Six years ago, while Mark Lewis was working in manufacturing, helping the Sault Area Hospital transition from its old site to the new, a germ of an idea — digital training for health-care employees — began to form in his mind.
“The challenges in health care were, in many ways, similar to what I saw in manufacturing,” he said. “It sounds odd, but they were quite similar.”
Today, his software company, Insightworks, offers 3D mapping, training and coaching services to clients in the health-care, manufacturing, and lottery and gaming sectors.
Services provided by Insightworks are threefold: e-maps, which are 3D renderings of a facility or piece of equipment, to help familiarize staff with them; onboarding, which are training modules that help orient staff and instruct them in company protocols; and performance coaching, which fosters leadership development.
“We look at anywhere there are multiple processes or pieces of equipment, or there’s a reasonably large staff,” Lewis said.
“Where they have high turnover and with baby boomers retiring, the turnover piece gets taken care of pretty quick, because everybody’s doing hiring.”
There are other companies out there offering similar software, Lewis noted, but “the flexibility that we offer, the combination of features, and this whole 3D environment is fairly unique,” he said.
Insightworks clients include the Sault Area Hospital, the Niagara Health System, and Tembec, among others.
Lewis said he’s currently in discussion with a hospital in Ireland, who’s expressed interest in the technology. Talks are still in the early phase, but if all goes well, a partnership could emerge as early as next year, he noted.
The company marked a milestone of a different sort last December, when it ended its tenancy at the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, and moved into its own space in downtown Sault Ste. Marie.
As a born-and-bred Northerner, there was never a question of relocating to somewhere other than Sault Ste. Marie, “because it’s a good place to work and live,” Lewis said. Technology makes it easy to connect with clients, he noted, and he doesn’t hesitate to travel to meet with them, so the company could be run from anywhere.
The timing was right, Lewis said, for the company to go out on its own. He had actually been looking for space for close to a year before finding the ideal location in The Tech on Wellington Street, a former elementary school that’s been turned into offices. The new space affords the company room to grow beyond the 10 employees who currently work there.
Lewis has recruited most of his staff from Sault College, Algoma University and Laurentian University, and says he’s been really pleased with quality of the candidates he’s hired. He contends it’s a misconception that talented people for the tech industry can’t be sourced in the North.
“We’ve not had any problems attracting talent. I disagree strongly with people who say you’ve got to go to Toronto for software — that’s mostly nonsense,” he said. “You can find skilled people in the North if you’re willing to spend time training him.”
As more clients come on board, Lewis has received suggestions for new services. In particular, clients are intrigued by sensor technology that ties into virtual reality software.
Lewis doesn’t discount the possibility of introducing the technology at some point, but for now, said his focus is on fine-tuning the products Insightworks offers now.
“There’s not a limit to how much we can grow; it’s more a challenge adjusting the pace correctly,” he said.
“Getting it right each time we do a project, making sure we do good work, making sure everybody’s happy: that’s our main focus and then growth, I think, comes from that.”
“It’s a big world,” he said. “There are lots of opportunities.”