Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) selected two start-ups to receive $50,000 each as part of its “MBUSI Innovation Challenge,” an initiative aimed at engaging Alabama’s thriving startup community to tackle critical challenges faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies and digital communications.
In April, MBUSI — in partnership with Urban Engine, STARTUP AUTOBAHN and The University of Alabama — announced the strategic partnership to seek out and inspire creativity to find innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development and technology. More than 100 individuals or teams registered to learn more when the initial call for pitches was made in April. Once more details were shared, 29 submissions were made and the judges had a nine finalists to review on June 19. MBUSI initially planned to award up to $50,000, but after seeing the presentations the decision was made to recognize two groups and award $100,000. Both groups have a chance to become suppliers for MBUSI or MBUSI’s parent company, Daimler AG.
Winners of the inaugural event are:
- AUTOMAP, LLP — Awarded $50,000 to help MBUSI enhance its on-site vehicle tracking systems for the hundreds of thousands of vehicles built each year.
- DOKS INNOVATION GMBH, LLC — Awarded $50,000 for a drone-based inventory tracking and recording system.
“It was extremely inspiring and worthwhile traveling the distance from Germany to Alabama to be a part of the MBUSI Innovation Challenge,” said Markus Schaefer, member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management. Schaefer noted that he’s traveled around the world with START-UP AUTOBAHN (a global innovation platformed co-founded by Daimler AG) and listened to similar pitches in South Africa, Germany and other cities.
“Just as Daimler changed the world in 1886 with the invention of the automobile, MBUSI began changing the face of Alabama more than 25 years ago with its announcement of plans to build vehicles in Alabama.” Schaefer said that Plant Tuscaloosa has come a long way since 1993, and with Industry 4.0, electric vehicles and tools like the MBUSI Innovation Challenge, the plant is taking the next step.
“Our path is clear — we want to change the face of mobility and we want to be the leaders in this arena,” said Schaefer. “The digital tools at our fingertips today present endless opportunities for us and if we want to continue to be # 1 in the future, we have to continue on the path of digital transformation.”
Ideas presented by the nine finalists ranged from how to improve the lunch experience of MBUSI Team Members due to time constraints to how to better track vehicles in the parking lots to big data analytics.
“We purposefully left the challenges pretty vague and the rest was up to the start-ups,” said Jason Hoff, president and CEO of MBUSI. “One of the things we wanted to get out of this was to see some of their out-of-the-box ideas that we wouldn’t traditionally do on our own. This was a new approach for us and we appreciate everyone who pitched an idea. Unfortunately everyone couldn’t win, but we saw promising results.”