At first glance, the heating industry seems to be one of those segments that cannot really profit from digitalization. Kristofer Fichtner, Philipp Pausder and Florian Tetzlaff saw things differently and founded a start-up called Thermondo in 2012. The company has since developed into one of Germany’s largest heating installers. “We have shown that software also works in the trades”, says Philipp Pausder, one of Thermondo’s two managing directors together with Tetzlaff. The company from Berlin has become far more than a pioneer in the energy transformation – Thermondo is now the market leader among heating installers for single and two family houses. What sets Thermondo apart from the competition? What does digitalization have to do with this?
For example, “Manfred” makes the difference – as the founding trio named their “virtual master craftsman”. Manfred is actually software based on algorithms. “It can simulate all of the processes that go through the head of a master heating installer”, explains Kristofer Fichtner, the company’s “Chief Technology Officer” and the man responsible for the company’s strategy and alignment. Thanks to Manfred and Thermondo, the complex and time-consuming process of planning a new heating system that often involved a lot of work on site and a lot of effort for everyone now takes place largely in advance over the telephone and on the computer – and in real time.
That saves resources. This is how it’s done: The customers use an online form to provide a few details about their living situation – such as where they intend to heat, how old and how large the building is, how many people live in the household and suchlike. In a follow-up telephone call, a Thermondo employee consults with the customer to determine any other requirements and enters this information into the algorithm. The software uses this input to calculate the materials required for the construction project and the construction elements that the technicians will need on-site, essentially live and in real time. During the phone call itself, the software generates a binding cost estimate. This increases the efficiency and provides the customer with transparency and a reliable idea of what to expect.
“We are a warehouse-free company”, reports Fichtner. “All of the materials are delivered directly to the customers or are already stocked in our Mercedes-Benz service vehicles.” The company from Berlin draws on a nationwide network of heating technicians who take delivery of the construction elements on-site at the customer’s premises. This type of cooperation demands precise planning and perfect communication, as Thermondo’s founders well know. Manfred and the company’s own “Heating heroes” app are responsible for this. This app provides the heating installers with the specific order data. They use it to scan the material used on site so that additional supplies can be delivered to the next construction project along with the new heating system.
All of the materials are delivered directly to the customers just-in-time or are already stocked in our Mercedes-Benz service vehicles.
Such perfectly timed projects also need just the right vehicle – which is why the start-up from Berlin chose the Sprinter 313 CDI from Mercedes-Benz. “Because we do not have any warehouses, we always have to carry all of our tools and consumables in our service vehicles”, emphasizes Philipp Pausder. The founding trio felt that it was important to have a van with an efficient storage system, “so that our technicians immediately find everything they need while working on site”, explains Kristofer Fichtner. That is why they needed “a spacious vehicle with the necessary depth”, namely the Sprinter. In addition to the extensive storage space, the driving safety and comfort along with the vehicle’s reliability, efficiency and economy were the key reasons behind the company’s decision to go with the Sprinter.
In a way, the Sprinter also expresses the company’s appreciation of its field force. “We know how hard our tradesmen work and we have a lot of respect for their skills. They are our face and that is why we raise them up”, says Pausder. “That is also why we want our technicians to drive fantastic vehicles which make their work easier and which they also enjoy driving.”
The Thermondo fleet now consists of more than 60 Sprinter. In addition, the company also has a Citan and at least 20 Vito from Mercedes-Benz. The company has grown incredibly fast since it commenced operation in November 2013: Thermondo began with 12 employees and the number had grown to 300 in October 2016.
Thermondo’s founders believe that the future lies with renewable energies and efficient heating technologies such as condensing boilers, solar heating and fuel cell heating systems. Philipp Pausder explains that the atomic disaster in Fukushima in 2011 and the subsequent energy transformation were key factors behind their company vision. Thermondo expresses this as “<2°” (“less than two degrees”). “We want to make our contribution to the energy transformation, we want to be pioneers”, emphasizes Kristofer Fichtner. Changing heating systems can be very difficult and complex for customers. Furthermore, the market remains very complex and fragmented and that is why Pausder believes that many people are hesitant to switch to more efficient and economical heating technologies which produce less CO2. However, Thermondo stands for environmentally-friendly, efficient and transparent solutions. “We are a small start-up with a huge vision and we believe that we can make a contribution to climate protection with our idea.”