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SME Diaries: We left our comfort zone and helped make ventilator from scratch in 2 months

In this instalment of SME Diaries, Mr Yeo Boon Sain, founder of engineering firm Trilogy Technologies, recounts going out of his comfort zone to develop an emergency ventilator for Covid-19 patients from scratch.

 

SME Diaries: We left our comfort zone and helped make ventilator from scratch in 2 months

Mr Yeo Boon Sain (foreground) started engineering firm Trilogy Technologies in 2010 as a one-man firm operating out of his father’s flat.

Yeo Boon Sain

Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which form 99 per cent of businesses in Singapore, have felt the impact of Covid-19 keenly. TODAY’s Voices section is publishing first-hand accounts from SME owners and managers on the highs and lows of running a business in the pandemic.

In this instalment, Mr Yeo Boon Sain, founder of engineering firm Trilogy Technologies, recounts going out of his comfort zone to develop an emergency ventilator for Covid-19 patients from scratch. This resulted in one of the firm’s most stressful periods as it had no experience in manufacturing products for the medical industry. 

Innovation can be risky. 

Yet, as business owners, we must sometimes take that risk to grow our business, even during a crisis.

I was reminded of that last year when, unlike other companies that were conserving resources during the Covid-19 pandemic, we ventured out of our comfort zone by moving into medical-related activities.

Trilogy Technologies is a one-stop provider of engineering services and solutions. 

Put simply, we work with clients to design, engineer and manufacture products for them. 

The organisations we work with are from various industries, such as aerospace and automotive. 

We had no experience with those in the medical industry until we met SingHealth, Singapore’s largest healthcare cluster.

Just before the circuit breaker kicked in last year to combat Covid-19, SingHealth approached us to develop an emergency ventilator from scratch. 

This was thanks to trade agency Enterprise Singapore introducing us to the SIMTech Innovation Factory, a national centre that supports SMEs, which then connected us with SingHealth. 

Without this connection, we would not have made inroads into a new sector so quickly.

The ventilator, we were told, would be considered for use if the coronavirus situation worsened, so the engineering sample had to be fit for certification and mass production. 

It would be a significant project, except that Trilogy didn’t have experience in the medical field. 

Also, there was a chance that we wouldn’t receive funding. This meant that if the project didn’t work out, we would have invested time and resources for nothing. 

But we decided to go for it, seeing it as an opportunity to contribute to the nation’s fight against Covid-19. 

When it came down to developing the ventilator, the process was very challenging because it was our first time working on a medical product. 

Also, some of our usual partners and suppliers were not operating during the circuit breaker.

As a newcomer to the medical industry, the company also had to learn and meet stringent standards for medical devices before they can be commercialised. 

It was one of our most stressful times.

But we pulled through, thanks to a team effort. With our collaborators at SingHealth and industry partners, we had many rounds of discussions at every stage, from hardware to software to firmware. 

The prototype also underwent rounds of alterations and improvements, led by our engineers who worked around the clock on the ventilator.

In two months, we managed to deliver the SG-Inspire emergency ventilator. As a point of comparison, a fully fledged ventilator with all the regulatory approvals would have taken many years. 

The SG-Inspire emergency ventilator developed by Trilogy Technologies. Photo courtesy of the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

These ventilators have since not only been rolled out to some Singapore hospitals, but have contributed to India’s fight against Covid-19.

This experience has given us the confidence to expand into the medical industry. 

This year, we increased our production space to meet the requirements for medical manufacturing and we are working on a few projects. 

We have also increased our staff strength, from about 18 to 25.

Our accomplishments so far have also motivated us to continue innovating.

ABOUT THE WRITER: 

Mr Yeo Boon Sain, 49, started Trilogy Technologies in 2010 as a one-man company operating out of his father’s flat. At present, it runs a sizeable production floor with various mechanical and electronic manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing.

If you are an SME owner or manager with an experience to share or know someone who wishes to contribute to this series, write to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number.

Related topics

SME Diaries Trilogy Technologies Yeo Boon Sain ventilator SingHealth Covid-19 coronavirus

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