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TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA, [June 28, 2018] – Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. (MBUSI) on June 19th selected two start-ups to receive $50,000 each as part of its “MBUSI Innovation Challenge”, an initiative aimed at engaging Alabama’s thriving startup community to tackle critical challenges faced in automotive production flow management, big data efficiencies, and digital communications.
In April, MBUSI – in partnership with the non-profit ideation accelerator known Urban Engine, the companies STARTUP AUTOBAHN, and The University of Alabama collectively announced the strategic partnership to seek out and inspire creativity to find innovative solutions using creative business strategies, software development, and technology.
Ideas presented by the nine finalists ranged from how to improve the lunch experience of MBUSI Team Members due to time constraints to how to better track vehicles in the parking lots to big data analytics.
“It was extremely inspiring and worthwhile traveling the distance from Germany to Alabama to be a part of the MBUSI Innovation Challenge,” said Markus Schaefer, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain Management. Schaefer said that Plant Tuscaloosa has come a long way since 1993, and with Industry 4.0, electric vehicles and tools like the MBUSI Innovation Challenge, the plant is taking the next step.
“Our path is clear – we want to change the face of mobility and we want to be the leaders in this arena,” said Schaefer. “The digital tools at our fingertips today present endless opportunities for us and if we want to continue to be # 1 in the future, we have to continue on the path of digital transformation.”
About Mercedes-Benz U.S. International
MBUSI – located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama – is the production location for the GLE, GLS and GLE Coupe SUVs around the world, as well as the C-Class sedan for North America. In 2017, the plant produced nearly 300,000 vehicles. MBUSI currently employs more than 3,700 team members and supports 7,000+ jobs on the approximately 1,000-acre site. In September 2017, Mercedes-Benz announced another $1 billion investment that will equip the plant in building electric vehicles by the beginning of the next decade.
About Urban Engine
Urban Engine is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that Propels Ideas Forward by empowering the next generation of thinkers, makers, doers, leaders, and founders to succeed. Urban Engine accelerates economic development through innovation education programming and by connecting aspiring entrepreneurs and established business leadership with educational resources, talent, and community.
Two startups will receive $50,000 after their pitches in the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Innovation Challenge on Tuesday. The event pitted nine companies putting forward ideas through the ideation accelerator known as Urban Engine, and - get this! - the purpose was to improve efficiency at Mercedes-Benz's Vance manufacturing plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.Read More
Mercedes-Benz opened its doors to firms from around the world to dream up solutions to challenges on the factory floor. After qualifying their ideas with Urban Engine, engineers and innovators came back to pitch and validate their own ideas during the MBUSI Innovation Challenge Competition!
MBUSI President Jason Hoff said the company decided to take a different approach this time in tackling problem areas around the plant. The idea was to turn lose minds that aren't normally engaged in automotive manufacturing and see what happened.
"This year, (the IT department) came forward and said there's a lot of great companies out there with really cool ideas. Let's present our challenges and see what comes back. It's a new approach for us," Hoff said. "We purposely left the challenges pretty vague and the rest is up to them."
Drones that inventory.
Augmented reality glasses giving instructions to workers.
Artificial intelligence solutions.
More efficient lunch breaks.
It was a unique opportunity, said Rahul Chipalkatty, the founder and CEO of Southie, a Boston-based company. Southie came with a pitch on how to deploy robots in logistics centers for smaller, more specialized tasks that may be needed for short periods of time.
Those are a few of the ideas pitched tonight at Mercedes-Benz's Innovation Challenge, a startup competition staged this evening at the Vance plant's training center. Teams were split into startup companies and student & professional groups. Cash prizes will be awarded to winners of the challenge.
Read the full story on AL.com