Digital Product Development to save money

When the University of Sheffield identified a need to be able obtain and share small quantities of composite materials, they approached Razor for a technical solution.

Most suppliers of composite materials have large minimum order quantities and are unable to offer short lead times. This presents a challenge to academic institutions and small businesses who often require only a small amount of material for their work and have limited budgets.

Having waited – often months – for a composite material, they are regularly left with large quantities of material that has a short shelf life and for which they have no use. This material then has to be disposed of as hazardous waste, which is both costly and wasteful.

Dr James Meredith of the University’s Mechanical Engineering Department became increasingly frustrated by this problem and after speaking to his peers, discovered that he was not alone. This prompted an application for funding to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) for an online system that would enable people to share unwanted composite materials.

The funding application was successful, but gave us a very limited budget to work with. We used a lean approach to carry out the Discovery and Shaping phases of the project, which included persona development, user story mapping and high level wireframes. This quickly got us to a point where all stakeholders had a clear understanding of the scope of the project and created an excellent platform for the efficient development of the system.

Following extensive research and development we selected this as our first partner project to be implemented using the .NET Core Framework, due in part to the relatively small scale of the system. We also abandoned use of the traditional relational database and opted for Azure Table Storage – a proven technology that offers high speed and scalability, and low hosting costs.

A photo of post-its from a workshop with did for Composites.Exchange

With a key feature of the application being the ability to search for materials, we harnessed the powerful capabilities of Azure Search. As a result the search and browse functions of the application are accurate and fast, and we were able to channel more development time into areas of the application that needed to be crafted from scratch.

Composites.Exchange offers a simple and efficient way to list and to search for a variety of composite materials with the help of a range of relevant filters.

As the site gains more and more traction and the team at the University of Sheffield gather ideas for enhancing the service, they will be looking for further funding to enable continued development.

“Working with Razor has been a pleasure. Their discovery and shaping process meant that everything we needed was captured and the delivery was seamless.

For us, finding a local company with the skills to quickly develop a site that enables sharing of high value materials has been fantastic. We look forward to promoting the site and developing it in the future so it becomes a valuable tool to prevent composites waste.”

Dr James Meredith <> Mechanical Engineering Department <> University of Sheffield
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