You don't need a software company. You need an ability company.
Which abilities are essential for the automotive industry in a time of unprecedented challenges? Why are people the key to digitalisation and why can't you get by with software alone in today's world? The following interview with Jaroslav Follprecht and Roman Žák, founders and owners of Aimtec, answers these and other questions.
You say that the company doesn't just need more software, but actual abilities. Isn't it rather bold for an IT company to say that software is not enough?
Follprecht: We need to start with the history and the question of how to explain to the customer what we do. We have adapted a simple expression - the digital factory. This is delivered using advanced tools that form the concept of digital delivery. Moreover, we started to build up and preserve our know-how 25 years ago. We have therefore arrived at the three pillars - the digital factory, digital delivery and expert know-how - on which we build our projects.
Žák: Like many companies today, we tended to talk about ourselves. But by investing in the aforementioned pillars for 25 years, we have achieved a completely unique ability. We can deliver on time, in quality and at a good price, which is not that common in the IT industry. Above all, we know that the customer wants to get real added value with the project. The projects must be useful to him not only at the very beginning but also years later, and he must be able to develop continuously. In this way he acquires the ability to survive in today's world, which is especially harsh in the automotive sector, where there are often conflicting requirements to meet. To be standardized yet flexible. To be agile, but at the same time to follow a long-term strategy. By going digital, the customer gains the ability to operate in this way.
The key to success in the market is to be different, to offer something the others don’t. So how is Aimtec different from the competition?
Follprecht: We regularly ask customers about this. They reply that we understand them, that our people have a passion for the mission, that we always go a little further than is customary in the industry. And we have summed this up in the motto “ability company”, because that is how we perceive our role. The goal is not just to deliver software or technology, but to give the customer the ability to continue to operate sustainably in harsh environments. To give him the ability to act with agility so that he can devote effort and energy to the most important changes. To allow him to be flexible. Today, you invest a huge amount of money in a technology with a specific goal, but by the time you deploy it, the goal has already shifted and the solution needs to be adapted as the project progresses. And thirdly, at the same time to give him the ability to standardise, which is about being able to produce in the same way with the same quality all over the world.
Žák: Let's not forget another crucial point: companies today focus too much on technology when it comes to digitalisation, but in reality it is all about people. We offer know-how and digital competence. Our customers' companies are then competitive not only because they have the best systems, but also because they have built teams of people who have the ability to digitise and develop digitisation further. Our people will help them build these teams.
Experience and know-how can only be passed on by those who have it. You mentioned that you have been collecting know-how for over 25 years. What's your recipe for that?
Žák: I think it's basically part of the company culture and our values. Sharing information and know-how is very important to us, none of us operates as a loner. Next, we apply the principle of "thinking beyond" - thinking outside the box. While our people have to specialize, we teach them to take a holistic approach to the proposed solution so that everything works together as one.
„We have a very sophisticated internal training system that allows us to store and preserve our expertise effectively. But more importantly, we are able to actually transfer this knowledge and know-how amongst ourselves, and as a result we are able to offer it to our customers.“
Jaroslav Follprecht, CEO and Aimtec co-founder
Your business revolves around digitalisation and the digital factory. Automotive is a challenging industry that is evolving rapidly and is often a model for all others. Is that why you're focusing on it?
Žák: It's certainly an industry at the forefront. However, there are several reasons for our focus.
Follprecht: The automotive industry is heavily standardised, not only by the various standards that are continually being added, but also in terms of its internal workings. The supply chain has several tiers, so if cars are being made somewhere, someone is making the seats, and someone else is making the components for the seats. All of this has to be timed so that all the same seats arrive for the same car at the right time, synchronising the entire supply chain. And that's exactly what we can help with.
Nowadays, the term polycrisis is often used, when one crisis turns into another. In addition, the automotive industry is facing new challenges such as electromobility or the lack of the right chips. What impact does this have on Aimtec, how do you perceive these changes with customers?
Follprecht: Paradoxically, the current uncertain global situation and the disruption of supply chains are good for us. This leads to manufacturers having to be very flexible, which they cannot achieve without digitalisation.
Žák: The crises of the last few years have put a lot of pressure on the automotive industry, and while four or five years ago standardisation was the core, today the pressure for agility and flexibility is going against it. This is the advantage of our systems - they are highly configurable and allow users to adapt very flexibly.
You've been on the market for 25 years and technology has made tremendous progress in that time, and it's more or less still accelerating. How do you see developments, specifically in the automotive sector, in the future?
Žák: With two-thirds of cars produced to be electric by the end of 2030, the entire industry needs to be repositioned. And it's not just related to changing a piece of the line. There are many more chips in electric cars and their availability will have to be resolved, but Europe has lost know-how in this area. Battery production will lead to a struggle for essential raw materials, which China increasingly controls. I think there will also be a growing shortage of people to do it all. The future will be all about flexibility.
Follprecht: You have to look at the geopolitical context that this will have, because it doesn't take the same historical experience to make an electric car that it does to make an internal combustion car. Europe has been the overwhelming leader in internal combustion cars, but today China has a huge lead in electric cars and is able to produce them much more efficiently. This will put a lot of pressure on European manufacturers, who will be forced to automate even more than today. There will definitely be a huge deployment of technology in all handling activities, robots, automated warehouses and there will be more and more of such technologies.
Is there a new ability that Aimtec will have to acquire in order to survive in the future in a dramatically changing world and automotive industry?
Follprecht: We're definitely going to have to learn how to work with artificial intelligence. At our conference, I got advice from one of the attendees about improving the software: "There’s nothing easier, you have the existing software, you know what conditions you have to put it in. Give it to ChatGPT and let it help you with that." To an extent it was an exaggeration, but we're moving towards something like that.
Žák: We must not forget about more mundane trends, such as the increasingly significant shift of all solutions to the cloud. Everyone takes this for granted nowadays, because they demand a higher and higher level of flexibility, which is what the cloud offers. Our customers will have to become more business oriented, they won't worry about the infrastructure any more and we will provide that service for them. Because the hardest part is to prepare the brief, that is, to translate what IT has to do for the business. Moreover, all digitization and automation today is about moving to a holistic approach to solutions. Once the cog fits in the mechanism, for example, smartly connected automation brings significantly more to the environment than an isolated island solution.