Photo: Techpilot

Matchmaking for the Manufacturing Industry — A talk with… Techpilot

Startups in particular require individually manufactured parts in small series production. Many shy away from the problems that accompany production in the Far East, or require help specifying the parts needed. The Munich company Techpilot has been connecting buyers with manufacturing partners for nearly 20 years. We spoke with Rolf Hoffmann, head of the Techpilot Sourcing Team and member of the executive board.

What does Techpilot offer? Where did the company start?

Techpilot is the leading matchmaking platform in the manufacturing industry. We efficiently connect buyers with suppliers of custom-made parts. We do so by offering four services:

  1. We run our own search engine for finding suppliers of manufactured parts. We list more than 21,000 supplier profiles from all over the world that can be searched through using various filters to meet your specific needs.

2. Buyers post their parts requirements with sketches, material descriptions, the type of manufacturing technology and the number of items needed on our platform. Suppliers then access these requests online and submit offers.

3. On Techpilot, buyers receive a comparison and rating of the bids in an Excel file. That makes it easy to sort the file to suit your specific needs, such as price, output, delivery time, quality criteria and much more. That is when discussions between the buyer and supplier can begin!

Techpilot establishes contact, but is not involved in the business transactions that occur afterwards. The Techpilot platform is financed solely by an annual fee paid by our suppliers, which gives them access to the market place. We do not charge any additional commission.

4. We also offer personal consulting for buyers on Techpilot. We help by providing in-depth knowledge about technology recommendations for each part. We also help with calculations. Buyers can also learn about a limited selection of suppliers.

“Finding the right company is an enormous challenge, especially for a startup”

Rolf Hoffmann from Techpilot
Rolf Hoffmann (Foto: Techpilot)

The original idea behind Techpilot came from our founder, Frank Sattler. He realized there is an ideal machine for every part needing to be manufactured. But where might it be in Europe? Frank Sattler had already been extremely successful at the Trumpf company for machine tools, lasers and electronics. As one of the sales managers, he realized a great deal of the manufacturing machinery sold was not being used to full capacity. Yet it was not possible for buyers or manufacturing companies to know where their ideal partners might be located.  That is what led Sattler to found Techpilot. Manufacturers and buyers are now able to connect on our platform and use the machines to their full capacity. That is something that can only be achieved with online platforms thanks to their computer-based operation and global networking.

The most economical way to manufacture a part depends largely on the manufacturing technology, labor costs and on the machinery. Finding a company that is the right fit is an enormous challenge, especially for a startup. Even a good network with a handful of well-intended recommendations is only partially successful. Now the internet has opened up new opportunities:

Even small orders, which are typical for startups, are specifically looked for by certain suppliers aiming to establish strategic new customer contacts. Other suppliers might be looking to fill the gaps in the capacity planning for their machines. That means you can count on favorable prices, even in the area surrounding Munich.

It is not always necessary for everyone to send their orders to Asia for low manufacturing prices. You can often strike gold right nearby. And that is certainly an opportunity provided by Techpilot.

Techpilot offers “Sourcing 4.0”

Techpilot is a Munich institution: You were founded right before the crash of the new market in 2000. How has Munich changed and developed since then?

We were lucky enough to find a financing partner for Techpilot before the crash, which meant we were able to survive the dry spell during the dotcom crisis on our own. During that time of course, our business model constantly had to adapt to new circumstances — which is what also makes startups so strong: a flexible workforce, a few programmers, different pricing models and a focus on the metal manufacturing industry. Then Techpilot was finally in the black in 2006 and had developed into an established company in the platform business.

Then as now, all of the software for our platform is developed in-house. We also still provide customer service for buyers and suppliers from our Munich office. In that sense, we have retained our startup character and work in a completely flat organizational structure and have a great deal of individual responsibility. We still work from the heart of Munich – even though our team has grown. We are now located in a slightly larger office, a bright loft in Sendling, where we feel very much at home.

What can you offer startups?

We offer startups free technology consulting for their manufactured parts, a search engine to find future suppliers and most importantly: an online service to request bids that is viewed by more than 21,000 registered suppliers. That makes procurement a cinch. Sourcing 4.0!

What is the minimum order volume for companies to use Techpilot?

In principle, we do not have any minimum limits. For logical reasons, however, an order volume should not be commissioned for less than 500 euros. There are also no upper limits. Multi-million orders are not uncommon on our platform.

Why should startups not just look for their own manufacturing partner?

Go ahead and try! (laughs) The results speak for themselves.

The reason is obvious: There is a specialist for every manufactured part, but it is not possible for every startup to know who that is. That is why programmers now create platforms that utilize all of the opportunities offered by the world wide web to specifically pool needs. The advantages are obvious: a high degree of transparency, the speed of posting bids, top results and a large number of contacts that can be established on the platform.

A platform event in the pipeline

Which startup companies have you connected with the manufacturing industry so far?

Philipp Sinn, founder of SINN Power GmbH in Gauting, uses Techpilot. The network for Munich hardware startups, BatchOne, also uses and recommends our platform. The company LuvSide GmbH in Grünwald, which manufactures vertical axis wind turbines, also works quite successfully with Techpilot. Those are just three examples in Munich. Of course, with such a large number of more than 13,000 buyers on the platform, we do not know every company personally.

You’re planning a platform event. What’s it all about? How can startups participate?

We would like to invite several startups and suppliers and show them how to efficiently and successfully source these days. We also want to introduce manufacturing companies that like to work with startups and have no problem working with small, unexperienced companies.

We would also like to host a special forum day to demonstrate the versatility of manufacturing processes and technologies. After all, we are already familiar with 280 of them. We would really like to pass on some of our knowledge and also talk about it more publicly.

So with that in mind, we would like to invite any interested startups to contact us. I can be reached at and head the Sourcing department at Techpilot.