tadoº Engineering Reaches its Tipping Point: Moves from Excel Chaos… to Aligni Order

M.C. Escher

tado°, the leading smart thermostat company in Europe, is growing by leaps and bounds as demand for smart thermostats marches across the EU and beyond. To optimize energy consumption, tado° has overhauled old-fashioned climate control technology by developing innovative hardware, apps, and services for heating and air conditioning at home. Since 2011, tado° has grown rapidly, now selling devices in more than 40 countries, and the rate of adoption is accelerating.

In its early days, tado° kept track of its ever-growing catalog of parts, configurations, suppliers, and contract manufacturers in Excel spreadsheets. Excel just couldn’t keep up and the team was headed to chaos. In late 2015, tado° had reached its tipping point and knew it was time to overhaul the old-fashioned Excel approach with a sleek, structured, and efficient PLM solution. After an in-depth search, tado° discovered the ideal solution for them… Aligni.

Growing too fast to keep up

As with many startups, when tado° began product development in 2011, its four engineers leveraged Excel for parts and inventory management. Spreadsheets are an easy way to start – collecting and pulling data, making changes, and keeping things flexible. They can even be shared using a platform like Google Docs. But with time, spreadsheet management adds cost and complexity on every single change that needs to be made.

“In our initial days, the four of us were wearing many hats during the product lifecycle process. Due to limited funding, there was no dedicated supply-chain team. Unfortunately, our team was using Excel spreadsheets entering every minute detail,” said Johannes Schwarz, tado° Co-founder and CTO.

Johannes Schwarz, Co-founder and CTO, tadoº

By 2015, tado° had become a household name in the European market. Keeping up with demand required managing multiple electronic assemblies for product development, coordinating with contract manufacturers, managing packaging suppliers, and working with multiple distributors in many countries. In addition, the engineers needed to manage frequent changes in the product development process, and share updated processes, parts, and data amongst various stakeholders. This combined chaos was proving to be a major hurdle for the tado°’s growth.

Aligni is optimized for multi-site teams managing thousands of parts. For tado°:

  • 40+ countries
  • 5+ inventory locations
  • 2000+ parts
  • 400+ subassemblies
  • 2 turnkey contract manufacturers (Hungary and China)
  • 20 users
  • Aligni API-based custom integrations

“Everything was unprofessional at that time. We didn’t even have part numbers. It was chaotic, cumbersome and mismanaged. In fact, it was costing us more money. There was limited traceability and communicating changes to the contract manufacturer was our biggest challenge,” Schwarz said.

Schwarz acknowledged that on multiple occasions his team even ended up repeat ordering parts as the supplier had built a wrong product due to communication gaps. Its exponential growth, over time, led to a complex product development process that required a cutting-edge, real-time, Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) tool for the team.

Johannes Schwarz, Co-founder and CTO, tadoº

Aligni – Cloud-based, Product Life Cycle and Manufacturing Management Tool

tado° required a robust software solution, based on cutting-edge technology, that could provide traceability at every step of the production process. Also, being a high-growth company, they required a PLM solution with low, subscription-based pricing that provided uncompromising operational intelligence and information sharing.

“We use Aligni as our primary SKU generation tool. We create all SKUs in Aligni and synchronize them into our NetSuite ERP system. We built our custom synchronization solution for NetSuite using the very useful Aligni API,” said Schwarz.

tado°’s manufacturing model, relying on contract manufacturers, adds another layer of complexity to their PLM solution. “The model we work on is a turnkey contract manufacturing model. We do the PLM work on Aligni. Then, when we have released a version or a revision, we send the bill of materials to the contract manufacturer. We work with multiple manufacturers on a turnkey basis; they procure all the components.” Aligni gives tado° essential visibility into the procurement and remote manufacturing process.

Aligni’s centralized, cloud-based PLM solution helps companies logically synchronize the product development process. Aligni helped tado° create a streamlined, organized system for parts management. While tado° is using just Aligni PLM capabilities, the solution also features robust MRP functionality.

Aligni Helps tado° “Tip” – from Chaos to Order

tado° has realized a number of benefits moving from the Chaos of Excel to the orderly world of PLM with Aligni.

Easy to use: The user interface is straightforward and easy to learn.

Improved operational intelligence:​ Documented, factual data sharing.

Best-practice structure: ​Organized data and process flows.

API​: Enables development of company-specific features and integration with existing tools.

No lock-in: ​Data always available to company to download to local site.

Clear, structured, documented communication:​ Ensures precise documentation with contract manufacturers, suppliers and distributors.

Solid, complete documentation​: Prevents errors and unnecessary expense.

Cloud-based SaaS: ​All those cloud benefits too – no IT infrastructure or personnel to maintain!

Johannes Schwarz, Co-founder and CTO, tadoº

Have you reached your Excel Tipping Point?

Early adoption of Aligni saves significant cost and confusion, freeing up time and resources for innovation.

About tadoº

Founded in 2011, tado° is the European market leader in intelligent home climate management solutions. With its Smart Thermostats and Smart AC Control for heating and cooling, tado° reshapes the way energy is consumed at home. The tado° Smart Climate Assistant app uses features like geofencing and weather adaptation to save significantly on heating & cooling costs, while enhancing comfort.