Munich Startup: Who are you and what does Workerbase do? Please introduce yourselves!
Norman Hartmann: We are Workerbase, a startup from Munich that makes industrial production processes more efficient. With Workerbase, productivity can be increased in factories without replacing people with robots.
Thorsten Krüger: We founders met at Siemens. For years while working in the central research department, Norman and I investigated how technology supports people on the job. In a project on the use of smartwatches for production, Hamid got on board and we immediately knew that he needed to be the CTO of the company we were planning.
Hamid Reza Monadjem: And that’s how it actually turned out. Since then, we’ve even expanded our product. We don’t just use smartwatches now, but also support all conceivable devices. With our solution, people are optimally integrated into industrial production processes. It starts with smartwatches and continues with smartphones, tablets, smartglasses and even beyond. Our software is extremely flexible and employees in production can select the device that’s the best fit depending on the specific application.
Workerbase networks employees in production via devices
Munich Startup: What problem does your startup solve?
Norman Hartmann: Workerbase software networks employees using digital end devices. With our solution, information is quickly available and workers can react immediately to deviations from planned operation. This makes it possible to avoid standby and idle time in production processes and reduces the time needed to produce a product.
Hamid Reza Monadjem: We’re working intensely on AI algorithms at the moment to automatically adapt processes based on real-time data. This allows companies to efficiently produce even small batches and to quickly react to changing customers needs.
Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!
Thorsten Krüger: Software for planning production processes has been around for decades. The key ideas of the Toyota production system were implemented in many companies as ‘lean production’ quite some time ago. We’re expanding on the established concepts with digital, real-time workflows on mobile devices. Conventional systems like enterprise resource planning (ERP) generally allow for a planning horizon of weeks or days.
In contrast, we rely on real-time coordination, which makes it possible to organize production processes more flexibly. With Workerbase, for example, a machine operator receives a direct message about a system error on his smartwatch. This allows him to immediately react and quickly correct the error. Companies benefit immensely because shorter machine downtime means more products can be produced in the same amount of time.
The challenge of the product-market fit
Munich Startup: What have been your three biggest challenges so far?
Norman Hartmann: I would say that finding a product-market fit in a field that moves as slowly as the German industrial sector was certainly one of our biggest challenges. Decision cycles are still unfortunately quite long in the sector, which means it takes a long time to receive feedback to iterate on. But now that we managed to find it, we’ve certainly noticed the development: We’re now making deals in the solid six-figure range! And that also makes our investors happy.
Thorsten Krüger: We’re a growing startup with lots of open positions at the moment. But there are lots of exciting startups in Munich and obviously also established tech companies. That makes finding good employees a real challenge, despite having outstanding local universities.
Hamid Reza Monadjem: From a technological perspective, the needs production companies place on our software in terms of stability and availability are a challenge. But we’ve found a very good solution and are proud of the fact that our product runs reliably for our customers 24/7.
Doubled turnover despite lockdown
Munich Startup: How is business going?
Norman Hartmann: Business is going well and we were able to double our turnover once again last year – and that was despite lockdown in early 2020, which hit the industrial sector particularly hard. As a result, companies are now banking more on digitization and have realized they need to change for the better. Our solution is being used productively by companies of different sizes, including large DAX companies such as Siemens and Porsche.
Thorsten Krüger: There are global market leaders, such as GKN Powder Metallurgy, who are transforming their entire production operations with Workerbase. We’re in the middle of our global rollout with them and our product is used daily in four factories. That includes machine alarms, quality measurements, logistics activities and set-up processes. GKN employees now use Workerbase for 80 percent of all activities involved in production.
Workerbase can transform the entire production process
Munich Startup: What do you think about Munich as a startup location?
Thorsten Krüger: Munich is a great place for startups! A large percentage of our customers come from southern Germany, which makes Munich an advantageous location.
Norman Hartmann: The communication among Munich startups also works. Although almost all networking events have been put on the back burner due to corona, we still regularly talk with other founders in the Munich startup scene on the phone.
Munich Startup: Get up early in the morning or pull all-nighters?
Hamid Reza Monadjem: I’ve pulled quite a few all-nighters with programming. But in general, I’m more for getting up early.
Thorsten Krüger: That’s no longer an issue for me. I’m a dad and my two daughters are in school. And I hope it will be a while until they start pulling all-nighters.
Norman Hartmann: Well, I always plan to get up early, so does that count?