Indeed I am a little tardy in my year-in-review blog entry. But, without further ado, here is my one-and-a-half-month-late DISTek Year-in-Review, coupled with a look toward the future to finish the DISTek: Past, Present (parts one & two), and Future series of blog posts.
The year 2017 was an important year at DISTek. If you paid any attention to this blog or some of the press about DISTek during the past year, you would know we celebrated our 25th anniversary. Most of the activities have been covered in this blog, so I will not rehash them, but go take a look at old entries if you want to catch up on those.
During 2017, we continued to solidify our position in the ISOBUS field of Ag electronics, again participating at both AEF Plugfests. We participated in three of the AEF project teams as AEF tools and ISOBUS technologies continue to mature. DISTek offered a new product to the market with the release of our ISOBUS VT Server software application, allowing manufacturers to turn their displays into ISOBUS VT terminals or allowing implement manufacturers to connect to an iPad that acts as an ISOBUS VT Terminal. That was our first significant foray into the server (display) side of ISOBUS communication, but it will not be our last. We are not ready to announce anything just yet, but keep your eyes peeled for news about additional server-side applications coming from DISTek over the next few months.
The off-highway industry, which is our focus, started the year in a slump. Almost every major industry player was forecasting a down year for 2017. But by mid-year, forecasts had been flipped to nearly all positive. This certainly helped DISTek see a strong business year overall, after a rather dismal first quarter. We started work with several new customers and resurrected some old customers that had gone dormant.
Just how good was business in 2017? While we do know the year-end financial results, as employee-owners we do not know quite yet how that translates to our stake in the company. ESOP companies must go through an annual valuation process to determine our new stock price as of December 31. But unlike a publicly-traded company, that stock price is not known at the end of a trading day, rather it takes several weeks to crunch through all the numbers. So we are still a few weeks out from knowing that price. And while DISTek employees currently own 30% of the company, we are hopeful that several more years of success will lead us toward our ultimate goal of a 100% employee-owned company.
So what else does the future hold for DISTek? First, I will caution that some of these guesses are probably worth about what you paid to get access to this blog. But with that in mind … DISTek will continue to expand and solidify our position in the ISOBUS field, continuing to be the premier North American provider of ISOBUS development services. Our technical expertise with hardware-in-the-loop (HIL) systems will be transformed into a key business differentiator. Some of the areas we are more recently exploring – such as functional safety, autonomous equipment, big data, and connectivity – will also become core competencies and differentiators for DISTek. Our attention to the off-highway industry will not go away, but we will expand into some new industries which have similar technologies. As we continue business beyond a 100% employee-owned company, we will have strong opportunities to add to DISTek through acquisitions which will open up new competencies, other industries, and a broader geographic footprint. Undoubtedly we will face challenges along the way, but I see no signs of slowing in the application of embedded electronic systems to the machines that power our modern economy. As goes the use of embedded electronics, so goes DISTek; that is a prediction I can confidently hang my hat on (yes, English teachers, Mr. Slane, the GRE, and my wife, I recognize I just ended the last non-parenthetical part of my blog with a preposition).