A West Midlands firm has established a valuable niche among major car manufacturers by offering advanced acoustic testing services to help them build quieter vehicles.
With support from Enterprise Europe Network in its role within the Innovate UK family of services, AVA Consulting has expanded in just two years from a two-man operation to eight employees at its Stratford-upon-Avon base – and is still recruiting.
Through the innovate2succeed (i2s) programme, their EEN adviser helped the company to make radical changes to its offer to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers).
When directors Richard Crompton and Roanan Ellis founded the business in 2014, they were set up to detect and analyse noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) in internal combustion vehicles.
Huge learning curve
Working with their i2s adviser, Martin Ellis, they looked to the medium and longer term and particularly at how the automotive industry might develop in the future, with hybrid and electric vehicles.
Martin said: “The challenge was that they knew little about electric vehicles but they soon realised that the industry itself was on a huge learning curve. It was an ideal opportunity.”
That future has arrived more quickly than any of them expected – but AVA has made the transformation with astonishing speed, and the electric-hybrid sector now represents the bulk of its business.
Richard said: “As our EEN adviser, Martin has been hugely instrumental in the successful growth of AVA Consulting. The i2s programme in particular has helped us refine our recent business strategy to focus on novel electric motor and vehicle testing methods, alongside further customer diversification.”
Opportunities in the Far East
He added: “Martin asked us to focus, not just on the work immediately in front of us, but to detach ourselves slightly and to think of the future rather than the next test we were undertaking. It’s good to get a third perspective sometimes on how the business is doing, also on what direction to take.”
The founders now have their sights on markets overseas, including exploring opportunities in the Far East where the growth of electric vehicles is most prolific.
AVA are now also working with another i2s client, FluxSys Ltd, which specialises in electric motors. The two companies are planning collaborative projects.
AVA’s growth has been wholly self-financed, including investment in three semi-anechoic (sound-proof) chambers, with a fourth on the way. The majority of testing is done in the chambers on modified hub dynamometers, although some is still carried out on external test tracks.
Gaming software market
Electric vehicles are so much quieter than their internal combustion counterparts that testing of axles and tyres, components, road and wind noise is increasingly important. To meet their customers’ exacting requirements, AVA has developed added capability.
That includes developing its own in-house battery power bank for sub-assembly test purposes and building test buggies that can replicate the drive train characteristics of individual manufacturers’ vehicles.
All this expertise has also created an unexpected market within the gaming software industry.
Instead of creating synthesised vehicle sounds on games, a major software creator now brings some of the world’s most exotic cars to AVA for their engine and exhaust sounds to be recorded authentically in the highest quality. So while the images are computer-generated, the noise is real.
We started with just myself in full-time employment but we’ve grown really quickly, certainly over the last two years.
Richard Crompton, co-founder and director, AVA Consulting