Having led the world’s embedded computing technology sector since 1959, Kontron is now ready to use its expertise to become the world leader for Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The German company has restructured its operations and has built dedicated facilities which will ensure that its vision to become the ‘go-to’ company for IoT technology and services is realised.
Reaching revenues of €456.8 million last year, the company has proven to itself, its shareholders and the industry at large that its decision to restructure to lead global IoT products and services was well considered. Michael Väth, Kontron’s Executive Vice President for Global Sales and Marketing said that this move was backed up by a change of focus: “We walked away from being a legal entity business to an industrially focused structure.”
Kontron’s position in the embedded computing technology space is both well-established and trusted; it serves a range of international clients with its broad offering of software and systems solutions, alongside its mainstay of boards and standard form factors. Its range of systems include cloud devices, panel PCs and connectivity equipment, as well as customised, industry specific computers and monitors. It also provides services with regard to these in the form of technical and professional support alongside enhanced repair services. It is little wonder that a host of Fortune 500 companies turn to Kontron to fulfil their embedded technology needs. The company is also utilizing a global set of strong channel partners alongside system integrators to cover the mid-market and to complement its offering with industry-specific solutions.
In an increasingly connected world, the company has attracted clients from a diverse set of industries including industrial automation, energy, medical and communication. Kontron also serves clients based in the avionics, transportation and defence sectors. It has a strong presence in the US and European markets, as well as steadily growing operations in Asia-Pacific (APAC) markets.
Väth explained that the company developed its capabilities through the acquisition and merger of many smaller outfits, and that this was a trend that continues to this day, he said: “During the transformation we sold off parts of Kontron which were not part of our core. We also acquired parts that we feel we missed from a coverage perspective. For example we bought out our JV partner in India so Kontron could have a 100 percent owned subsidiary in this area.”
Using the medical sector as an example, Väth explained how the company’s ability to engineer tailored solutions for connected devices not only provided peace of mind but also enabled them to focus on what the technology was created for. He said: “With a medical device, we receive specifications from a customer, who usually has them for a range of things such as space, performance, and temperature. They don’t want have to worry about the embedded computer; they are interested in the medical application and how it is running.”
“We start with the building blocks, typically boards and modules or preconfigured industrial PCs; we take those pieces and add additional parts on the platform side. These could be either BIOS, performance and function features, or specific operating systems like LINUX or Windows.” All these platforms can be enhanced with future IoT offerings including security, manageability and datability.
Having been in the embedded computing technology sector for over 50 years, Kontron has been able to keep abreast of the latest operational quality standards. Alongside being accredited with the ISO 9001 quality management certificate and ISO 14001 environmental guarantee, the company also holds an ISO 13485 which proves that it can consistently meet the technical requirements set down by medical organisations. It is also adheres to French and US rail and aerospace standards, as well as arms trafficking regulations in the US.
Kontron recently constructed a state-of-the-art facility in Augsburg, 40 kilometres from Munich. The purpose of what came to be known as its ‘tech campus’ was to manage all of its global operations from a single location, and also provide a centralised business and engineering development hub.
Väth said: “We took a radical decision to shut down three of our major sites and built a new tech campus around a factory; we were able to bring the majority of the people from the other facilities.”
The campus consists of a 6,100 square metre office building, 3,800 square metre production facility and 4,000 square metre warehouse. A 2,500 square metre centre dedicated to research and development is also on site. Väth added: “Out of 1,500 people across the company globally, 500 are centred on the tech campus. It is very modern and has all the things we need to develop our business.”
“We have Global and European management and R&D teams here. All the business units are represented here that define strategies and support all out functions, as well as manufacturing. Finance and Global HR are all centrally managed here.”
A great deal of technical training is carried out in the company’s new Augsburg tech hub, in addition to various facilities around the globe. Väth explained how the company was cutting out complexity in order to make training both straightforward and easier to take on board, he said: “We have started to build a curriculum. The company was created by acquiring ten other companies so we have many varied job titles; it was important that employees had a clear job description so people can move through the professional and management chains.
“That has been completed and we are now starting to deliver training for young managers. We have moved them away from technical selling to focus on value selling. We educate them on their professional capabilities, and also to make sure that we can develop their personal attributes both working as a team and as individual contributors; we assess this on a yearly basis.”
“I brought people on board who had different capabilities; moving into the IoT space, I did not just look at hiring guys who had experience in hardware. My head of Europe and head of APAC are from the software side; we need engineers to do both hardware and software.”
Kontron’s work over the past few years has demonstrated that the company and its employees not only have the foresight to keep abreast of the latest developments, but also that they have the abilities to see this thinking bear fruit. Using its experience in the embedded space, which has been honed by decades of innovation, the company is now poised to lead the global IoT revolution.