Hackathon #hack4tk: From Smart Hacking to Smart Processing

Corporate culture | Digitalisation and industry 4.0 | innovation | On July 3 and 4, the hackathon will enter its fourth round at thyssenkrupp. Then it's time again to design, conceptualize and program creative and unconventional solutions in just 24 hours. At the end, a jury of experts will evaluate the prototypes and select the winner. We look back to one of the innovative solutions from last year.

Anyone who thinks hackathons only produce outlandish and unrealistic ideas that don’t see the light of day anyway can be convinced of the opposite at thyssenkrupp: The winning idea of last year is already integrated into the business today – at Materials Services.

Team “Nebuchadnezzar” – two students from the Ruhr-West University of Applied Sciences in Bottrop, their professor and a UX expert – competed to develop a solution to a question in the field of metal processing: How can pricing be made more efficient for thyssenkrupp and more transparent for customers? The solution is called “Smart Processing” and is already in use at thyssenkrupp Schulte’s flame cutting centre in Duesseldorf. In addition to the students led by Prof. Malte Weiß, Jan Crommelinck, project manager from the division’s Digital Transformation Office (DTO), and Dominic Rainer, sales manager of the centre, were part of the development.

The order just a few clicks away

The DTO was inspired by commercial solutions where customers can upload their CAD drawings and order their laser cuts. Materials Services sites also have similar requirements. “However, such systems have proven inflexible,” says Jan Crommelinck, “so we needed a new solution that we could scale across the whole area. We submitted this as a challenge last year and team Nebuchadnezzar provided us with a solution that fully convinced us”.

After the hackathon, the team went into the actual project phase: Together with the DTO and the flame cutting centre, they developed the first working prototype in just three months, which has been in use since March and is continuously being further developed by the same team.

Maximum efficiency in cutting to size

With the new tool, quotations for processing sheet metal can be created in a matter of seconds. “When customers needed a quote for cut metal before, colleagues from different departments had to get involved,” says Dominic Rainer, head of sales at the flame cutting centre, “this could be very time-consuming, so that some of our customers had to wait a long time for a quote.

Faster cutting thanks to digital process: In Düsseldorf, customers from the metal business have been offering an innovative solution for material processing since March.

Faster cutting thanks to digital process: In Düsseldorf, customers from the metal business have been offering an innovative solution for material processing since March.

Today, this process is almost fully automatic: colleagues in sales enter the specifics or upload them as DXF files. In just a few seconds, the system calculates how much sheet metal is needed, how the cuts should be laid and produces an offer with just one click. “The success of the solution is also reflected in customer feedback. The unprecedented speed of our quotations, even for complex enquiries, convinces our customers even before they place an order,” says Dominic Rainer.

Project with a future

The Hackathon team was there from the very beginning. And it has grown: In the meantime, another member has joined the project. This will be necessary, as “Smart Processing” is going into the next expansion stage. Not only is the system now to be extended to other Materials Services locations – from Poland to the Netherlands and Austria to Spain – the next step is to give customers direct access.

For Jan Crommelinck, the development was the best combination of two worlds: “We didn’t pursue a classic approach here, but an agile project approach. It was important for us to first show that we could build an operational solution. We would not have been able to do this in this form and with such rapid success without the help of the Hackathon team and the direct involvement of the sales team from Düsseldorf”.

Reason enough to submit a challenge to the Hackathon again this year: “We are happy to be part of it again this year. And of course we are all the more excited about the solutions we will be presented with!

Are you also interested? Here you can find all the information about this year’s Hackathon.

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