“We Foster a Culture of Quick Decision-making and Implementation”
IInterview with Daniel Seiler, CEO of AT – Automation Technology
inspect: You have been Managing Director at Automation Technology since March 1 of this year. What was the first thing you initiated there?
Daniel Seiler: I had already been involved with the company as an advisor since the beginning of 2021, before I moved to the management board in March 2022. This means that I was of course able to initiate some of the issues before taking on the new role, or to drive them forward with greater commitment afterwards. In addition to questions of strategic orientation, this includes our recruiting process in concrete terms: As a high-tech company, we are heavily dependent on skilled workers. I am proud that we have already succeeded in filling a dozen new positions this year – an excellent achievement for a company of our size.
inspect: What do you place particular emphasis on in the company?
Seiler: In a word: speed. That starts with our products: Our 3D sensors deliver data rates that no other product can match. Above all, however, we are fast as a company when it comes to implementation. On the one hand, this is due to our still manageable company size of about 50 people and the flat hierarchies with very short coordination paths. On the other hand, we consciously cultivate a culture of quick decision-making and implementation, and take a pragmatic and agile approach.
inspect: AT wants to expand its business in the USA. What are the concrete plans?
Seiler: We are currently conducting a search for a “Director Business Development” to be based on the U.S. East Coast and manage our office there. In addition to two people who are currently already providing technical and sales support for the North American continent from Canada and Europe, this will be the basis for our expansion in this market. Furthermore, we are in concrete planning stages for the opening of an American subsidiary with the goal of hiring several employees there in the next two years and doubling our share of sales.
inspect: The machine vision industry has been growing stably in the double-digit percentage range per year for a long time. For this year, however, the VDMA is forecasting growth of only 5 percent in Germany. In which countries or regions does AT want to grow?
Seiler: In my eyes, this double-digit percentage growth can be achieved both for the industry as a whole and for AT in the medium and long term. Our order situation confirms that we can also continue our growth above the industry average. The subdued sales expectations in the current and coming year are due to the extremely limited availability of some semiconductor parts and other components. I am convinced that we will leave this crisis behind us and continue our growth course.
At AT, more than every second shipment is already going abroad, with our sales split between Europe, North America and Asia. In addition to Europe, our main focus in the next few years will be on the North American market, where
we already supply strong partners and OEM customers.
inspect: Consolidation in machine vision is in full swing. AT was also acquired by a majority by financial investor Pinova Capital in 2020. What role do the owners play in your expansion plans?
Seiler: With our investor Pinova, we have gained a fantastic partner who not only backs us financially, but above all strategically. The cooperation is enormously constructive and our regular consultations are characterized by a great deal of trust. The funds and the contacts that Pinova provides us with encourage us to press ahead with the expansion plans described. For example, we are currently planning a building extension for our headquarters in Bad Oldesloe, but we are also keeping an eye on the dynamic machine vision market for possible acquisitions.
inspect: Energy costs and supply problems have dominated the news for months. How much do these factors affect AT’s business?
Seiler: Every company I know in our industry is affected by the current bottlenecks in semiconductor components and increasingly also by the rise in energy market prices – AT is no exception. However, the long-term oriented planning and stockpiling of the past years has helped us to remain able to deliver so far, and we will continue to be able to deliver products next year.
inspect: Artificial intelligence and embedded vision are currently experiencing hype. How do you assess the potential of these technologies?
Seiler: I am observing this hype with a great deal of interest and fascination, although both technologies have been topics in machine vision in particular for a long time. I see embedded vision more as a progressive further development and higher integration of solution-related components, whereas the topic of AI has fundamentally disruptive potential.
inspect: AT recently presented the C6 3D camera series and also submitted it to the inspect award 2022. Why do you think the series deserves a trophy?
Seiler: The trophy is deserved by our engineers who developed this fascinating product. Introduced this year, the C6 series version 3070 offers a truly unique advantage for demanding applications: Thanks to a custom image sensor that AT designed together with a CMOS specialist, this is the fastest commercially available triangulation sensor in the world. Due to an intelligent on-chip compression of the laser data, we achieve a higher profile rate at 3K resolution than any other product I know of. In addition, with Multipeak and Multipart, we have two functions that enable our customers to solve complex 3D problems even more elegantly.
inspect: The portfolio of 3D and infrared cameras is to be expanded. What can inspect readers expect in the direction of Vision?
Seiler: At Vision in October, we will present the C6-3070 for the first time at a global trade show. And our smart thermal imaging camera IRSX will be further developed with new apps for the industrial sector. We are already looking forward to the exciting discussions with users about their infrared and 3D applications.
David Löh, Editor-in-Chief of inspect