"We enable companies to transition step-by-step to digital-driven business models"

07.11.2017 15:03

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MachiQ, the Industry 4.0 startup based at Univercité in Renens, announced recently that it has started working with GEA Group, one of the largest international suppliers for the food processing industry. Roy Chikballapur, CEO and founder of the company, shares his experience in this exclusive interview to Startupticker.

When did MachIQ start working with GEA Group?
GEA is a partner of MassChallenge and we met them when we took part in the program last year. We connected with the leadership team of GEA’s Services organisation and that started the discussions on a collaboration. We pitched to Steffen Bersch, one of the Board members of GEA when he judged the finals of MassChallenge last October and from there on, things really took off. We signed a Letter of Intent a few weeks after we incorporated the company in Vaud early this year, and have been working closely with them ever since. We have a shared vision that a platform approach is necessary to serve their customer segments and MachIQ facilitates this. We are very proud of the relationship that we have built with them. We wish to replicate the same spirit of partnership with all the other machinery companies that we are in discussions with.

How did you get to work with one of the largest international suppliers for the food processing industry?
Both Antonin, my cofounder and I have a large company background - Antonin worked at Safran and I am a proud alumnus of Schneider Electric. We are comfortable with the way big companies do business. I also worked a lot with Schneider’s machine builder customers and I think MachIQ’s value proposition reflects our understanding of this industry vertical. That said, GEA is large but an incredibly open and action-oriented company. We moved quickly from slides to prototypes to projects with them. 

What problem is MachIQ addressing for GEA Group? What makes your solution unique for them ?
At MachIQ, we believe that Industry 4.0 is not just about IoT and connected machines. It will force a radical shift in the industry's business models. Most companies are too caught up in the hype of technological advances like AI and predictive maintenance and haven’t worked out what their business will look like when these technologies are deployed at scale. MachIQ enables machine builders to transition step-by-step, to digital-driven business models. They start with digitalising existing services like spare parts sales and gradually bring all their services activities on to digital channels, with pretested monetisation models on MachIQ. Further, excelling at services requires one to know the customers as well as they know themselves. CRM systems were sufficient 15 years ago. But nowadays, customers are more demanding and expect instant responses and are unwilling to wait for hours or days. We make this possible with two inter-connected applications that we offer in a SaaS model:

  • MachIQDCX (Digital Customer Experience) for Machine Builders, which brings alive their CRM data with collaborative capabilities on a Customer portal offering eCommerce, Tech Support, Field Services & IoT; that help them interact seamlessly with their customers.
  • MachIQAPM (Asset Performance Management) which enables their customers to maximise their machine up-time while drastically reducing their spare parts inventories. We make this possible by digitalising all the information that they manage about their equipment and drastically improving their collaboration with all their suppliers; for services, spare parts and technical support.

Can you give us some details about the project that went live recently at Molkerei Rücker?
Rücker is an innovative, family-owned dairy company in Northern Germany, and a customer of GEA. MachIQAPM offered them an opportunity to modernise their Maintenance processes and tools by migrating to a single solution for all their maintenance and spare parts inventory management. An important value that our software brings is that it is powered by the knowledge base that GEA maintains about its own machines. Traditional maintenance tools are information silos and the data they have comes solely from their own workforce. On MachIQAPM, the data comes alive as Rücker is continuously connected with GEA’s personnel and systems for all their service needs. Our system is brand agnostic and can work with other suppliers of Rücker as well and this is a big value add for them. This way, there is one place for all maintenance activities and services to maximize asset performance.

How are the first feedbacks and results from Rücker and its users?
The early feedback has been very positive from users and management so far and that is encouraging as a founder. We invested a lot of effort in data quality and user training and that resulted in a smooth Go-Live. We also got a lot of inputs that helped us refine our product for the entire F&B segment. GEA actively participated throughout the process and are jointly responsible for the success of the project.

What are the next steps and / or challenges for MachIQ?
We have a lot of customer interest and are racing to meet this demand with our small team, but I guess this is a good challenge to have. Hiring the right people and laying the foundation for a strong company culture is my top priority as CEO. We are also starting to broaden our customer base and go after big machine builders in other verticals. We are fundraising selectively from a close network of investors. I think MassChallenge gave us a solid platform to take an idea and emerge with a good product-market fit. Right now, we are focused on revenue generation activities and not actively participating in startup events and contests.

Where are you based today? How many employees has your startup? 
MachIQ continues to be based in Renens at the Univercité campus. However, we spend a lot of time in Germany where all our initial customers are located. As far as the team is concerned, we recently welcomed our 4th member and are now accelerating hiring.


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