The First Man Hackathon…

The first MAN hackathon involved 23 teams developing innovative solutions for all aspects of electric mobility, transport logistics and the future of the transport ecosystem. Two teams from the MAN ranks were especially successful.

A good 100 participants at the first hackathon arranged by MAN were able to gain a glimpse into the future in Karlsfeld near Munich from 5 to 7 December. Under the motto “/coding the new”, interdisciplinary teams developed new ideas in a relaxed atmosphere and used design-based approaches and agile methods to create prototypes for products and find solutions relating to mobility issues and commercial vehicles. In addition to employees from the MAN Group, the participants included employees from partner companies, students and graduates, as well as freelance developers with an affinity for logistics and automotive issues.

They chose from the following subject areas: besides solutions related to electric mobility, the focus was on road safety and accident prevention measures in the context of autonomous driving as well as innovations in transport logistics and the transport ecosystem.

RECOGNISING AND PROMOTING NEW TALENTS

“This hackathon is a new event format that underlines our transformation from a commercial vehicle manufacturer towards a solution-driven company”, explains Niklaus Waser, Senior Vice President Digital Transformation & Business Models, who is seeking to make a significant contribution to digitisation at MAN. A hackathon is also particularly interesting for a company because of the network that it can generate. “We are of course equally interested in discovering talented individuals who may be keen to join us as employees or as cooperation partners”, continues Waser.

Key to the success of hackathons are the agile workflows and design-based approaches that stem from the start-up environment and are increasingly replacing or at least selectively augmenting the classic corporate waterfall model. “The appeal of a hackathon lies precisely in its creative approach to a problem. It’s all about taking 48 hours to concentrate on developing a solution that can then be turned into a marketable product”, states Stefan Sahlmann, Head of Transport Solutions, who himself participated in one of the teams.

FOCUSING ON DATA-DRIVEN PROCESSES

The hackathon focused on extensive data sets, with more than 1 million data points from the company itself, which could be analysed in the context of various problems. “Data-driven processes are the basis for a large number of services that create added value and can contribute to transport and logistics becoming efficient, safe and sustainable in the future”, explains Waser. The large amount of data collated and available through networking could help to improve fleet management, for example, and to automate many of the decisions made by people today.

As a technology partner, international hardware and software developer Microsoft supported participants in the hackathon via its Azure Cloud technology. “MAN is now successfully developing from a mechanical engineering group into a provider of smart solutions based on software technology – and we want to supply the fundamental technology for this transformation via Azure as the cloud platform”, explains Stefan Andre Raschke, Sector Lead and Sales Director Automotive, Microsoft Germany.

THE COMPETITION

The jury consisted of seven experts and managers from MAN and its cooperation partners Microsoft, Accenture, Futurice and Zentrum Digitalisierung Bayern. It initially selected six teams from the projects to pitch their ideas on stage to win the prize. Alongside the complexity and practical relevance of the problem solution, the innovative potential, creativity and capacity for monetisation were also evaluated.

The winning team, which received prize money of over 3000 euros, presented a predictive maintenance solution designed to enable reconciliation between the foreseeable or spontaneously necessary repairs to vehicles and the driver’s necessary rest periods. Other prize winners were concerned with the efficient use of resources: they developed an app to adapt the delivery of parcels more flexibly to the needs of their recipients. A third team developed a solution to prevent follow-on damage to vehicles by means of preventive maintenance.

“The hackathon demonstrated to us the different perspectives from which a topic can be approached if you work in a diverse and cross-functional way and if teams with different skills and professional backgrounds deal with it jointly”, explains Waser making it clear the first hackathon was such a great success that there will be a repeat next year. He simultaneously stressed the usefulness of the event for the Group and made it clear that the experience of ideas and projects that emerged within such a short time was remarkable.

Even the preparations for the hackathon were characterised by agility. “It wasn’t until the end of August that the idea of holding a hackathon arose”, reports Tom Schneider, Product Owner Digital Transformation, who, together with his colleague Jurica Kis, set up this event within just a few weeks. The result was an inspiring event that offered the company new insights in many respects.