Author: mguigon

The Kistler Innovation Lab as a powerful Digitization Booster

On February 4, 2021, the expert group Smart Services got together online for another successful event in the series “Service Lunch”. Dr. Nikola Pascher from Kistler Instrumente AG presented the the Kistler Innovation Lab as a powerful Digitization Booster. The talk was accompanied by lively discussions among the more than 50 participants. Please find a summary of the talk here:

Kistler is the global leader for providing modular solutions in dynamic measurement technology for pressure, force, torque and acceleration measurements. The company looks back on a continuously growing business, selling hardware and system solutions in various markets. Headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, and with various locations worldwide, Kistler’s next step is a digital transformation to maintain steady growth within the digital age. This involves the creation of the Kistler Innovation Lab as a powerful digitization booster.

The Innovation Lab follows the general vision “Turning data into value”. This means, that we build on the vast amounts of data created with Kistler’s sensor technology and create value by using digital methods, rooted in data science, mathematics and signal processing. Digital initiatives are pursued in a protected framework at a higher speed than possible in the general corporate context. To accomplish this, the Innovation Lab stands on three pillars: With the co-creation platform, we connect different fields of expertise, share knowledge and data and provide digital know-how. The digital technology incubator is a professional framework for quick experiments and ideas with the ultimate goal to pursue proof of concept projects for digital services and solutions based on Kistler sensor data. With the digital training center, we want to empower the Kistler team and our partners to identify digital business opportunities.

In the first part of this talk, we report on the general digital transformation mechanism at Kistler with a focus on the ramp-up of the Innovation Lab within the corporate context. Despite the challenges, which are imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Innovation Lab turned out to be a powerful tool, delivering first proof of Kistler’s data-based capabilities and strengthening the credibility towards our team, customers and partners.

In the second part of the talk, we focus on technical aspects of data-based services and solutions. All initiatives build on a powerful and scalable technology stack, which allows the quick set-up and deployment of cloud-based APIs. We report on first projects within the co-creation platform and the digital technology incubator. These projects aim at the fast creation of data-based services and solutions. In a co-creation project with our in-house sensor production, we aimed at optimizing a metal machining process inside a turning lathe. Together with the Kistler-internal machine shop, we made an important step towards a predictive maintenance and quality forecasting service. In a second project, we analyzed data from our weigh in motion (WIM) systems and realized, that roughly 30% of all trucks are driving empty. With the help of a machine learning model, we can forecast the flows of empty and full trucks with high accuracy.

Interview with Kitro SA

Can you shortly tell us what Kitro does and who you are?

Kitro aims to reduce food waste in the hospitality industry. We do this by analysing the food that’s being thrown away in large kitchens. Our solution is a fully automated IoT devise that consists of two parts, it’s a hardware with a scale and a camera. The scale automatically detects when something is added to the bin and this triggers the camera. The captured image is uploaded to the cloud where it is analysed. The results of the analysis are uploaded to an online dashboard where our customers have access to it 24/7. Based on this, our customers can decide how to reduce their waste. Our customer service can also help to understand the dashboard and the data in order to make better decisions. 

We are currently developing our “best practices” page to serve as an inspiration for our customers. The idea of the “best practices” page is to have a collection of options on ways to reduce food waste.

What is Kitro’s background story?

The company was founded by Naomi MacKenzie and Anastasia Hofmann. They studied at the École hôtelière de Lausanne. During their education they gained work experience in kitchens and services, where they saw how much food was thrown away all the time. They wanted to tackle this issue and came up with the idea for Kitro. Kitro was founded in 2017.  As neither Naomi and Anastasia had a tech background, they got out outside talent to develop the product and are themselves managing the business side.

Why is it important that Kitro exists?

Globally, along the supply chain, one third of all food is wasted. In the food and beverage industry, two thirds of all the food that is thrown away is a waste that could be avoided; it’s still edible but is still being disposed. This has a large environmental impact and is also a big cost for the restaurants. With our product we hope to help restaurants reduce food waste and consequently reduce the environmental impact and save money.

Who can profit from your product?

We mainly work with larger schools, hospitals and canteens. We also work with restaurants and hotels, but they have to be of a certain size for it to be advantageous for them to use our product. We offer a subscription and the idea is that they save more than they invest.

For now, our product is not useful for individual persons who want to reduce their food waste – but that would be a cool idea! 

Can you give some examples of your success stories?

From a tech perspective we have built a huge data set with all the data that we collected. We were able to train machine learning models based on this data that helped with the analysis and made the process more efficient and reduced costs.

We have also had customers from really early on in the project; the product has already been tested with customers for three years.

A big milestone is also that we grew the team to 12 people.

How do the customers find you?

In the beginning we took part in many competitions, such as start-up competitions, which gave us visibility. This helped the customers find us. We also went to conferences. Now we have also started to approach potential customers through cold calls and the like.

What are your biggest challenges?

From a tech perspective it’s challenging to automate the processes. We want to basically reduce or remove the human from the labelling in order to reduce costs and make the company profitable.

It has also been a challenge to create a clean data set that can be used for machine learning. This is still an ongoing process – it takes a lot of work. These are the biggest challenges.

How do you see the future of Kitro and what is your long-term goal?

The data that we collect could be interesting also for the government, not only for restaurants and food services. It could be interesting for them to get a better picture of the amount and kind of food that is thrown away, and to set up some kind of rules or guidelines in the future.

Food waste is also a problem in retail and on farms, not only in commercial kitchens and that is an area where we could make an impact.

In the future we also want to support our customers more with the decision making – with our “best practices” website and with predictive measures – based on the data collected. A first version is already online, but currently it is only visible to our customers on their dashboard.

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