The enormous price increases in industrial production due to the energy crisis are a hotly debated topic right now. This makes it all the more important to keep other cost factors as low as possible, such as downtime due to machine damage. The discipline that tries to prevent this is called "predictive maintenance". Thanks to the use of artificial intelligence, the Hamburg-based startup ai-omatic solutions has gained a leading position in this field.
The cost of a machine breakdown in industrial production depends on the size of the company and the sector, among other things. Per hour, a five- to six-figure sum can be incurred; in the automotive industry, it can even be more than 20,000 euros per minute. It's no wonder that interest in predictive maintenance has risen sharply in recent years. The term "predictive maintenance" refers to a procedure based on the evaluation of process and machine data. Real-time processing of data makes forecasts possible, which form the basis for needs-based maintenance and consequently the reduction of downtime.
Such data analysis requires a good understanding of statistics, a subject that does not arouse enthusiasm in everyone. Lena Weirauch thinks differently. She studied economics and psychology and discovered her affinity for numbers and statistics at it. She gained her first startup experience at the Hamburg-based company Synergeticon, which works with artificial intelligence (AI), among other things for the analysis of image data.
Also working at Synergeticon at the time was bioinformatician Dario Ramming. The good collaboration between him and Lena inspired them to tackle the foundation of her own startup. As CEO, Lena is primarily responsible for corporate strategy and sales at ai-omatic, while Dario has taken on the position of CTO. His area of expertise fits perfectly with the business model: AI in an industrial context. The management trio is completed by CFO Felix Kraft, a finance expert who founded his first company at the age of 18.
A founding team equipped with different, complementary skills is an important prerequisite for the success of a startup. And it also got off to a promising start in its formative year, 2020, with a victory at the Schleswig-Holstein StartUp Camp. The prize was a trip to the Plug & Play accelerator in Silicon Valley. However, Corona made that trip impossible for the time being. At least now there was more time to refine ai-omatic's software and the associated business model.
As already mentioned, predictive maintenance is about the early detection of machine damage and thus avoiding downtime. The most common method is to spot anomalies. To do this, sensors continuously measure parameters such as temperature or pressure during production. If the results leave a range defined by experience as normal, there is a warning message. In principle, this approach is working, but it can quickly reach its limits.
For example, when parameters are considered individually and not in context. Several figures regarded in their own may lie in the limit range but still be unproblematic. In combination, however, they pose an increased risk and require intervention. The more data that is collected, the greater the likelihood that a problem can be identified before or at the very beginning of its development and prevented through targeted measures. However, such an analysis requires a considerable investment of time and personnel, and neither is often available to the extent required.
Therefore, it is advisable to leave a large part of the work to an artificial intelligence such as that of ai-omatic. This is because it can not only handle very large amounts of data, but also convert the analysis results into recommendations for action. At least in theory. ai-omatic was able to demonstrate its practical suitability for the first time in 2021. Using old data, the AI detected faults that had actually occurred without having been informed about them. The first paying customers were convinced to carry out test runs with ai-omatic. There was also some action in terms of financing. IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH included the startup in its InnoFounder program and several business angels contributed a six-figure sum.
Predictive maintenance is a field in which many companies are active, and even in Hamburg, ai-omatic is not the only provider. PANDA also deals with the topic, so it seems reasonable to assume that both startups see each other as competitors. However, when they took a closer look at each other, they found that they complement perfectly. PANDA is focused on data collection with hardware and software offerings, while ai-omatics is focused on analytics. Thus positioned, they could even tackle joint projects. Since PANDA is in a phase of restructuring, these are not a priority right now, but there is still good contact.
We live in uncertain times, which also present many startups with serious challenges. But at ai-omati a spirit of optimism prevails in the fall of 2022. For example, the startup was finally able to start its journey to Sillicon Valley at the end of September. At the 46th edition of Plug & Play's Accelerator, it is one of 21 teams from around the world. CTO Felix used the first weeks for workshops, networking and meetings with potential customers and investors. In November, Lena and he will spend more time there and intensify contacts.
Plug & Play is not the only program where ai-omatic has been able to snag a spot. The German software giant SAP has also taken notice of the Hamburg-based company. More than 100 startups applied for the SAP.io Industry 4.0 Program, eleven made it, among them ai-omatic. The kick-off event took place during the Oktoberfest. The five-month program is intended to lead to a long-term partnership, the analytics software will be available in the SAP Store from 2023.
That's not all, as ai-omatic was also part of the first batch of AI.STARTUP.HUB, Hamburg's initiative to promote AI startups. And the EIT Manufacturing consortium, an association of 50 European companies, institutions and universities, has also gotten involved. It offers a convertible loan of 250,000 euros and an international network. This is also available via the new business angel Hanno Elbrächter, a mechanical engineering expert with excellent connections to Asia. In total, ai-omatic has been able to collect almost one million in investments so far. A seed round of double that amount is being planned.
It is not yet clear when this can be announced, but one date is already fixed: on November 1, 2022, the first real full version of ai-omatic's software will go live. Two well-known customers will be involved in the launch: PetCom, a producer of pet food, and REHAU Automotive, an automotive supplier. In addition, Microsoft Azure is a strong sales partner on board. With all these successes, it's no wonder that CEO Lena Weirauch is a sought-after speaker, especially since women are unfortunately still in the minority in her industry. In order to change this, Lena is committed to supporting female founders in the startup scene, for example in the Female StartAperitivo ACADEMY. We will certainly be hearing a lot more from her and ai-omatic.