Every young company has its own set of challenges, usually involving such things as available capital, market awareness, employee recruitment, and product development. Farm animals wreaking havoc on the home office isn’t often found on that list. But KISSsoft—which is located just outside of Zurich, Switzerland—isn’t your average company.
“We’ve been based in a farmhouse since 2001,” according to Stefan Beermann, Ph.D., vice president, “and one day a horse found its way inside, resulting in a great deal of damage to the doorway. But we’re about to move into a schoolhouse that was closed due to a lack of students, so we don’t expect that to be happening again.”
What he does expect is the continued growth of KISSsoft, which was spun off of its mother company—L. Kissling & Co. AG—some eight years ago. The background is fairly straightforward: Ulrich Kissling, Ph.D., who is a mechanical engineer by training, and who represented the third generation in the established gearbox manufacturer’s family line, had developed a design calculation program for the company’s own use, and it worked so well that they decided to begin selling the software package on the open market. In addition to Kissling and Beermann, the company’s third partner is Markus Raabe, and KISSsoft now employees 15 people in total. Of particular note is that so many of those employees are technicians working on software design under Raabe’s direction.
“We have three mathematicians—of which I’m one—and six mechanical engineers, so that’s quite a lot of technical expertise to have under one roof,” Beermann says. “But technology is what drives our enterprise, so we all work together to shape our product according to the customer’s needs and their feedback.”
One thing that helped the company during its startup phase was the fact that the software package had been in use for some 20 years by that time, and that KISSsoft already had an established clientele as well. “We had about 80 customers at the beginning, who were mostly found in Switzerland and Germany, and we’ve since grown to 900 companies who are using our software all around the world.”
Those companies represent a wide range of industrial activity; everything from gearbox design for automobiles to wind turbines, cable cars, marine propulsion systems, and space exploration vehicles. “We feel that we’ve done a pretty good job of covering all the major industries, so now we’re planning expansion of a geographic nature,” Beermann says.
While eyeing growth markets including India and Japan, the company most recently targeted the United States, establishing a KISSsoft branch in Johnsburg, Illinois, which is overseen by Dan Kondritz. “In less than a year Dan has already been able to bring about 10 new accounts onboard, so we’re very pleased by the interest he’s generating in the U.S. industrial market.”
As for the software itself, KISSsoft is a calculation program consisting of a standard package for the certification, design, and optimization of machine elements, while KISSsys is a system add-on to the original program, with which complete gearboxes and drive systems can be modeled. Costs run from around $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the designer’s needs, and training is also available.
“We have scheduled public training sessions here at our offices, to which 10 or so companies will send their engineers, and we also offer on-site training for larger customers when it makes more sense to visit their facility,” Beermann explains. “On both occasions we’ll go into the basic operational procedures—although the software is fairly self explanatory to someone who already knows what they’re doing—and also how AGMA and ISO standards have been incorporated into the software.”
As the company continues its sure and steady growth, Beermann says that he and his colleagues plan to continue their “soft marketing” approach; letting the quality of the product speak for itself. “Our customers seem to appreciate the fact that our software takes all of the elements found in the gearbox into account—gears, shafts, bearings, bolts—which is the central feature that really sets us apart,” he says. “So we tend to focus our energies on refining and evolving the technology, because that’s really what we do best.”