Issue #32 - The Future of Manufacturing
Topics this time: two industrial unicorns, two big acquisitions, ten future roles in manufacturing, and one IPO.
👋 Welcome to Issue #32 👋
An Update on Courses & Community:
🆕 New courses: Our first course about digital transformation in manufacturing is coming to an end soon. We’re already working on new courses and would love to get your feedback.
👉 It would be incredibly helpful if you could answer this quick survey (3 questions, 2min).
👪 Future of Manufacturing Community: We have 140 members in our community, the waitlist is growing and we will invite more people over the next months. As a reminder, this community is designed for people who work on the digital transformation in manufacturing, 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. What I’ve enjoyed reading 👇
👩🏭 Siemens acquired electronics supply chain provider Supplyframe
Siemens acquired Supplyframe, a marketplace for the global electronics value chain, for around $700M. Supplyframe got started 18 years ago and its Design-to-Source Intelligence (DSI) ecosystem has grown to over 10 million engineering and supply chain professionals worldwide. The company made around $70M in revenue last year, so Siemens is paying a 10x revenue multiple for this acquisition. The acquisition shows you how valuable these industrial platforms can become.
🤖 Boston Dynamic’s next commercial robot
Boston Dynamic has worked on a simple robot that can tackle warehouse tasks which is a result of previous robots they have been working on. The robot can handle tasks such as unloading pallets, unloading trucks, and order building (see picture below). Boston Dynamics is planning to sell the first units this summer and is entering a market where it will compete against companies such as Berkshire-Grey.
The article also mentioned an interesting quote by the CEO of Locus Robotics that explains the current state of robotics well: “everyone is looking for the technology that will help them compete with Amazon and its massive robotics army.”
🏭 U.S. manufacturing activity is picking up strongly
According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM), US manufacturing companies are struggling to meet increasing levels of demand. The biggest bottlenecks are shortages of raw materials and labor - a common problem I have been talking about in my last newsletters already. The increase in demand has been experienced across industries, from machinery and electronics to food and beverages. I guess we will see similar dynamics in Europe, at least in some of these manufacturing verticals.
👩🚀 The future of work in manufacturing
I came across this article by Deloitte that talks about future manufacturing jobs and highlights a few future roles that will become important according to them such as:
Digital twin engineer
Smart factory manager
Smart safety manager
Robot teaming coordinator
While these future roles are only a few examples, I thought it’s a good visualization of how future jobs can look like. If you’re interested here are the descriptions of the various personas in more detail.
🏭 Mars is building a digital twin of its manufacturing supply chain
Mars is partnering with Microsoft Azure to build intelligent manufacturing supply chains. It also partners with Accenture that supports Mars to achieve its “cloud-first strategy”. With the deployment of Digital Twins and leveraging data from the field, Mars hopes to empower people on-site to make real-time decisions to optimize production and increase margins. The leading person behind this project is the Chief Digital Officer (CDO) and it shows you how much effort and partners are necessary to incorporate digital technologies.
Lastly - and no surprise for me - Mars is also trying to improve digital skills training for its global workforce and is partnering again with Accenture and Microsoft here.
🏭 Accenture acquired German engineering consulting firm Umlaut.
Speaking of Accenture, the global services and consultancy company strengthen its industrial practice by acquiring Umlaut, a German engineering consulting and services firm with 4,200 employees. Umlaut is particularly focused on industries such as automotive, aerospace & defense, and, energy and will join Accenture's Industry X department. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Since 2017, Accenture has made 22 (!) acquisitions to strengthen its Industry X capabilities - seems like manufacturing is a very important industry for Accenture.
🤖 Is this a motherboard? No - it’s the world's largest steel mill - the Gwangyang Steel Plant in South Korea (Source).
II. About industrial Startups and Companies 👇
🤑 Xometry files for IPO.
The on-demand manufacturing marketplace Xometry filed to go public. It’s an interesting and not unexpected move that will give the company more money to keep on growing. After acquiring Shift in Europe, it’s well possible that Xometry will try to further expand in Europe and acquire some of the other players. This is a common practice for marketplaces and the IPO should give the company enough cash to do that. Its competitors - Protolabs - acquired the European competitor 3D Hubs just a few months ago. Xometry has raised around $200M and made $149M in revenue with an operating loss of $29M last year.
🦄 Cognite raised $150M led by TCV.
A rare European (Norwegian) industrial unicorn is born: Cognite. The company raised $150M led by TCV that brings its valuation to $1.6bn. It has built a DataOps platform that uses Machine Learning and subject-matter expertise to convert data into insights. Data Scientists can also build and train models on the platform to optimize production.
The company has a bit of a “special” history. The Norwegian oil and gas firm Aker set up the company in 2016 which also explains why its customer base is especially strong in oil and gas (eg. BP, Saudi Aramco). I’m sure Aker was quite helpful to shape the product and getting more customers in that sector. Very rare to see this kind of growth in the industrial world - the company now employs over 500 employees.
🦄 Formlabs raised $150M Series E led by Softbank Vision Fund 2.
Another industrial unicorn is Formlabs. The 3D printing company raised $150M Series E led by Softbank Vision Fund 2 that brings its valuation to $2bn. Even today, most 3D printing technology is still too expensive and Formlabs tries hard to bring down the cost of its stereolithography (SLA) and selective laser sintering (SLS) 3D printers. Fun fact, Formlabs customers have printed “tens of millions of nasopharyngeal swabs used on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
💰 Poka raised a $25M Series B led by 40 North Ventures.
Connected worker platforms in the industry have been on the rise. It’s one of the areas where I added a lot of companies to my landscape and Gartner puts it on the peak of inflated expectations in its hype cycle (2020).
One of the players - Poka - just closed a $25M Series B. The platform gives factory workers the ability to learn continuously and collaborate to improve productivity. It’s yet another example of empowering frontline workers and fits well with my thesis that employee productivity will be at the heart of industrial startups. Poka counts Danone, Bosch, Johnson & Johnson to its customer base and will use the money to grow internationally.
🤑 Twaice raised a $26M Series B led by Energize Ventures.
The Munich-based battery analytics software company Twaice raised $26M led by Energize Ventures which brings its total financing to $45M. Its software helps to enhance the transparency and predictability of batteries - a fast-growing market. Due to electrification and electromobility, the demand is soaring for high-performing battery technologies. Along the way, the company has secured several partnerships with companies such as BearingPoint (consulting), MHP (consulting), and MunichRe (insurance) and counts Audi, Daimler, and Hero Motors to its customers.
🤑 Gideon Brothers raised a $31M Series A led by Koch Disruptive Technologies.
I covered a lot of funding rounds in robotics in the past few months but most of them have been in the US. Entering Croatia-based Gideon Brothers that develops autonomous warehouse robots. The company just closed a $31M Series A led by Koch Disruptive Technologies with participation from DB Schenker and Prologis Ventures among others. The company benefits from the rise of global warehousing and smart automation solutions. While there is global competition from companies such as Fetch Robotics or Geek+, I believe the market is large enough for several winners.
III. Additional funding news in short 👇
👉 Northvolt (SWE): battery developer and manufacturer Northvolt has raised $2.75bn to ramp up its battery production. Read more…
👉 MaintainX (US): the mobile-first platform for frontline workers to help them track maintenance tasks and operations has raised a $39M Series B round led by Bessemer Venture Partners. Read more…
👉 Realtime Robotics (US): that is building control on top of industrial robotics has raised $31M Series A from several investors including HAHN Automation, SAIC Capital Management, and Toyota AI Ventures. Read more…
👉 DessIA (France): that develops software to automate the concept engineering process has raised €5.5M seed round led by btov industrials. Read more…
👉 Tractian (Brazil): the predictive maintenance software provider has raised a $3.2M Seed round led by DGF Investments. Read more…
IV. Additional content and the I40 Landscape 👇
Manufacturing IT Podcast
I was sitting down with Daniel Langley from Manufacturing IT Recruitment to talk about the skills gap, talent shortage, and how to solve this massive problem in manufacturing. You can listen to it on Spotify here or on Youtube here.
“I have one very strong thesis: manufacturing companies, the only way for them to survive is to uplevel their current workforce because they won’t be able to hire the very best talent and they won’t solve the skills gap just by hiring externally.”
Industry 4.0 Map - Reinventing the Factory Stack
There are now in total nearly 500 companies in the landscape, which I updated in April. More to come soon.
Thanks to everybody for supporting this newsletter! Comments, questions, or additional thoughts? Send me a note 🙏