Interview with Manuel Bönisch
Every time I enter one of our automotive client sites I get super excited. The alignment of tools, people and processes to build enormously complex products in high volumes thrills me. At ProGlove
I can combine my passion with my skills, shaping the next industrial revolution!
My strong organizational habits linked to an efficient 80/20 thinking mind enables me to be a very good executor of our commercial growth strategy. With the aspiration to lead and inspire people, I want to develop an outstanding team of highly skilled individuals to build a 100 mn revenue industrial IoT wearable giant.
What's next for Proglove, as well as your own career?
Our biggest achievements so far we’re a great team with a strong culture that we did build up the leadership and our key market here in Germany. And also when we were able to develop a minimum viable product, a product that gives you a value immediately. And I think these three things are also the next steps we have to focus on, so attracting and keeping talent because we can only achieve the challenges together. The other thing is expanding our markets globally. So, for example, we started the North American Market in the U.S. at the beginning of this year already, this expansion is crucial for us. And lastly, our products and we want to go further in the road of connecting the human worker to the industrial IoT with additional software products but also hardware products like wearable displays and this is key for us. That matches perfectly with my own career because I think I've always wanted to create value doing something meaningful and I think shaping the next industrial revolution and actually shaping how we will produce manufacture and transport goods in the future and also creating workplaces is a really cool personal goal to work on.
Proglove has experienced an enormous amount of growth since the company was founded. How has the founding team managed to ensure that this growth is healthy and sustainable?
Over the last three and a half years I think we doubled our team every year constantly. So we are now 100 people already. And that obviously cost us what we are always referring to as the pain of growth. So communication lines, structures, roles, everything changes very rapidly and we think that culture is the best way to address this challenge. And one aspect for example from our culture is openness and humour. We think that in times where it's always challenging where it's constantly changing where a lot of things are going on we think that if you can be open and tackle these challenges with fun and able to laugh from time to time and enjoy working together. This really enables solving all of these problems that we are facing.
What has been the feedback from users of Proglove?
Due to our design thinking principles that are deeply rooted in our DNA, the user was always in the centre and that's why the feedback was very positive. We integrated him very early on in the process the line worker for example at Ikea, the actual people using the product and they are still influencing the product and that's why they actually accept it. On the other hand also the other stakeholders, for example, the IT departments are our champions we really what barrier of applying our product. So it's it's plug and play. You don't have to change any systems and that's why everyone just gets approval and everyone is super happy with using a product. And on the other hand, the business case is great. So we are saving a couple of seconds every step and that adds up to to a lot of money. So you invest only like two and a half thousand euros per workstation it's and amortizes itself within half a year and in returns, if you roll out the whole factory you get like millions in euros and savings and better quality. And that's why I think everyone is so positive about the product because it's actually industry 4.0 or industrial IoT or however you want to call it's really applied and you don't need that much to actually do the next step. You can just apply.
From idea to prototype, how long did it take to develop the first Proglove model?
After presenting the first ideas and prototypes at the Intel Make It Wearable challenge. It took us roughly six months to define the minimal viable product, the MVP from the bigger vision we had. And that was crucial because when we first went to the customer that we had fancy ideas about checking data or visualizing processes and everything but what they actually needed was just to scan faster. So what we basically did was invented the scanner which you can easily release here with a button and then you are taking parts. For example, this is from a BMW Mini you scanned them and scanner tells you whether you picked the right or wrong part and that was basically everything. It took us another 12 months to go from this prototype definition to the first preseries that we released to our customers. And then finally in September 2016 we officially launch a product called Mark to our customers and already had like a whole automotive industry lined up to start working with us.
How did the founding company of Proglove meet? When did everybody decide to go into business together?
So Proglove and the founders originated from two different pillars. One was from BMW automotive company and the other one from Ideo the world's biggest innovation consultancy so does is also the foundation of the Proglove and its Pillas, it's German engineering meets human-centred design. Paul was the one who actually had the idea behind Proglove because he did factory tours BMW. He walked through the assembly lines, to do logistic sessions. And what he saw there were humans everywhere, everybody handling the goods, the pieces with their hands and what they needed to do is scan everything to increase the quality to prove that they are doing the right steps. So what he thought apart was how can you make scanning when they were currently grappling a pistol and they needed to walk a lot. And they only had one hand free, how could he improve that without changing their habits and that's why he thought about t's just include it in a regular glove because that's just standard working glove for them and that's how he actually came up with the idea. We then applied for the Intel Make It Wearable challenge in a Silicon Valley. We were lucky to get invited and finally won a quarter million U.S. dollars and that was also the seed funding of the company and that's when we also decided from all the innovation projects we did together to actually that this one is going to be the one with the most traction and the most interesting one and that's what we decided to altogether to start the company.
Could you please introduce Proglove and what led to your co-founding the company?
Proglove develops wearables for the industry or more specifically saying intelligent gloves. We are in the automotive and logistics industry and what we want to do is connect human workers to the industrial IoT. What that means is if you go into factories you can see people everywhere. It's not just robots, it's not just machines, it's people. And we want to enable them to work safer, more efficiently and was a better quality. That's why we funded Proglove. I joined the company and its founders on the very first day of funding the company in December 2014 because of my professional background in automotive engineering.