Information management through IoT sensor technology - transparency in the supply chain made possible

Laura Diez

Startup Stories

Technology is an important factor in the further development of global supply chains. Intermediate bulk container (IBC) supply chains, in which liquid goods are transported around the world, can also benefit from technological progress. But many companies still rely on manual processes to track and analyze the condition of IBCs. Due to the lack of connectivity through technology, condition monitoring of containers and products transported in them often involves high costs and a large amount of time. This also means that important information, for example on the current location, the filling quantity or the temperature outside the container, cannot be captured digitally. 

This is exactly where Maximilian Drechsler wants to start. In an interview with 5-HT, the founder and CEO of vitreo explains how his startup has set itself the task of optimizing IBC supply chain management with the help of IoT sensors. Max Drechsler wants to help companies gain insights into their own IBC supply chains quickly and easily. 

Maximilian Drechsler, Co-Founder & CEO of vitreo  

From transport container to information source 

"One of the biggest challenges in the chemical industry today is the lack of transparency and effective management of their supply chains. Before becoming a founder, I worked in the industry for over 10 years," Drechsler recounts. "As a product manager, stainless steel IBCs were an important part of my transportation containers, but I never knew exactly where the containers were or when they were empty. There was a continuous flow of product through the IBCs, but the flow of information was completely lacking. I only received information when I contacted the customer by phone or mail." This approach was costly and repeatedly led to delays. Drechsler started looking for another solution: "If it occurs to me on a Friday afternoon that I need a certain piece of information, it can be challenging to find a contact person on site or at the customer's location, and I lose valuable time. 

As the world becomes more complex, supply chains also become more fragmented, and there is a need for dynamic operations to achieve higher levels of productivity that drive differentiation and innovation.

The idea for vitreo was ultimately born in collaboration with venture studio Next Big Thing AG, which specializes in machine economy solutions such as IoT, blockchain and AI. "The collaboration with NBT was a stroke of luck," explains Max Drechsler. "Especially in the chemical industry, there are many workflows and processes that have been proven for years, but technologies that are already available are not yet used to improve them. Innovative ideas are postponed for a long time. Working with NBT, I realized the potential in technology. Existing practices can be tested without risk and new ideas quickly find their way into real-world applications."

Vitreo develops the "single point of truth" for all information generated within an IBC supply chain - available at any time to all key stakeholders. The solution consists of an IoT sensor that can be attached to IBCs in an uncomplicated and non-intrusive way, making all condition data available via a simple and secure software solution. 

"We are making the previously unknown and unused data available, thereby reducing risks and increasing the efficiency, resilience and reliability of supply chains for all parties. This allows information on the condition, current position, inventory and sales of IBCs in one's own company or at the customer's site to be accessed in a simple way. In the past, IBCs were just a transport container; with the help of vitreo, a unit is created that provides me with valuable data and information," Max Drechsler explains the solution of his startup.   

vitreo is looking for pioneers for next steps

"The cornerstones of vitreo are courage, conviction and entrepreneurship. We want to develop future-oriented and collaborative solutions that generate added value for our customers and their customers in a sustainable way. Our goal: process optimization and automation of supply chains based on the latest technology to manifest long-term competitiveness and environmental sustainability," explains Max Drechsler. 

The vision of vitreo is to make IBC supply chain processes more efficient and reliable. The start-up uses the latest technologies in machine management to make previously unused information available. Vitreo offers straightforward solutions for any company working with IBCs. With the help of vitreo, the customer gets access to a collaborative network of all IBC data in their supply chain.

"We are currently looking for pioneers who share our vision and turn it into reality with us," says Drechsler, describing vitreo's current search for potential customers. The young entrepreneur sees the search for pioneers as one of the biggest challenges for the start-up: "We are good at understanding processes, analyzing them and aligning our solutions in a goal-oriented way. But in order to develop further, we need entrepreneurs who are willing to open themselves up to new technologies. People who want to face new challenges together with vitreo in order to improve their process flows in the long term."

IoT sensor technology - understanding, analyzing and questioning data with the help of vitreo

The IoT sensor technology in use

The vitreo IoT technology combines several sensors with different functions. In addition to an ambient sensor that measures temperature data, for example, a radar sensor is used for level measurements. GPS provides the location and NB-IoT is used to connect the sensor to the software via the telecommunications network. This gives the customer immediate digital access to all data collected using the IoT sensor technology. 

The vitreo software processes the collected data in the background and makes it available to the target group. Vitreo analyzes and evaluates the data in the long term. This allows existing processes to be evaluated and optimized.

The vitreo IoT solution thus helps in an uncomplicated way to avoid inefficiencies in processes due to a lack of information. Since the information is available to the customer in real time via a dashboard, real-time activities can also be planned based on the current data. This enables proactive management of supply chains.  

Visibility through sensor technology  

The use of intelligent sensor technology increases the visibility of data within industrial supply chains. The data collected with the help of vitreo sensor technology is analyzed and processed by software. The data analysis results in concrete recommendations for action. The user can call up all the data in a digital dashboard and, for example, view transport processes. With the help of the processed information, he can make direct decisions without long communication channels slowing down the flow of information. 

"As a supply chain manager, for example, I can store and track entire deliveries in IBC. Thanks to new data points that show a condition analysis of my entire IBC, for example, I have traceable and provable information about the entire supply chain," explains Maximilian Drechsler. 

The entrepreneur knows the industry. He knows the role that a collaborative competitive environment and interaction with the industry play in the joint development of solution approaches: "Working with other entrepreneurs gives vitreo the opportunity to develop ourselves and our solutions much faster. The ecosystem as a whole only benefits when everyone pulls together."  

Starting a business during a pandemic - A piece of advice for founders

"The most important advice I can give as a founder is to have confidence in yourself. The will to make a difference and confidence in yourself are an ideal combination for successful start-ups. In addition, it is important to be in constant exchange with potential customers and partners in order to then implement exactly what actually generates added value. Because of the Corona pandemic, all my projects as a freelancer fell through. Exactly in such a situation you have to be brave and jump over your own shadow - in my case I simply dared, found the right partner with Next Big Thing AG and founded vitreo."

5-HT Digital Hub - A strong partner for vitreo 

Vitreo is looking for partners from the 5-HT ecosystem who are interested in using the latest technologies for social improvements. "What is very exciting for me is on the one hand the reach, but especially the diversity in the 5-HT network," Max Drechsler describes his motivation to become part of the ecosystem. "Especially as a start-up, it is an enormous challenge to find the right partners. We offer the opportunity to collaborate on a new solution."

Vitreo is looking for collaborations. The start-up wants to find partners and supporters who are convinced of the added value of technology solutions. The goal of vitreo is to raise awareness of the IoT solution in the industry, make it more widely usable, improve it in the long term and align it for the individual challenge in each industry. 

"In the future, any type of transport medium can be equipped and enhanced with our solutions." Drechsler summarizes. 

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