Improving the resilience of the supply chain – About the startup Orbica and its clear goal

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Improving the resilience of the supply chain –

About the startup Orbica and its clear goal

Covid-19 makes us feel the fragility of many supply chains. Explosions of online sales and shortages of computer chips, raw- and intermediate products, non-running assembly and retail slumps. Sometimes it’s due to unexpected events, but often it’s due to inadequate data analysis and risk management.

In search of innovative approaches for a more efficient and reliable supply chain management, Juliane Hessmann from startport and Marius Bartos from BBM Vohren interviewed Matthias Frye, a digital geography expert from Orbica. The Startport startup is pioneering data visualization solutions based on Geospatial Artificial Intelligence (GeoAI).

Forward thinking and visibility into the entire value chain

Marius: Hello Matthias, I am glad you took time for this interview. What do you see as the biggest challenges in optimizing and stabilizing supply chains?

Matthias: I believe that companies must focus on making their supply chains more flexible and resilient. Businesses have invested into supply chain risk management improving their ability to react better when an incident happens. But the bigger challenge is improving your supply chain so that incidents have a smaller effect. This requires forward-thinking approaches.

The recent accident of the cargo vessel “Ever Given” in the Suez Canal is a great example. The huge cargo ship has been impacted by high winds and was blocking the critical routes. Hundreds of ships were blocked, and the incident is having a big impact on global logistics. One cannot prevent such events or precisely predict them, but companies can make their supply chain more resilient against such disruptions.

Juliane: Matthias, can you tell us specifically how customers can benefit from working with you and stabilize their supply chains?

Matthias: We help companies significantly reduce supply chain risks and improve resilience of the supply chains. They gain visibility into their entire value chain by combining purchase orders, inventory, and demand planning in real time. Our simulation-based approach takes their individual risk profiles and assesses the companies’ flexibility in handling risks. For example, you can see what would happen if they were to scale up an additional supplier or set up an additional warehouse.

Marius: Of course, it always depends on the question, but what data exactly do you need to offer a solution to your customers and where do you also see the biggest challenge related to data acquisition?

Matthias: In order to take full advantage of our capabilities, we need to access the company’s supplier base, purchase orders, inventory and production planning. We are using advanced tools from our partners to easily access our customers’ ERP systems. The biggest challenge is data quality: if different suppliers use a different part id for the same thing, it takes more effort to bring the data together.

From Auckland to Berlin

Juliane: Matthias how did you actually come up with the idea for your startup? How exactly did you get the idea to offer such services?

Matthias: Our founders Peter Rose and Kurt Janssen have a ton of experience in the geospatial technology space. They started Orbica because they were convinced there were better ways to do things in the industry. We build agnostic solutions: start with the problem at hand, design the best solution and then identify the best tools to achieve the desired outcome, rather than designing a solution from a predetermined toolkit.

Our solutions are mostly based on solving customer specific challenges. If we find common challenges, we try to address them with a solution template approach. The idea is that we turn templates into products if we see solid demand.

Juliane: Matthias why did you decide to establish your second location, which we are of course very happy about, in Europe/Germany?

Matthias: Germany’s economy is unique with a very strong mid market consisting of 6,000 companies. Many of them have excellent products and services, they perform well in their global markets, but they have a niche brand and are often referred to as “hidden” champions: only specialists know them.  We can help these companies making their stories heard. By combining the data element with an intelligent visualisation using maps, we provide engaging, interactive storytelling.

Increasing complexity of Logistics requires smart and innovative solutions

Juliane: In terms of the logistics industry in general, what were the main reasons you chose Europe?

Matthias: Europe and especially Germany with its central location on the continent has a highly connected economy resulting in an enormous transportation volume. And the reality is that despite the EU, transportation into and within Europe is quite complex.  This complexity calls for smart and innovative solutions.

Marius: What do you see as the main risks facing today’s supply chains and how do these differ from the risks in New Zealand?

Matthias: If you one looks at the top challenges that businesses are facing right now, the global semiconductor crisis or the container shortage, the underlying issue are significant changes of the demand in both cases. Our highly optimised and lean supply chains have become less resilient and market changes have a quicker effect. There is no fundamental difference between Europe and New Zealand, only the complexity is much bigger for European companies.

Customers willing to co-develop

Marius: At BBM Vohren, we specialize in business development, so we are always interested in what a startup’s potential customers might look like. If you had to outline your dream customer or project for Orbica, what would it look like?

Matthias: We are already working with some amazing customers and very keen to onboard a key customer for our supply chain solution. A dream customer is a large and innovative company living agile values and willing to co-develop a solution with us.

Marius: What challenges do you face at Orbica and where do you see the biggest challenges in convincing your potential customers of your service?

Matthias: Naturally, the people we are targeting with our solution are somewhat risk averse. At first glance, working with a smaller startup might be less compelling. However, when people learn about the work we do for the likes of BASF, Bayer, Thyssenkrupp and Siemens, we can turn that perception around.

Marius: There are many startups that present their products and team creatively. Some even have a dog or a cat as Chief Happiness Officer in the team. However, I have not yet seen a startup that represents its team according to their preference for coffee.How did this idea come about and what is the thinking behind it?

Matthias: What makes Orbica different is the people who work here. To convey this, you need to share a bit of the personality of your team. Therefore, we share coffee preferences, superhero allegiance and other personal information on our website.

Juliane: Matthias, thank you very much for the interview.


Juliane Hessmann: Communication-& Community-Manager bei startport GmbH

Marius Bartos: Business Development & Project Manager bei BBM Vohren GmbH

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