Hidden Champions and Business Heads With digital perspective » Interview with Dirk Franke, CEO of Picavi GmbH

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With digital perspective
AS THE FIRST COMPANY IN THE WORLD, Picavi GmbH has developed data collection systems to a marketable solution. In an interview with Diplomatisches Magazin, CEO Dirk Franke talks about the rapid development as a start-up company, cooperations with big partners and the international marketing.

Franke, your business was founded in 2013 as a high-tech startup under the name Logcom GmbH, and since then it’s been producing software for the use of data glasses in a company’s internal flow of materials and goods. How has your business changed in the past four years?

Back then, we started with a key group of programers who quickly established our system Picavi on the market. But this could only happen once the software had been tested. In order to overcome this challenge, we were able to partner with the premium cosmetics producer Dr. Babor GmbH & Co. KG from Aachen, who helped us evaluate our pick-by-vision solution on a practical level – and we’re still partnered with them today. In February 2015, we officially launched Picavi on the market. Since then, the business has been growing rapidly. We built and expanded our distribution, project management, and administrative services. In the meantime, we also changed our name to Picavi GmbH, since the brandname Picavi had already become very well known.

With your commissioning system for data glasses, you are promising the best conditions for the continuous flow of materials and an uninterrupted shift operations in warehouses with an estimated time saving of 18 percent in comparison to usual aids. How does this technology work, and what advantages does it generate for users?

A warehouse worker visually goes through their working day. It’s comparable to a head-up display in a car, in which information is displayed on a screen in the corner of the field of vision. In a similar visual manner, the warehouse worker receives relevant information from Picavi. This significant save in time is achieved through this consequent, easy process control that takes places on the display of the data glasses and quickly confirms each step through a scanner that’s integrated into the glasses. The wearer of the glasses also has both hands free. In this way, Pick-by-Vision combines the advantages of the normal picking technology available on the market. Thanks to an intuitive use of hard- and software, every warehouse clerk will be able to master the data glasses quite quickly, and will have a firmer grasp over the warehouse. With Picavi, we also ensure that the data glasses’ resources are optimally utilised during ideal operating temperatures and simultaneously apply increased benefit durations. The Picavi Power Control battery is an additional hardware solution with which we facilitate the warehouse shift operations with data glasses.

How did you come up with the idea to use data glasses in warehouses?

I was walking through a supermarket I had never been to before, and I needed double the amount of time to find everything on my list. “There has to be an easier way,“ I thought to myself, remembering past conversations at universities on the subject of data glasses. My wife, who also works in universities, introduced me to Professor Dr. Alexander Voß from the FH Aachen. He was impressed by the idea of using data glasses for commissioning processes. We quickly developed a main concept and found investors. Our expertise in the areas of warehouse logistics, IT, and business management were very helpful for this.

In what areas are data glasses with your system being used right now?

We’re concentrating on warehouse and processing logistics with our data glasses. This includes commissioning, the receipt of goods, loading, and the inventory of warehouses, but also the sequencing procedures in the automobile industry.

How have the changes in your company affected the number of employees and the revenue of the past years?

We currently have 25 employees. This year, we’ll be hiring more. In 2017, our revenue will already grow to various millions of euros.

What was an obstacle you faced as a business founder, and what advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?

It only took one and a half years to go from our founding up to the entry into the market, so that we could introduce Pick-by- Vision in our first global high bay warehouse in 2015 – a challenge that we successfully met with our development partner and our client Babor. Especially in the founding phase the physical proximity to our investors really helped: Seed Fonds Aachen II, DSA Invest, S-VC, and the Business Angel Franz-Josef Titz. They gave us the necessary financial funds, connected us and introduced us to important players who are now current customers of Picavi. The consulting function that they have taken over was very helpful at the beginning, and founders should be thinking about this when choosing their own investors. As a startup, a clear baseline is also very important. It should be possible to to act flexibly, but a certain sense of focus is also required: one shouldn’t pursue every single chance that comes along, no matter how attractive it may initially seem.

For the past year, you’ve been cooperating with SAP-Partners and the NRW.BANK. What successes did this partnership bring after the first months?

We have developed a Middleware-free SAP standard interface and could already win four SAP clients with short project durations. Together with the SAP Silverpartner io-consultants, we’ve organised our own networking evening about Picavi and SAP on the first day of the international logistics fair LogiMAT, which many guests from renowned businesses attended. Through the current technology campaign from the NRW.BANK, of which we’re the focus, we’ve been able to gain a great deal of encouragement and attention.

In the past year, Picavi was awarded the Innovationspreis- IT in the category Industry and Logistics by the Initiative Mittelstand at the CeBIT, and was also awarded the „Hidden Champion“ Award by n-tv. What doors were opened for you after these awards?

The interest for our business, which was already quite high, increased significantly after we received the awards. The awards proved that we are on the right path and they showed future clients that our innovation is competitive.

After a trip to North America this past October and a number of meetings with hardware partners and new distribution partners, your intra-logistics solutions for data glasses will now be available overseas as well. What plans do you have for future international marketing strategies?

We currently have a distribution partner in Australia as well. The development of further international markets will follow rapidly. We are also using the international distribution network of our partners, such as viastore, international suppliers of intra-logistic systems, and TEAM, the IT partner for intra- logistics.

Your headquarters are in Herzogenrath, close to Aachen. Are there plans to expand your headquarters, or create other locations in Germany?

We’ll probably grow out of our current headquarters by the summer of 2018. We are currently discussing how the expansion should take place. The headquarters will definitely stay in Aachen, since it’s a recognised technology site with the Excellence University RWTH, to which we’re closely connected.

What plans do you personally have for your business’ future

Using data glasses in warehouses and on a logistical level will establish itself as a market- dominating technology, and that will occur within a few years. We will continue to expand our market lead and our technology. We’re currently working on integrating additional technology, such as expanded augmented reality, indoor navigation, and OCR character recognition. Apart from warehouse and processing logistics, I can also imagine a number of sequences in which data glasses could be very useful, such as in laboratory management or during quality assurance processes. We already have the necessary technology partnerships who use our know-how so that they can integrate our technology into their software. I am personally looking forward to many further exciting and motivating years

Interview Markus Feller

Pictures: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 = Logcom GmbH