A digital‑first approach to logistics innovation by idealworks
When BMW’s new spinoff, the fully owned subsidiary idealworks, was founded in November last year, the message was fairly clear: This Munich startup – which is partnering with major players such as NVIDIA Corporation, ADLINK Technology, and SICK – is reimagining autonomous logistics and changing the way intelligent robots work. We spoke to idealworks’ CEO, Michael Schneider, about the startup’s first year of business, its goals for next year, and his presentation at TAL 2021.
Michael, for those who haven’t heard about idealworks yet – why should they take you into account?
At idealworks, we reimagine logistics for the benefit of our customers. Our expertise reaches far beyond the boundaries of a newly established startup. Being born out of BMW Group’s logistics innovation division established in 2015, we challenge ourselves to provide industry-driven solutions, proven in highly complex environments. The idealworks in-house development approach enables us to provide a range of customer-centric, fully integrated solutions: our intelligent and collaborative autonomous mobile robot, the iw.hub, our uniquely compact control unit, iw.brain, and our cloud-based, VDA5050-compatible fleet management software, AnyFleet. These rank among the most innovative and future-proof offerings on the market.
Idealworks has now been around for about a year. What is the status quo so close to your first anniversary?
In the process of transitioning from an in-house solution provider to an independent company, we have been able to leverage our expertise to become an all-round provider of innovative logistics solutions for hardware, software, and services well beyond the automotive industry. For the time being, our focus lies on companies across all industries within the European Union and the UK, before we begin to tap further markets overseas next year.
A renowned automotive expert with vast international experience, Michael brings both strategic and operational leadership excellence. In more than 17 years spent in consulting and automotive, at Rolls-Royce Motorcars and the BMW Group, he has successfully transformed organisations.
They say the first year in business is the hardest. Any lessons you’ve been learning from this time?
Let’s just say our first year was rather challenging due to well-known external circumstances that still have a lasting impact on the general business mood. Yet, we were able not only to navigate our company through the business-critical first few months, but also to successfully implement pilots with major customers and to market our products through numerous digital formats. So to speak, the overall situation gave us the time required to set up our processes entering the next phase of innovation, where we gave room to an open, flexible communication and corporate culture as well as agile working right from the start. Our most important learning? Organisations have hierarchies; ideas do not.
What are your plans for the next few months and your second year of business?
As a spinoff, we are working hard to establish a customer-centric approach that suits our clients’ requirements of innovative, flexible, and multi-purpose solutions best, not only to introduce our product range and company to new potential customers coming from a wide range of industries, but also to develop truly interesting ideas for presentation. In the next couple of months, we will be offering iw.hub Demo Days to potential customers, taking us all the way to our prospects’ locations, on-site. Moreover, we have already grown to a team of about 40 employees and will continue to expand our workforce. We are eager to further exploit the market’s immense potential for autonomous logistics systems, both within Europe and beyond. It goes without saying that we want to continue this path — internationally.
Our mission statement as a logistics service provider is to have a modular, powerful stack of technology behind all this, enabling us to adapt our software and stay flexible.
Rumor has it that idealworks will be part of TAL 2021...
That’s true! Our Digital Design Lead, Dylan Sheppard, and I will be speaking about our approach to AMR development and how we’re using technology such as the NVIDIA Omniverse platform to support a much faster, easier integration of our products into new customer ecosystems. What makes us different from other companies in this field is our digital approach. We are not just a hardware company that provides an out-of-the-box solution to our customers. Our mission statement as a logistics service provider is to have a modular, powerful stack of technology behind all this, enabling us to adapt our software and stay flexible to meet new customer needs. This is a big topic for us and is too much to share in this interview, but we look forward to showcasing this in detail at TAL in September.