ONIQ sets new standards in industry 4.0

 - KölnBusiness

ONIQ is a Cologne-based startup developing software to help companies optimise a broad variety of processes. In doing so, it is part of a booming sector that will change the entire industry in the coming years.

Yvonne Therese Mertens is a pioneer in network technology. Twenty years ago, she wrote one of the first software programs synchronising a mobile phone with a PC. Still, she is fascinated by networked information systems. Today, the computer scientist is working on much more complicated connections - the interfaces between people and complex production processes. Her startup ONIQ aims to make work in Industry 4.0 more efficient. "We identify the potential hidden in every production process," explains Mertens. How can the manufacturing industry benefit?

"We use process mining as one of several technologies to improve production processes," she explains. The startup also relies on other tools, such as machine learning. These are needed because modern industrial plants have long since become so complex that humans can hardly manage them without digital support. "Take a car: it has thousands of components made of different materials and dozens, if not hundreds, of production steps," says Mertens. Founded in 2020, the company's customers already include many German SMEs and corporations in the automotive, metalworking, plastics and mechanical engineering industries.


Recognising benefits quickly

The ONIQ software helps to create a digital twin of the value stream, i.e. a mapping of the entire production process. The startup uses existing data from production-related IT systems, which automatically capture a lot of process information. "An essential part of our work is to first check the plausibility of the data and correct data errors," says Mertens. Although this is already partially automated, it still takes one to two weeks to set up the software and start the actual analysis.

It helps companies identify bottlenecks in production, for example. "Traditionally, you would walk down the production line and measure the times," explains Mertens. "How long does a part take from machine A to machine B, how long is it processed there?" The software does this automatically and, more importantly, continuously. Instead of taking random samples, it always has an overview of production and can see, for example, which machine is experiencing delays. It is important that companies quickly see the benefits of using the software.


A wow experience for customers

Lars Biermann also stresses the importance of quick benefits. He heads the Centre for Process Bionics at management consultancy Deloitte and manages process mining projects. "We can now deliver results very quickly," he explains. For example, a car manufacturer recently saved six million euros by improving its logistics processes. "That's a wow experience for the customer," says Biermann. Savings of this kind make process mining attractive for companies, whether in the automotive sector, mechanical engineering, insurance or healthcare. "Our longest-standing customer is a health insurance company," reports Biermann.


Growth opportunity in the area of sustainability

While process mining was initially mainly used for repetitive activities such as invoice management, new tools are now making it possible to optimise more dynamic processes, for example in production. "For a long time, you could only work with data from the past, but now you can also work with real-time data," says Biermann. He expects further technological advances in the coming years, for example through the integration of large-language models such as ChatGPT. "We will soon be able to link different processes in the system and create further efficiency gains."

ONIQ sees another great opportunity for growth in the area of sustainability. "I already worked a lot on energy efficiency at my previous startup," says Mertens. "Sustainability is also a major aspect of ONIQ's business model, as more efficient processes naturally also lead to resource savings. In addition, the software can be used to track the carbon footprint of individual products in detail."

ONIQ believes it is well positioned for further growth. Also thanks to the city of Cologne, as founder Mertens emphasises: "Cologne is on the rise as a technology location." The city benefits from its ideal logistical location and the fact that it is not yet too expensive compared to other major cities. "And the universities in Cologne and the surrounding area provide the talent we need," states the founder.

 - KölnBusinessPerson mit Smartphone, Briefumschläge strömen herausPerson mit Smartphone, Briefumschläge strömen heraus

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