Issue #31 - The Future of Manufacturing
Topics this time: industrial robots on the rise and how they support humans, the human digital twin, advertising spent in automotive, and lots of new funding rounds.
👋 Welcome to Issue #31 👋
An Update on Courses & Community:
🆕 Digital Transformation in Manufacturing Course: Our first course about digital transformation in manufacturing has kicked off 🎉
Our participants work at different types of companies (large corporates, consulting firms, and startups) and come from different places in the world (DE, CA, FR, UK) - but they have one thing in common: they are working at the forefront of digital manufacturing.
Thanks to everybody who registered and I’m very sorry that we did not have enough slots available. Help us to decide which courses we should launch next.
👪 Community for Innovation Managers: We have 130 members in our community and I will invite more people over the next months. You can join the waitlist here or forward it to somebody you think should be part of this global community. As a reminder, this community is designed for people who work on the digital transformation in manufacturing companies, coordinate and drive digitization projects, and scout new ideas. Please note, building a diverse community is a key priority for me.
Got a friend or colleague interested in the future of manufacturing? Help me spread the word by sharing the newsletter if you like it!
I. News and articles about the industry 👇
👩🏭 The $1 trillion problem - US manufacturers are desperate for workers
A new study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute underlines that the talent shortage in the US manufacturing industry is getting worse: up to 2.1 million jobs will be unfilled through 2030. This could cost the US economy up to $1 trillion by 2030. While the demand for goods is increasing, US factories cannot find enough skilled workers. Manufacturing is suffering from a bad image, many young people do not work in the industry and are afraid about robots taking their jobs even though it’s clear that "the robots are not taking over”. At the same time, there is heavy competition for entry-level talent from companies such as Amazon which makes it harder for manufacturing companies to hire that talent. Lastly, there is also a big gap for middle-skill jobs that require some level of training - a problem that could probably be solved with more investment into upskilling and reskilling.
🤖 Industrial robots on the rise to help companies meet demand
Even though robots are not taking over, industrial robots help manufacturing companies to meet demand. Companies in North America have boosted their spending on industrial robots by 9.6% in the first quarter this year compared to the year before. Interestingly, the strongest growth comes from metal producers. Even though the pandemic froze many businesses, it has accelerated the adoption of automation.
🤖 How robots support humans in the workplace
Following up on robotics, Wired has compiled a list of robotics use cases and where robots prove already to be useful coworkers. My favorite is Sarcos Robotics that has built an exoskeleton that lifts up to 90kg effortlessly, see here:
🤖 European robotics startups
Matthias Bosse from seed+speed Ventures made an overview of European robotics startups that got started in 2013 or later. The landscape contains 58 different companies, most of which fall into the “industrial” category (50%). These 58 companies have received a total investment of $357M. Looking at the founding date, 2015 was the peak with 16 companies that got started. Here is an overview of all the companies:
👩🚀 The human digital twin
We talk a lot about digital twins and usually refer to a digital twin of a machine. ProGlove wants to change that and is building a human digital twin by analyzing the human processes of its users. Its ergonomic barcode scanner collects motion data and contextualizes the collected data. The goal is to help companies to increase efficiency, quality, and ergonomics by analyzing that data while ensuring the well-being of the workers. It’s a fresh approach towards building digital twins focused on the worker where I expect to see more in the future from similar companies.
🏭 Foxconn is scaling back its investment in a US factory dramatically
In 2017, Foxconn announced to invest $10bn into a factory in Wisconsin (US) with a potential headcount of 13,000 people. Two years later the company already scaled back its plans due to challenging economics. Today it’s even more disappointing, instead of the planned $10bn, Foxconn will only invest $672M with a potential headcount of not more than 1,500 people. This example shows you how things can change when a big company plans to set up a factory from scratch and why some of the big PR announcements have to be taken with a grain of salt.
🤑 Comparing the advertising spent in automotive
I came across Alex Garcia’s tweetstorm about the advertising spent in automotive and where he describes Tesla’s marketing playbook. The playbook is in particular interesting because Tesla spends 0$ on advertising per year compared to Volkswagon, Ford, GM, Toyota, and BMW that collectively spend $25B+ each year.
While the data from this Forbes article is 2 years old, it’s still very interesting to see the differences in the marketing mix back then (eg. BMW’s marketing spent on Twitter) but I’d love to see how it has changed today.
II. About industrial Startups 👇
🤑 Path Robotics raised a $56M Series B.
As mentioned in the first article in this Newsletter, the US manufacturing industry is suffering from a big talent shortage. Welding is one of the areas where it is particularly bad in the US.
Enter Path Robotics which is building welding robots. The company has just raised a $56M round led by Addition which brings the company’s total funding to $71M. Path Robotic’s welding system uses computer vision and AI to adjust itself to different parts. The system is designed for an environment with highly reflective materials which is one of the key challenges in welding and where other robotic systems come short.
💸 Ermeo got acquired by Causeway Technology
French-based connected worker platform Ermeo got acquired by Causeway Technology, a provider of software solutions to the construction industry. Ermeo has been one of the first players in Europe that positioned itself as a “connected worker platform”. The company got started in 2015, raised €2.5M from investors such as Partech, and has been focused on standardizing and digitizing operational processes. The solution is used by companies such as SNCF, Total, and Eurotunnel. The sum of the acquisition has not been disclosed.
🤑 Seeq raised a $50M Series C.
The advanced analytics software provider Seeq has raised a $50M Series C led by Insight Partners. Seeq has a lot of customers in industries such as oil & gas, energy, chemicals, and other process industries. So it’s no surprise that industry players such as Next47 (Siemens), Cisco Investments, and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures also participated in the round. This brings Seeq’s total funding to a very significant amount of $115M.
The software helps process manufacturing companies to rapidly analyze process data, share insights and predictions to improve production. The company also partners with different players in the ecosystem and is available on the AWS and Azure Marketplace for example.
🤑 Shapeways goes public via SPAC.
In my last two Newsletters, I was first highlighting Berkshire Gray and then Lilium that both go public by way of SPAC. Next up is Shapeways, a 3D printing marketplace. It utilizes 11 additive manufacturing technologies and over 90 materials and finishes.
Shapeways got started in 2007 and has raised $107M to date. It has reached more than a million customers in 160 countries. Now the company plans to go public via SPAC in Q3 this year. The deal would value the company at $605M at closing.
It’s worth mentioning that going public via SPAC seems to be a trend among 3D printing companies. Markforged and Desktop Metal have used the same model recently.
🤑 Holoride raised a $12M Series A.
Holoride that has been started by former Audi employees has raised a $12M Series A led by the Swedish software development company Terranet. Holoride is building an immersive XR in-vehicle media platform that matches the user experience with the movement of the vehicle so that you don’t feel sick or dizzy. A key part is the localization and positioning software the company uses for that. Holoride’s product can be used manufacturer-agnostic for different VR headsets and phones. The goal of the company is to “turn every vehicle into a moving theme park”.
🤑 HiveMQ raised a €9M Seed round.
German-based HiveMQ, an enterprise MQTT solutions, has raised a €9M Seed round co-led by Earlybird and Senovo Capital. HiveMQ’s software helps companies to connect IoT devices to the cloud in a secure and scalable way. The tool is based on the MQTT protocol that is widely used for IoT connectivity. Until the investment round, the company has been bootstrapped and could secure more than 130 production customers such as BMW, Daimler, and ZF.
To all founders regarding the definition and size of the investment rounds
If you read through the funding announcements, you will recognize that the investment sizes and names (Seed, Series A, Series B, ...) differ widely. Do not compare yourself or your company to others - every company is different and has a different and unique situation. Some companies will raise a €2M seed round, other companies a €10M seed round. Do not feel disencouraged just because you raised a smaller round than somebody else or an adjacent company in your field.
III. Additional funding news in short 👇
👉 Geomiq (UK): Custom parts maker Geomiq raised a £2.9M Seed round. Read more…
👉 3YourMind (DE): Additive manufacturing software provider 3YourMind raised a $12.4M Series A+ round. Read more…
👉 Plus One Robotics (US): Logistics robotics startup Plus One Robotics raised a $33M Series B. Read more…
👉 Rapid Robotics (US): which develops robotic machine operators, has raised a $12M Series A. Read more…
👉 Regent (US): which develops flying electric ferries that sail as fast as 180 miles per hour has raised a $9M Seed round. Read more…
IV. Additional content & the I40 landscape 👇
Presentation: Leading through change - embrace the future of manufacturing.
I had the chance to talk at the Beekeeper Frontline Summit 2021 two weeks ago.
Covid-19 has (again) underlined the importance of frontline workers who keep our factories and our economy running. However, many factories are still far away from implementing new digital manufacturing solutions.
In the end, digital manufacturing means building a digital workforce - but it comes with its challenges due to the skills gap and new technologies. Therefore, we need to invest heavily in building a digital workforce and shift our mindset from investing in machines to investing in people.
👉 Here is my presentation where I talk about these topics.
Industry 4.0 Map - Reinventing the Factory Stack
There are now in total nearly 500 companies in the landscape, which I just updated in April. More to come soon.
Thanks to everybody for supporting this newsletter! Comments, questions, or additional thoughts? Send me a note 🙏