A visit to Saarland
Peter Grenkel (right) welcomed, among others, the Federal Minister of Transport Volker Wissing (2nd from the left).
(Photo: Markus Lutz/abat+)
St. Ingbert If you go to St. Ingbert in Saarland, you will discover the heart of worldwide Mercedes-Benz production on an old brewery site. The path to today’s innovation park leads past research institutes directly to Peter Grendel. Twelve years ago, he founded Abat+ in the former brewery villa.
After working at SAS and Oracle, Silicon Valley and twelve years at SAP in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg, where he most recently worked as Vice President Technical Account Management, Grendel then wanted to take off in the small town in Saarland. With some other SAPlers, he decided: “We are building our own software.“
What happened next, Grendel told Volker Wissing (FDP) at the end of last week. The Federal Minister of Transport was on the road in Saarland to find out about the transformation of the automotive industry.
Grendel told him how it all started – at first with 20 employees –, then everything went “dizzyingly fast” and today 230 mainly young IT experts work for him at 14 locations worldwide. “We are digitizing automobile manufacturers,” he explained to the Minister responsible for Digital and Transport.
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The team developed a “highly available real-time application” based on state-of-the-art WLAN and 5G, of course SAP-compatible, to control production processes. The software is used worldwide by Mercedes – the largest customer – but Grendel also names Audi, Miele, furniture manufacturer Nobilia and Qoros as customers. Abat+ also maintains its systems, the company resolves faults in production within one hour, according to its own statement.
The blueprint is the “Factory 56” from Daimler
Grendel was allowed to build the almost perfect version of its production control in 2017, when Daimler planned its flagship factory “Factory 56”, a largely digitized production hall in the main plant in Sindelfingen. Even the documentation of production is done digitally, which saves Daimler 52 tons of paper worldwide, ten million of them in Sindelfingen.
Grendel has lived with his family in Heidelberg for many years, he once studied in Mannheim. Why St. Ingbert? “Because here the competition and the competition are not as big as in Baden-Württemberg,” he says. In the Saarland, the paths are short. Nevertheless, Grendel continues to be involved in the Walldorf Astoria sports club together with SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp.
Grendel is currently planning a research project with the hospital in Homburg: surgeons should be able to digitally expand their reality with haptic suits and 3D glasses (augmented reality) and thus operate better. “The system warns of errors at an early stage, so that the stress level of the young doctors drops significantly during the first operations,” says Grendel.
The glasses have long been used, for example, when it comes to furnishing rooms. For this purpose, Abat+ cooperates with the interior decorator Bene. Grendel has also designed and set up its extension virtually in advance. The building was completed in 2020 after only 18 months of construction. The rooms are still new, as they have hardly been used in the home office since the pandemic and the associated time.
Your CO2 footprint at major events
Grendel certainly knew how to arouse the minister’s interest when he visited Wissing last Friday. Not only that the small software company digitizes factory halls and thus makes the much-invoked Industry 4.0 possible.
Grendel immediately offered the minister a solution to one of his biggest problems: an app that determines the individual CO2 footprint. So everyone who goes to a music concert could indicate their arrival and the means of transport beforehand – and the app shows the amount of CO2 caused.
If the user opts for a low-emission variant, he can collect bonus miles and receive a discount for a train ride or a concert ticket, for example. “We just need a cooperation partner,” Grendel explained to the minister. And added: “Maybe the Deutsche Bahn or your ministry.“
It would be an incentive: in order to achieve the climate goals in transport, Wissing does not rely on bans such as a speed limit or penalties for fuel guzzlers, but on voluntary behavioral changes. “They are particularly successful when people do something for their own motivation,” he said. The app was “a good idea,” he said at the end. “I’d like to talk to the train.“
More: The three illusions of German transport policy.