A review of the 2019 Steinbeis Engineering Day Steinbeis event showcases successful examples from restaurants and catering, the manual trades, wholesaling, and manufacturing

Digital transformation is often a bit of an obstacle for traditional companies. Making the transition often fails because of existing IT infrastructures or a lack of specialist know-how. There are so many technological innovations out there, even big companies struggle to understand the overall picture. As a result, it’s all the more important to be able to experiment with new technology in networks that transcend different sectors of industry. On May 8, 2019, Steinbeis invited visitors to the fifth Steinbeis Engineering Day at the Sparkasse Academy in Stuttgart. The theme: digital transformation without “the” IT!

Drawing on the example of a familiar household object – a chest freezer – Prof. Dr. Heiner Lasi, director of the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (FSTI), provided an insightful explanation of the potential already offered by digital solutions – simply by making good use of existing infrastructures. Freezers have temperature controls. This already makes them automated devices, and depicting such objects virtually on a platform in the real world unleashes new potential. For example, new processes emerge involving both new and old business partners. This generates completely new benefits for consumers and with these, new potential to add value for a whole host of business enterprises. So what could that look like in practice? The energy company providing power to the chest freezer could, for example, track the device virtually and ascertain whether its electricity consumption is too high, or whether there is something wrong with its energy consumption. It could then contact the owner via email or smartphone app and suggest a nearby maintenance company or even offer to send a contractor around itself. For end customers, this would minimize potential losses resulting from food spoiling in the freezer, and the energy provider could offer add-on services on behalf of the freezer manufacturer. A maintenance company could also be lined up with quick jobs. Such business scenarios are already feasible today – even without all of the involved partners having to restructure IT systems, which can be very expensive. But for such value creation scenarios to work, the companies would have to be open to sharing information.

The different layers of digital transformation and the industrial players who benefit from a digital chest freezer

Two discussion sessions were organized to gain insights into further value creation scenarios based on partnership. In the first session moderated by Dr. Marlene Gottwald, researcher at the FSTI, Jochen Ausprung (WMF Group), Michael Steiger (Fürstenberg’s Irish Pubs), and Tim Wetzel (Schwanen Hotel and Restaurant in Metzingen) examined a concept called “Coffee to Go? No, Coffee from the Cloud!” The catering Micro Testbed was injected with life with the support of the other companies at the event. The idea – developed as part of a project initiated by the FSTI and backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing – shows how a digital guest room can be created by connecting a cash register with a beer tap, coffee machine, and a restaurant menu. By using open platforms, it becomes possible for virtual copies of the real objects to communicate with one another. This results in new business models, such as new pricing options. The Micro Testbed showed that digital transformation also plays a role in optimizing processes in sectors of industry that are seemingly disconnected – and to work, advanced IT infrastructures are not needed. Whether the focus lay in measuring how much beer is lost at the tap, assessing the air quality in the bar, or managing the menu or coffee machine digitally, the participants in the discussion agreed that it will be necessary to carry out “digital adjustments” to match customer requirements, especially given the fierce competition in the hotel and catering sector. Ideally, these adaptations would be tackled together, with the right partners on board.

The delegates then moved on from catering and restaurants to think about manufacturing. In the second discussion session “Digitalizing together – efficiently and inexpensively without ‘that IT’.”, this time moderated by Heiner Lasi, the focus was on the Micro Testbed for industrial services, Matthias Herzog (Liebherr Hydraulic Excavators), Markus Hucko (Leadec Group), Martin Rathgeb (SHW Machine Tools), Dirk Slama (Bosch Innovations), and Michael Köhnlein (Steinbeis Digital Business Consortium) presented the results of the Micro Testbed, which is funded directly by the companies involved in the initiative. Their presentation showcased a new kind of business model that resulted from the partnership, plus the benefits derived by all of the parties involved in the project. The example looked at was the process used to manufacture revolving platforms for wheeled excavators. A pay-per-part model was developed based on an open platform. Producers would only pay for properly produced parts, so they would no longer buy and own production facilities. This model offers a number of advantages. Because producers would no longer have to pay for entire machines – they only pay for faultless production parts – and money is freed up to fund other investments. The machine maker would still be selling its machines, but in effect it would only sell them to a new “owner of the means of production.” It would be a bit like an insurance company reducing the risk of production downtimes and thus avoiding having to issue payouts on insurance policies. Data needed to ascertain when a part has been properly produced could be transmitted via sensors to a platform, which would coordinate payments. If the new owner has any spare production capacity on its machine, it can use the platform to sell capacity to other producers. Although the project needed input from people in IT, to ensure the concept could be implemented quickly in digital terms it wasn’t necessary to gain agreement regarding IT structures and data exchange.

The Steinbeis Engineering Day also provided insights into a number of other digital transformation projects at the FSTI. One of these projects involves implementing building information modeling (BIM) in the manual trades. This will make it possible for skilled craftsmen to optimize the coordination of individual stages of work on construction sites. Sensor systems can be used to monitor temperatures, condensation, and vibrations on the construction site, and the data this generates can be shown to other parties via a platform. This makes it easier to plan the work schedules of individual craftsmen.

For the wholesaling Micro Testbed, a digital process was developed for monitoring cooling lubricants. This also involves using sensors to continuously monitor the state of cooling lubricant emulsions online through a specially programmed dashboard. All of the project partners would have access to the same system so they can share recommendations with the operator. Support can be provided for the entire life cycle of cooling lubricants, from the moment they are sold to maintenance and environmentally friendly disposal. This makes it possible to drastically reduce machine idle times, reduce the frequency of damaged tool replacements, and thus also cut costs.

Both the Micro Testbed for additive manufacturing and the professorial chair for general business administration and information systems at Stuttgart University presented the possibilities offered by additive manufacturing. The experts participating in the Micro Testbed ran a live demonstration of production using a 3D printing device to show possible business models in the restoration industry for producing replacement car parts. Afterward, a student from the University of Stuttgart showed the potential that technology offers to after-sales workshops and the skills needed to work with this technology. Additive manufacturing is about producing a virtual representation and a “printed” physical product, so it is a fitting symbolic representation of the interplay between digital goods and physical items.

A further technical solution was presented by Dr. Holger Gast, director of the Steinbeis Consulting Center for Agile Development of Information Systems. His software writes further software itself, making it possible for companies and entire collaborative networks to quickly implement digital solutions. This enables different parties to optimize processes across several companies, linking up different stakeholders to facilitate shared, digital value creation scenarios.

A presentation by students working at the FSTI showed that there is sufficient understanding of the very latest technologies for digital solutions to be implemented today. The students presented three different sides to blockchain technology. The first blockchain example showed how technology available in the healthcare industry can enable patients to maintain complete control of their data thanks to “digital transparency.” Another project looked at how blockchain technology can provide a monetary incentive to improve the use of capacity in local transportation networks and thus cut harmful emissions caused by cars in urban areas. The third project looked at using blockchain technology in the diamond industry. Blockchain could help companies make the supply chain more transparent and thus pave the way for fair trade.

Many of the testbeds presented at the Steinbeis Engineering Day were sponsored by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing. These were: additive manufacturing; building information modeling; restaurants, catering, and hotels; and wholesaling. The industrial services Micro Testbed was financed by the company itself. All Micro Testbeds were moderated by the Steinbeis Digital Consortium with scientific support from the FSTI.


  • Participants: DEHOGA, DIRMEIER Schanktechnik GmbH & Co. KG, Fürstenberg’s Irish Pub, Schwanen Hotel & Restaurant Wetzel GmbH u. Co. KG, TourOnline AG Business Development, SI-SUITES – Appartment House SI Betriebs GmbH, WMF Group GmbH
  • Backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing


  • Participants: Bosch (SI and Connected Industries), Balluff GmbH, Büro Kohler, Leadec Gruppe, Liebherr-Hydraulikbagger GmbH, SHW Werkzeugmaschinen GmbH, Schmid Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG


  • Participants: Breinlinger Ingenieure Hoch- und Tiefbau GmbH, Bürkle & Schöck KG, FACT GmbH, FiliTime – Digitale Plantafel GmbH, Karl Sikler & Sohn GmbH & Co. KG, Maler Giese GmbH, Schaaf GmbH, TMM AG, Winfried Wiedersich (independent architect), Baden-Wuerttemberg Crafts Congress
  • Backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing


  • Participants: Armin Hamma Umwelttechnik, Efficiency Systems, Heller Maschinen GmbH, Hermann Bantleon GmbH, Lorch-Mechanik GmbH, New Fluid GmbH/VPKM GmbH, RAW Handel and Beratungs GmbH
  • Backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing


  • Participants: 3D-LABS GmbH, August Reuchlen GmbH, Boxer Motor & klassische Automobile GmbH, KUOLT Fertigungstechnik, The Pagoden Center
  • Backed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing

For further information on the Micro Testbed, go to



Alexander Neff (author)
Research Assistant

Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (FSTI) (Stuttgart)

Dr. Marlene Gottwald
Senior Research Fellow
Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (FSTI) (Stuttgart)