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Founder of the Month July: OPVengineering GmbH

Logo OPVengineeringOPVengineering offers highly dynamic test bench automatization components in the field of automotive development. With their solution, they create ideal test environments in the test bench by operating drive components interacting with virtual vehicle remainder models. In cooperation with industry partners and the KIT, the team works on constant development. In an interview, we asked the team of OPVengineering about the idea, the startup time, and the future prospects.

Team von OPVengineering (v.l.n.r.): Christian Stier, Steffen Jäger und Martin Geier mit einem Prüfstands-Demonstratorsystem

OPVengineering team (f.l.t.r.): Christian Stier, Steffen Jäger, and Martin Geier with a test bench demonstrator system

What does your company stand for?

OPVengineering builds highly dynamic test benches for vehicle drives and solves demanding challenges in existing and new test systems. The so-called closed-loop test benches, where one component of the vehicle drive interacts with the remainder of the drive train, can achieve more useful and meaningful results compared to conventional tests. In doing so, the remainder of the vehicle is simulated in real-time and connected to the test component on the test bench using suitable actors and sensors.

Systemaufteilung virtuell/real im Closed-Loop-Testing

System structure virtual/real in closed-loop testing

OPVengineering develops and sells real-time models of combustion engines, coupling systems, gears, or drive shafts, depending on which component is to be tested. Furthermore, OPVengineering implements highly dynamic controllers for test bench drives so that dynamic target values have an exact effect on the test object without delay. OPVengineering ensures that the applications of the test bench user are realized with the best performance possible as early as during engineering of the entire test bench drive.

This also includes substructures for test bench drives that OPVengineering designs and constructs in such a way that the test bench delivers accurate test results even with high vibration stimulations and rotational speeds.

Where and how did you get this brilliant idea?

During our activities with the research group Drive Technology of the IPEK – Institute of Product Engineering at KIT, we had the opportunity to get into contact with many companies in the automotive industry. As part of these joint projects, we recognized how large the need for commercial solutions based on our researched technologies is for automobile manufacturers and their suppliers. The prospect of remaining in contact with some of these customers as a newly founded company moved us to take the step to self-employment.

How did your founding team come together?

Martin and Christian know each other from their studies and Steffen joined the research group at the institute. There we worked on many research and industry projects together as academic staff. We were lucky to be able to perform a few new large test bench constructions and modernizations. During these projects, we noticed that we worked well together and that out competencies ideally complemented each other. It soon became clear that we wanted to work together professionally.

What would you say are the benefits of being your own boss?

Thus, we can optimally solve the challenges of our customers without needing to overcome internal challenges. No one tells us “But so far we always solved it like this!” and this allows us to play in the big league on the technical and operative front.

Discussing topics of business administration is certainly a rather large challenge for a pure engineering team at the beginning. Now, we have established a good network consisting of our bank, a tax consultant, and various coaches, so that we have a good handle on these topics and it is also fun to build a company around these topics from scratch.

Since the products are all based on our own ideas, the passion with which we work is of course much more intensive that if a superior gave us instructions. Naturally, this makes work much more fun, which provides a kind of free wage that seems very valuable.

What do you think are the properties that one should have to be a successful entrepreneur?

As company founders, it’s important to identify with entrepreneurship. From the start, it was important for us to be in touch with customers and to acquire first projects. It sounds banal, but you should quickly develop a customer and profit orientation. The danger is that you become too attached to your technology or product. This is logical since the product is the starting point of the startup.

What would you term as the hurdles on the way to a successful business? Where did you get support?

In a team consisting of engineers only, you definitely need assistance with business administrative topics. It starts with writing funding proposals, and even there it is helpful if someone with experience in this area takes a look at them. We got in touch with startup consultants at the KIT fairly early, which was especially helpful in the first phase. After the startup, we looked for a trustworthy bank, tax consultant, and insurance and now feel that we are in good hands.

How did you deal with the large workloads during start-up?

The startup in itself and dealing with the topics around startups are tasks that must be worked on together. Of course, this introduces new things that take up a lot of time but in the end, they are part of the project. You have to know and accept this, and then it doesn’t seem like a burdensome extra effort.

Do you have any advice for other young entrepreneurs?

No lengthy talking, just do it!

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