Text Ralf Steck ––– Photography
Dr Weis, you’ve been in the job for about 100 days. What have you focused on during this period?
Two things were important to me to start with – optimum support for our customers’ process chain, and the HR and organisational setup of Cideon Software & Services.
In terms of HR and organisation, I’m continuing the excellent work of my predecessor, Clemens Voegele. He started the process of reorganising Cideon to ensure staff work together more closely and efficiently. That optimises the planning of HR resources for projects. I was also keen to get to know my new colleagues and their individual capabilities.
My second focal point is the process chain. We help our customers become more efficient, and that doesn’t just apply to engineering. We’re looking to extend our services throughout the process chain. That starts with engineering – our core area of expertise – and continues with production and service operations. We’re gradually developing our existing strengths in these new areas.
You’ve come from a mechanical engineering company, where you were responsible for digitalization. Are you finding this experience useful?
I’d like to go a little further back. My time at SAP in Japan had already given me a good insight into Cideon interfaces, the way the company works and its products. With my most recent employer, I gained a great deal of experience relating to customers and applications. Service operations are one example. Imagine you sell your machines globally and one of them somewhere in the world grinds to a halt – the customer affected will want help as quickly as possible. To reduce response times, Cideon has been working on remote technologies that service engineers can use from their current location to help the customer’s fitters rectify the problem, which often isn’t very serious at all. You simply need plenty of experience to identify these minor issues and resolve them using remote maintenance.
Has coronavirus made remote technologies more relevant?
Yes, they’re becoming far more significant. All of a sudden, travel has become virtually impossible and we’re being asked to find alternative solutions. This is where the experience Cideon can offer comes in. An electronic spare parts catalogue and an online shop enable customers to quickly find and order the appropriate parts. What’s more, a digital link between individual machines and their documentation ensures the service engineer who is at the customer’s site always has all the correct, up-to-date documentation to hand. New business models can be implemented, such as service and maintenance contracts with short, guaranteed response times based on remote collaboration.
Our task here at Cideon is to provide the technology for such models and help our customers implement it. Our focus on SMEs works to our benefit, because they need simple, efficient solutions. Many solutions on the market are primarily intended for large corporations and are so complex that they are virtually impossible for SMEs to implement.
Can you give some examples of how SMEs can get off to a good start with digitalization?
They should begin with simpler solutions rather than complex aspects such as data lakes, IIoT or AI. For example, most machines already have a large number of sensors, which means there is no need to immediately install a highly complex, self-learning IoT solution. Basic alarms that potentially also alert the manufacturer when triggered are sufficient to start with. The next stage is to analyse the situation over time and evaluate this data.
It’s important to create a well-structured, reliable database, use this as a basis for implementing simple solutions and then gradually take things further – at the speed required by the company. Many solutions are in actual fact obvious. The trick is to recognise them. In addition to using our experience to help customers with this, we can also offer solutions ensuring, for example, that the right documentation is automatically provided when equipment is being serviced.
What do these trends mean for Cideon and your strategy?
We’re expanding many parts of our portfolio by extending our well-established expertise and experience to new areas such as consulting. In parallel to this, we’re adding to our range of solutions by utilising our long-standing, close collaboration with SAP and Autodesk to complement the existing solutions with our own software offerings.
How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your customers and Cideon itself?
Companies have now had over a year to adapt to the situation, so coronavirus is having less of an impact on business operations. SMEs in the mechanical engineering sector in particular have always had relatively short supply chains – not due to the risk of a pandemic, but to ensure a faster response. Their suppliers tend to be based in eastern Europe rather than China, so this sector has been less badly affected by interruptions in supply than some others, who were left without input materials from Asia for weeks on end.
The thing I notice most when I walk around the company are the empty training rooms. It’s highly unlikely that they will ever be as full as they once were, because here, too, companies are looking to minimise absences, the time spent travelling and the associated costs. Online training is becoming increasingly popular and, accordingly, we will be adapting more and more topics to enable customers to use the training courses online.
What are your future plans for Cideon?
Cideon is already extremely well positioned. For two or three years now, we’ve been transforming into a system integrator, moving away from products and more towards integration and consulting. We will be systematically continuing along this path. In the next few months, we’ll also be reorganising our consulting activities. Looking further ahead, the task will be to create additional intellectual property based on the development process and, as already mentioned, establish our knowhow and solutions throughout the process chain. This will ensure our organic growth and market success.
Many thanks for this interview, Dr Weis.