Picture a company, based in Sweden, that manufactures its products in factories half a world away in Mexico or Asia. Managing this production process once required executives to constantly shuttle between Sweden and those farflung manufacturing facilities—great for racking up frequent flier miles, but terrible from an efficiency standpoint.
That was the problem that Mattias Andersson set out to solve when he founded MTEK, a Swedish software developer that aims to help manufacturers run their factories better and more efficiently. The company’s MBrain platform, which debuted in 2020, is the cornerstone of that effort. The platform uses powerful analytical engines to tie together different parts of the factory floor, from robotic arms and human operators to finely tuned IoT sensors. The result? Manufacturers have more visibility into how their factories operate and more latitude to find new and efficient ways of making their products.
“It’s about putting humans at the center of these new technologies and unleashing the power of creativity and allowing them to improve the manufacturing process,” Andersson says.
It’s this kind of innovative approach to merging technology and manufacturing that has earned MTEK a spot on this year’s list of Fast Company’s Next Big Things in Tech.
MTEK’s first efforts to develop MBrain focused on creating a system tailor-made for factories that relied on automation and collaborative robots. But very quickly, Andersson and his small team realized that approach was too narrow. Instead, MBrain needed to go beyond merely helping these robots operate more efficiently and precisely. “We realized that we had to take two steps back and make something much bigger that could cope with the entire set of challenges that manufacturers face,” Andersson says. “We had to rethink, redevelop, and redeploy everything.”
For some companies, this kind of major pivot might have been a huge stumbling block. But the MTEK team forged ahead to create a more broadly applicable platform. Andersson credits their ability to nimbly shift gears to the company’s collaborative culture, which, as CEO, he’s worked to intentionally cultivate. “It’s all about enabling people to find the motivation,” he says. “And the motivation comes by everyone seeing that they’re part of something much bigger.”
That company in Sweden with factories around the world? That’s a real MTEK client, and MBrain helped the firm build a system that gives them a clear view of the entire manufacturing process—wherever it’s happening. They can monitor everything happening on the factory floor in Mexico, defining standard operating procedure and observing areas where efficiency can be improved. What’s more, the platform lets them track and trace every component, product, and process revision, giving them a powerful way to identify areas of inefficiency or hiccups in the process that can be smoothed out.
While most factory intelligence software requires a considerable amount of customization from software experts before it can be unleashed on the manufacturing process, MBrain was designed to work more or less right out of the box. It allows manufactures to configure the platform themselves using a range of prebuilt modules and easy-to-use drag-and-drop tools. “We allow the customer to continue to be the experts of their own manufacturing, because they know their methods,” Andersson says. “We’re just giving them the tools to further improve that process.”