NODE - Revolutionizing Automated Guided Vehicles
Sommersemester 2020 - Fraunhofer IPA
Navigation on Demand, or NODE in short, wants to revolutionize the way automated guided vehicles operate & cooperate in an industrial environment. Currently, automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are not used to their full potential. They are bound to surrounding infrastructure, such as magnetic lines, making them inefficient and inflexible. The robots are difficult to set up, requiring trained experts to do so. The robots cannot communicate between themselves and thus, cooperation between them is not possible. Even bigger issues arise if a user wants to connect robots from different manufacturers. NODE strives to change all of this. The startup is working on a software suite that enables robots to navigate more intelligently through its surroundings. The software will work across robots of different manufacturers and thus enable the communication and cooperation in heterogeneous fleets. Most importantly, NODE wants to make it far easier to set up the robots, so that end users can do so themselves.
NODE also wants to revolutionize the traditional business model of robot software suppliers. The software is set to be sold with a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business model. This will enable customers to profit from all advantages of such a model, such as an increase in flexibility.
Goal & Challenge
The objective of the cooperation between the NODE Team and the student team from WU was to write a business plan. This resulted in three main challenges. Firstly, conducting research in an opaque market where not a lot of data was available. Secondly, finding out whether or not customers would accept the Software-as-a-Service business model and thirdly, how to set prices for the products.
In a first step, comprehensive market research was conducted in order to get a good overview of the market, trends, and the current offerings of competitors. This helped the student team to understand the project itself better and, besides a project description, set the basis for the business plan. Secondary sources were used to estimate the market size. In order to overcome the lack of transparency, interviews with experts and logistic system integrators were conducted. The findings from the interviews refined the market analysis. Furthermore, they served as the basis of a survey for the pricing model. Simultaneously, other factors such as the marketing and sales strategy were developed. Once, the results from the survey came in, everything was put together. A financial plan was derived from the market size and the pricing.
The market analysis revealed that the overall market for AGVs and the necessary software are very attractive. Firstly, the technology is rapidly evolving, and startups worldwide are trying to develop superior solutions. In the past years, technological progress was slow but is accelerating quickly. Solutions such as magnetic line following have been around for decades. The main area of improvement is within the navigation and intelligence of robots. In other areas, clear trends are visible, such as the connectedness between robots of different manufacturers. Secondly, the market is expected to grow at an annual compound growth rate of about 14%. This is due to the increased performance of robots and decrease in prices that make them more desirable for end users.
It appears that no competitor is offering a solution as comprehensive as NODE. Competitors offering full software and hardware packages are missing out on the manufacturer independent connectivity of robots, making their often high-performance robots unattractive for some users. Smaller manufacturers are either very expensive or do not have a scalable business model.
Fraunhofer Institut Produktionstechnik und Automatisierung IPA / NODE
Dipl.-Ing. Stefan Dörr
Richard Olbrecht, M.Sc.
Carola Wandres, M.Sc.