In this interview, Matti Maier, IT Manager at c-Com GmbH, talks about the problems with dispersed, non-integrated information, the benefits of a cloud platform, and the importance of an Agile approach. Prior to c-Com, Matti worked as Head of Software Development at AUTOPROP Software Ltd, and IT Project Manager at Matti Maier Internet Solutions, providing IT consulting
TDE: Thank you so much for taking our questions! Tell us a little about your business and your specific role?
Matti Maier: c-Com GmbH is the digitization subsidiary within the MAPAL Group – leading manufacturer of special metal cutting tools. As the IT manager, I’m responsible for the software development teams as well as the integration of partners and customers with our platform.
TDE: When did you first realize that you had an issue that needed a digital solution? What was the nature of the problem you set out to solve?
Matti Maier: Looking at the core business of collaborating with our customers to find the best technical solution for their manufacturing processes, the amount of non-integrated e-mails and spreadsheets is enormous. In a few cases we found even paper-based processes, e.g. to report on broken tools. This led to the conclusion that the collaboration needs to be supported digitally and information must be shared in a different way – the starting point for the c-Com cloud platform for collaborative tool management.
TDE: What were the challenges you faced at the time as you began the process of evaluating solutions?
Matti Maier: Primarily, the challenge was where do we get started from. There were so many individual processes, players and requirements that a newly formed team had to focus on a few processes – a collaborative tool application database and the automation of administrative processes within a service unit. Finding suitable solutions on the market was cumbersome. Their focus was either the technology itself, in part its administration and not a single solution offered collaborative, process-based approaches to our problem.
TDE: What did the final solution look like and what were the broad benefits that it delivered?
Matti Maier: Our final solution came about after our team attended a workshop and we decided to develop our own solution – an open, collaborative cloud platform.
Linking together the ERP system, IIoT devices like tool dispensing units, disposition and reporting functionality made our product stand out.
TDE: What were some of the key elements that were responsible for the project’s success? What processes have you found useful for implementing digital technologies?
Matti Maier: Probably the most crucial element for our success was the proximity of this team to the domain, which contributed to a complete understanding of all facets of the problem. With strong support and (not always cheerful) feedback from the workforce within customer factories, the solution is targeted at the true problems and needs. Throughout the implementation, however, we found that guidance from a user experience expert is helpful to not drive the solution too much towards a usability that overly reflects the complexity of the domain.
TDE: What was your biggest takeaway from this project?
Matti Maier: Establishing agile processes in a company driven by metal and chipping is challenging. The best software solution is worth very little if the workforce on the ground is not convinced.
TDE: What’s next for you on your digital roadmap?
Matti Maier: Having completed a few successful pilots, the roll-out of the solution will pose different challenges requiring our strongly grown team to find new solutions and methodologies to deal with them.
TDE: What’s your go to resource – websites, newsletters, any other – that you use to stay in touch with the explosive changes happening in the digital space?
Matti Maier: Personally, I use the iX magazine (German), Wired and Economist magazines when I’m travelling and various websites and apps such as Flipboard, #Digital to follow new developments in the tech space.
TDE: Read a good book lately on digital transformation that you’d like to recommend to us?
Matti Maier: The Automatic Customer by John Warrillow.
For more DX insights, follow Matti Maier on LinkedIn.