Clearops CEO William Barkawi

Clearops: “Maximum Supply Chain Transparency for Minimal Downtime”

Clearops connects machine manufacturers with their dealer and distribution networks. The Munich-based company’s software aims to make supply chains more transparent in order to avoid downtime. We spoke with CEO William Barkawi.

Munich Startup: What does your startup do? What problem are you solving?

William Barkawi, Clearops: In one sentence: We digitize and optimize the supply chains of industrial companies that manufacture machines.

In one paragraph: Clearops connects machine manufacturers with their dealer and distribution networks all the way to the end customer and including the machine that is being used. By completely digitizing the supply chain, a wide variety of data is combined in an unprecedented way, which enables optimal demand planning when it comes to future demand for new machines, spare parts and services. This planning as well as the downstream ordering and commissioning processes are then automatically orchestrated by our Software-as-a-Service solution. This can be used to increase parts availability, significantly reduce machine downtime, reduce inventory and shorten delivery times. Our customer value proposition is therefore: “Anticipate demand. Ensure supply. Eliminate downtime.”

To give a practical example: What do a combine harvester during the harvest season, a crane on a large construction site, an aircraft during the vacation season and a mixing plant for food production that runs around the clock all have in common? They are not allowed to fail. If they do, it costs a huge amount of time or money and also leads to dissatisfied customers. Here’s a concrete example: The downtime costs of the aforementioned combine harvester alone quickly amount to 30,000 euros a day. This leads directly to the questions: How do you get these machines back into operation as quickly as possible? And how can we anticipate or even prevent this kind of downtime, e.g. through preventive maintenance measures?

This is where our software comes in: maximum supply chain transparency and automation for minimal downtime.

Munich Startup: But that’s nothing out of the box!

William Barkawi: It actually is! There are two key (very technical) features that differentiate us from all other solutions:

On the one hand, the degree of integration we can offer is unique in the market so far. With existing interfaces, it’s relatively easy for us to take a very deep and “close look” at production and merchandise management systems and processes and, if necessary, optimize them. This means we can read data from the respective systems with great efficiency and with little technical effort upfront. Within our data hub, the data is then processed with the latest machine learning technology and finally fed back into the respective systems as a forecast, order or service order (without manual intermediate steps).

The second differentiating feature is the intermeshing of the many functions: There is certainly very good inventory optimization, fleet management or service modularization software out there. But that’s all they can do. Global service modularization and supply chain optimization, however, require holistic warehouse and parts requirement planning, while optimal demand planning requires service and technician orders, IoT data and insight into the installed base, i.e. the machine population in fleet management systems. In short: There are an incredible number of processes that need to intermesh. Until now, the issue was solved with various individual tools or manual work steps. We offer a holistic, automated solution for the whole thing.

Clearops: “Have a certain amount of consulting in our DNA”

Munich Startup: What’s your founding story?

William Barkawi: It’s a long story: The core of Clearops emerged in a consulting project for a large agricultural machinery manufacturer. At that time, they had no insight whatsoever into their dealer network or future demand for machines and spare parts. This obviously made production planning quite difficult. In a relatively short time, it became clear that there’s no holistic solution on the market for networking independent companies (OEMs and retailers) with their own IT infrastructures and for subsequently implementing supply chain optimizations. It also became clear that we had an opportunity to develop a concept that is interesting for many machine manufacturers. This realization was, in a way, the birth of Clearops. We’re now an independent software company. And the consulting firm continues to be our closest implementation partner.

This special backstory still accounts for our culture today: Since large parts of the team and I have a certain amount of consulting in our DNA, our philosophy is to find the best individual solutions and to offer our customers tailor-made solutions. This is also what makes every day unique and exciting. But at the same time, we also know how important scaling effects are for our business model, especially for us as a software company. In order to combine customer satisfaction and scalability, we developed an adaptive solution from the outset that covers a wide variety of complex structures and processes. It’s with this investment that we can satisfy our customers and still (or precisely because of this) experience strong growth!

Munich Startup: What have been your biggest challenges so far?

William Barkawi: Many challenges come to mind: from building the team and collaborating across five continents, the inevitable growing pains within the organization, to the relocation of our development team from Russia, to the constant pursuit of balance between quality and speed, especially in product development. Especially the search for hand-picked people who are a good match for Clearops both professionally and personally is a big challenge.

For me personally, it was probably growing into the CEO role at a very young age while the company was really picking up speed. You also have to get used to the side effects of entrepreneurial success (such as the pressure to make decisions, the workload or HR responsibilities). You have to have a solution for everything, be available at all times and deal with new challenges that appear hopeless almost every day. This is where it’s essential to have a strong team and advisors on board, and to also honestly accept their well-intentioned criticism.

“Launching new products and services every month”

Munich Startup: How is business going?

William Barkawi: What we’ve definitely noticed in general is that the demand for supply chain software and data integration is constantly increasing. Especially at a time with unstable supply chains, companies have to digitize their supply chains in order to create transparency, to modularize suppliers in a way that optimizes costs, to produce according to actual demand and, ultimately, to serve customers on time.

What that means for us: Industry pioneers such as AGCO, Terex, Stihl and Jungheinrich are already using our tool worldwide. This means global supply chains with millions of parts and thousands of technicians are being digitized and optimized.

Currently, we’re also growing rapidly as a team and plan to be about 50 people by the end of the year. In the last three months, we opened a new technology hub for developers in Lisbon as well as a new office in the US. At the same time, we’re launching new products and services every month, which is why our ambitions in the next three years are quite aggressive. By the way: We’re hiring!

The most important number for me, however, is how many employees and customers have left us so far: namely zero. And that, in my opinion, is the most important metric for benchmarking our success, our technology, customer value, and, ultimately, our corporate culture.

Munich Startup: How have you experienced Munich as a startup location so far?

William Barkawi: I have the impression that the first association with Munich is often “expensive.” Staff, infrastructure, cost of living, taxes. The city suffers from the image and it harms greenfield development for startups.

That being said, I consider Munich to be an extremely interesting location for the future – especially from the point of view of a tech startup. It has a stable political foundation (and since we have a development office in St. Petersburg, we no longer take political stability for granted), an incredible number of motivated, clever minds, relevant funding programs, a well-networked startup scene, the close proximity to many of the world’s market leaders and globally active corporations … if there’s one thing Munich certainly has enough of, it’s opportunities!

Munich Startup: Outsource or DIY?

William Barkawi: That’s a question I often ask myself. My motto, regardless of whether for physical or digital products, is to always manufacture or develop my own core competencies. Everything that benefits your own USP should be produced in-house. In all other areas, I think outsourcing makes more sense. On the one hand, because you can concentrate on the right things, and on the other hand, because it’s often just more economical and usually faster. It is, however, extremely important to not become too dependent and to also always ask critically: Does the outsourcing model or solution live up to our corporate philosophy and values (example: production in low-wage countries).