iBrow™ package – giving customers a comprehensive, flexible, media-rich information appliance solution across multiple platforms. Also that month, Viewsonic Corporation partnered with Merinta by offering iBrow™ on its family of information appliances. Merinta also created alliances with Lycos and Internet Appliance Network that placed iBrow™ in those firms’ Internet appliance offerings.
To Joy, the company’s success in both markets goes back to the tried-and-true economic adage of “giving customers what they want.” “The whole market is clamoring for non-PC solutions,” he says, “especially with Windows getting more complex, more burdensome and more expensive to support. Many applications that don’t require Microsoft systems are made faster and more cost-effective by getting out from under the traditional PC paradigm. The Internet-appliance approach (Merinta), along with the thin-client approach (Boundless Technologies Manufacturing Services), hits this directly by going back to the shared-computing model, in which data and applications are all on a central server or server farm. In the case of Internet-based appliances, all the servers on the net are part of the server farm. It allows for lower cost and simpler operation. Plus, with our products, a lot of PC-wary people can use the Internet without all the complications and overhead.”
The development of both business areas is based on Boundless’ customer-oriented culture, which has solidified in the company’s 30-plus-year history. This culture has given the company a customer base from the high-tech hall of fame: IBM, NCR, Compaq, AT&T, Stratus, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent and Wang Global, to name a few. “In many of these relationships, we bring value on multiple fronts including development, manufacturing and deployment of service programs,” says Joy. These and other customers avail themselves of Boundless’ impressive manufacturing capabilities, including printed-circuit-board assembly and testing, prototype assembly, systems assembly, retail pack-out, distribution, rework, and returned-product and channel management.
Boundless also provides services such as Web-based order-management; call center and technical support; parts logistics, planning and support; repair, refurbishing and recycling centers; on-site services; and end-of-life product management. Behind its manufacturing and services is Boundless’ commitment to flawless execution, speed, low overhead, quality and reliability.
The corporation accomplishes this broad agenda through its two ISO 9002-certified manufacturing facilities and five post-manufacturing centers. The two production locations are at the Hauppauge headquarters, with 155,000 square feet of manufacturing space; and Boca Raton, Fla., at 77,000 square feet, acquired as part of its purchase of Boca Research last March. Central teams at both facilities provide product design, test development, compliance and agency certifications, systems integration and reliability testing.
The post-manufacturing centers are located in Hauppauge, Boca Raton, Atlanta, Irvine, Calif., and Schaumberg, Ill. At these sites, Boundless performs product repairs both in and out of warranty, and the product-return services. “Sometimes our customers’ customers want to return products. The OEM then has to decide what to do with the product, and we make sure it’s still fit for use,” Joy explains.
The success of both business areas has expanded Boundless’ confidence in the future, as can be seen in the company’s growth strategy. “We plan to grow by more than six manufacturing sites over the next four years,” says Joy. “The six new sites will all be acquisitions similar to the deal with Boca Research. We want to find OEMs who want to divest their manufacturing and shift their focus toward their core competencies such as software development, marketing and services,” Joy says. “We’ll acquire their manufacturing assets and the people from them, and combine them with the other assets and people we have. Then, we’ll enter a relationship with the OEM to provide them with a lower-cost and more effective supply chain.”
This strategy helps Boundless in another way. “At the end of the day, the OEM winds up paying less on a total-cost basis by outsourcing to us, because we convert their fixed cost to variable expense,” says Joy. “The people who move over to become Boundless employees become our valued experts, for their former employer and other Boundless customers. They are re-invigorated by the opportunity to add value and that typically drives an immediate productivity boost.”
Boundless is set for a highly promising future. Joy believes that, as both business areas develop, they will become increasingly distinct. “We knew, starting out, that as both areas grew the synergies would lessen,” he says. “The manufacturing service company and Internet software solutions developer will become two very, very different companies.”
Two separate personalities – but both heading for the same goal: success. “Merinta has a real product with real value, and could provide the company with greater growth in market valuation over the short term,” Joy says. “An even greater opportunity for growth in dollar volume should come from the Boundless Manufacturing Services side. Only a fraction of the world’s electronics manufacturing has been outsourced, and the rate of outsourcing is increasing, so there’s great potential ahead.”