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Simplexity simplifies product design

Firm’s Vancouver office works with HP, Nautilus

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Simplexity CEO Dorota Shortell leads a company that specializes in mechatronics -- the art of combining the skills of all engineering disciplines in product development. About half of the company's 60 employees work in its Vancouver office.
Simplexity CEO Dorota Shortell leads a company that specializes in mechatronics -- the art of combining the skills of all engineering disciplines in product development. About half of the company's 60 employees work in its Vancouver office. (Natalie Behring/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Simple doesn’t always mean easy. Sometimes finding the simplest solution requires meticulous planning, diligent work and expert execution. Simplexity tries to embody that process in its work with companies creating consumer and business products.

In the past decade, the San Diego-based company has grown from five employees in its Vancouver office to more than 30 here and over 60 companywide. Now located at 1325 S.E. Tech Center Drive, Suite 110, the company continues to attract more clients and grow its revenue, CEO Dorota Shortell said.

“It’s been crazy. It’s grown a ton,” Doug Harriman, Simplexity’s chief technology officer, said of Simplexity, which was first located inside Hewlett-Packard, stalled when the recession hit in 2008, but then moved into bigger spaces as it grew. “It’s been a whirlwind,” Harriman said.

Simplexity aims to use mechatronics, the art of combining all the engineering skills — mechanical, electrical, computer, and controls — needed to create everything from 3-D printers to DNA sequencing machines. Its challenge is to find ways to simplify and streamline product design.

“It’s kind of looking at the whole system,” Shortell said. “That’s kind of the sweet spot of Simplexity.”

Simplexity works with various companies, from Vancouver-based Nautilus to its No. 1 client, HP.

HP announced earlier this month its new 3-D printer, which the company says is 10 times faster than what’s already on the market. And Simplexity is one of the core development teams working on the front end of the engineering for the 3-D printers, Shortell said.

Simplexity also worked with Nautilus on its new Bowflex SelectTech 560 Dumbbells, which won a 2016 Red Dot Award, a top recognition in the industrial design industry. The Nautilus dumbbells stood out among 5,214 submissions to win the Red Dot Award for Best of the Best, officials said.

“They were a really good fit for us,” Tom Moran, Nautilus’ vice president of product development, said about Simplexity. “They brought the needed expertise that we didn’t have in-house.”

It didn’t hurt that Simplexity was local.

“We could walk to their office from our office,” Moran said.

Simplexity helped Nautilus complete the dumbbells after the company had struggled for months to make the product work. Through Simplexity’s process of combining expert engineers and not stopping at the first idea, the company was able to create a system in which the dumbbell can detect how many repetitions a person does, send that data to an app on their phone and give the user the ability to upload it online, Moran said.

“We really didn’t know what we didn’t know,” he said, adding it helped to be able to sit down face to face with Simplexity’s staff. Nautilus was originally working with a company out of the Midwest before it decided to instead use Simplexity.

“We learned a lot in the process,” Moran said. “Both companies did. The more you can collaborate, the more successful you will be.”

Simplexity prides itself on finding the best of the best. Many employees hail from HP, with between 20 and 40 years of design experience.

“We do have a good track record for attracting really good engineers,” Shortell said, standing in the Simplexity office at Tech Center. “I think they like the kind of work we do. We treat them well, let them do their jobs and not get in the way.”

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