Disruption in feeding technology

World market leader RNA acquires Hofmann & Stirner

Daniel Hofmann and Florian Stirner became aware of BayStartUP through the Munich Technology Center (MTZ) in 2017. At that time still financed by their own funds and current cash flow, they have worked themselves up with their company Hofmann & Stirner Zuführsysteme GmbH from participating in the Munich Business Plan Competition 2018 to the BayStartUP financing coaching to financing by HTGF and now to exit. 

The solution from Hofmann & Stirner (H&S) enables the individual parts of production goods to enter their manufacturer's production plant at the right time and in the right place. This "feeding technology" is a key technology for almost every production company. H&S has developed a digital twin of the production equipment, plus smart hardware. This combination can digitize an industry that has largely relied on experience-based knowledge and references. HTGF recognized this relevance in the market for manufacturing companies and invested in 2018 together with a family office from the BayStartUP investor network. "The Munich Business Plan Competition was an opportunity for us to meet targeted business angels and venture capitalists," says Daniel Hofmann.

The exit decision

From 2018 to 2020, the company picked up speed. "Our vision is and was the digitalization of feeding technology. That's the company's content and that's how we want to make money," says Florian Stirner. What they particularly needed then in 2020 was experience data. H&S came to a point where they had to decide either to spend a lot of money on such data or to team up with a partner. RheinNadel Automation GmbH (RNA) came knocking at the right time. The hidden champion is the world market leader in its discipline, supplies many well-known companies from Tesla to Siemens, and brought 50 years of experience to the deal. A startup cannot easily replicate such a wealth of experience, let alone buy it.

The contact with Rhein-Nadel Automation came about in Q2 / 2020: The world market leader called H&S's Munich headquarters. They got talking, were on friendly terms and met for a technology presentation. Afterwards, it quickly became clear that the cooperation would not remain a pure customer-supplier relationship, but would be more closely knit: "We wanted to play with open cards," says Daniel Hofmann. "Therefore, we addressed the fact that we were in talks with various investors for a Series A. We were very interested. RNA was interested in our records - the result is known."

Top startups and exciting technologies

This is an article from the BayStartUP magazine "StartUPdate" 2021/01. Check out our magazine page to learn more from Bavaria's startup scene and our network: 

StartUPdate 01/2021

Technological cooperation, self-sufficient structures

“The family business now holds a significant stake in H&S. In return, they provide the AI-relevant data for digitization. H&S itself has changed its name and operates largely autonomously within the RNA holding structure. A strategy that works: "At RNA, we noticed that startups can act much more agilely and dynamically in their own structures than if they were completely absorbed into the company," says Daniel Hofmann. The management of an established company acts within the framework of its own corporate culture. A startup as a new subsidiary brings a new corporate cultural facet to the established structure and can approach and implement things in a completely different way. "Even in the established company, there are one or two creative minds that like to think outside the box - and these are precisely the employees with whom we are in close contact."

Benefits for startup and market leader

After the takeover, the focus of Daniel Hofmann and Florian Stirner is on digitizing RNA's entire product portfolio, from simple feeding solutions to robotics. RNA's goal is, above all, shorter internal throughput times. RNA customers benefit from more planning reliability, higher technical availability and the shortest delivery times on the market.

The advantage for the startup: in the AI division, H&S can use the data from RNA to further expand its pioneering role in the area of Geometric Deep Learning. To this end, they are currently working on AI software products, both internal and accessible to external customers, that will give a significant new direction to the way machines are developed. The founders explain, "This goes hand in hand because at RNA we don't have to convince or interfere with existing product structures."

Medium-sized companies as strong startup partners

Daniel Hofmann and Florian Stirner also perceive the cooperation with the world market leader as profitable because the employees are more entrepreneurially oriented than in a large corporation. "At RNA, all employees from the store floor to the top manager participate in the company's success. If the year goes well, everyone gets a bonus, which I consider very progressive," says Florian Stirner. "Every employee knows the interrelationships in the company and what their work contributes to the overall success." 

The technology from H&S has a disruptive character for the feeding technology market. The entrepreneurs assume that mechanical engineering and product development will be completely "turned inside out" by Geometric Deep Learning in the near future. This will create the opportunity to map industrial experience knowledge - for example, of design engineers and product developers - by means of artificial intelligence. Their long-term goal is to use their AI to transfer technology to other areas of production technology - from screwdriving and gripping technology to injection molding processes.

Pictures: RNA

Von |