Software

Saxony’s software landscape: from highly specialized to globally important

Saxony’s software companies are neither small, nor do they only deal with factory automation. In recent years, Saxony’s software landscape has become astonishingly diverse. The size scale ranges from “selectively special” to “globally important”, the range from technological depth to brilliant user interfaces. A dozen examples of Saxon software companies will illustrate this.

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Software-Landschaft Sachsen in zwölf Beispielen

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The first software companies in Saxony were founded immediately after the political change in the GDR. Quite a few of them still exist today, and some have even grown to an impressive size. But the software boom of recent years has also given rise to numerous start-ups. A pleasing number of them are located in the Silicon Saxony region. There has always been a thematic diversity of offerings.

Software for the digitalization of production

Many software providers have actually dedicated themselves to the digitalization of production processes: N+P from Meerane, for example, or ZEISS Digital Innovation from Dresden. Both companies have been around since 1990 and are therefore among the aforementioned veterans. They focused on their current business area at an early stage and were therefore able to benefit from the advantage of being a pioneer. Their lead in the market seems almost impossible to catch up on. N+P is a genuine family business, now in its second generation. ZEISS Digital Innovation was founded by Viola Klein and Andreas Mönch, two Saxon entrepreneurial legends. ZEISS, an important customer for many years, took over the software company in 2020 – by then it had grown to strategic importance for them. ZEISS Digital Innovation is active both within and outside the parent company. The company not only digitalizes automated production, but also writes device software for medical technology. It is one of the largest in the market; in 2023, turnover amounted to 74.5 million euros. Tracetronic GmbH from Dresden is an absolute specialist provider and has also been active for 20 years. Vehicle manufacturers all over the world use its products for test automation and vehicle software testing. Tracetronic has even founded a joint venture with VW.

Software for the digitalization of work organization

At first glance, providers such as Communardo from Dresden and Staffbase from Chemnitz, which serve the digital workplace, i.e. what happens outside the immediate production process, are atypical for the manufacturing technology state of Saxony. At second glance, however, it does fit, because if a company is to be digitized, then it also has to happen in front of and behind the machine room. Staffbase, which focuses specifically on corporate communication, is a landmark in the software landscape, not just in Saxony, but in Germany as a whole. In the ten years of its existence, the company has grown so rapidly that analysts grant it the rare status of a “unicorn”. Turnover exceeded 100 million euros in 2023, and not for the first time. Staffbase has long since become an international company; its products are now regarded as global leaders in their market segment.

Software for the digitalization of retail

It is linked to the second major Saxon software success story. It is the story of GK Software. The letters stand for the initials of the founders Rainer Gläß and Stephan Kronmüller. They also founded their software company for digital store management systems in the retail sector in 1990. This took place in a small rural community in the Vogtland region called Schöneck, where the global company, which now operates in 68 countries, is still based. GK was also a pioneer with a huge head start. Hardly any competitor in the world today can compete with GK Software’s offering. It ranges from checkout systems and store management to AI-controlled personalization software – and works on any hardware. Companies such as Aldi, Lidl, Migros and Walmart run with GK Software. The company went public in 2008. After increasing its value ninefold, the Schönecker company left the trading floor again in 2023. The Japanese Fujitsu Group bought the majority of the shares in order to firmly establish the Saxon company in the Asian market. GK Software is a Saxon success story of superlatives, far beyond the software industry. Michael Scheibner, a Saxon, is still at the helm of the company. Turnover in 2022 amounted to 152 million euros. A forward-looking investment in 2017 was the acquisition of Chemnitz-based software provider Prudsys, a pioneer of AI applications in retail. It is now called GK AIR and, with its solutions for personalized purchase recommendations and dynamic pricing, docks onto GK Software’s core product, the cloud-based software platform GK CLOUD4RETAIL.

Software for user-friendly front ends

The Dresden-based company Wandelbots, a spin-off from TU Dresden and also a start-up with a lot of venture capital, offers simple solutions for programming industrial robots. In the best case scenario, the user should be able to do this on site. In view of the advancement of factory automation, the service offering meets such a clear market need that there was no need to discuss the pros and cons. While Wandelbots initially tried a radical solution (“no-code robotics”), it is now going back to programming, but in a much simplified form, at least at the front end. The visualization of motion sequences using digital twins is intended to make the task easier for the user. Appsfactory from Leipzig offers user-friendly front-end solutions of a completely different kind. Among other things, the company transforms complex software solutions, including those for factory automation, into easy-to-use user apps. Appsfactory has already won prestigious design awards such as the Red Dot Award and the German Design Award. SWP Software Systems from Dresden provides easy-to-use solutions for a completely different market, namely construction planning software for classically or serially produced single and multi-family homes.

Software for handling big data

Avantgarde Labs and Symate – as with many software companies from the city on the Elbe, their founders also studied at TU Dresden – deal with big data. It is a task that has to be solved sooner or later in all digital processes. Avantgarde Labs works across all industries on individual data platforms with or without a cloud connection. Symate offers AI-based software for sorting and analyzing process data. Three years ago, in 2021, one of the most recent major software start-ups saw the light of day in Dresden: Amazon Development Center Germany. Can a subsidiary of Amazon pass as a Saxon software company? Because it is based on Saxon employees, it should be allowed. Moreover, it is no coincidence that the US company chose Dresden for its strategically important investment – it is all about the special expertise on site. ADCG is nothing less than Amazon’s Center of Excellence for operating systems. It develops cloud solutions that also involve large-scale data processing. They are based on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud EC2, a central service that provides individually scalable computing capacities in the Amazon cloud. This makes it possible, for example, to operate a large streaming service without your own computer hardware. One of the core components of the system, the hypervisor – software that allocates cloud capacity to the customer in the right portioning – was largely developed in Dresden.

Software landscape Saxony in twelve examples

Dresden

1. Communardo GmbH

Focus: Software for the digitalization of work organization
Founded: 2001
Employees: 280
Special feature: Branches in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Albania

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2. Tracetronic GmbH

Focus: Test software for automotive software
Founded: 2004
Employees: >450
Special feature: Subsidiaries in Germany, USA, Korea and China; joint venture Neocx GmbH with VW

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Peter Strähle and Rocco Deutschmann, Managing Directors of Tracetronic (Source: Tracetronic)

3. Wandelbots GmbH

Focus: Software for user-friendly robot programming
Founded: 2018
Employees: 130
Special feature: Start-up with large investment volume

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4. Avantgarde Labs GmbH

Focus: Individual data platforms, analytics solutions
Founded: 1990
Employees: > 600
Special feature: Vendor-independent individual solutions

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The management of Avantgarde Labs, in front: Torsten Hartmann (Source: Avantgarde Labs)

5. ZEISS Digital Innovation GmbH

Focus: System software for medical technology, digitalization of automated production
Founded: 1990
Employees: > 600
Special feature: formerly Saxonia Systems, subsidiaries in Germany and Hungary

 

6. SWP Software Systems GmbH & Co.KG

Focus: Building design software for single and multi-family homes
Foundation: 1997
Employees: 51
Special feature:

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7. Symate GmbH

Focus: Software for AI-based process optimization in automated production
Founded: 2012
Employees: 30
Special feature: 

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8. Amazon Development Center Germany GmbH

Focus: Individual large-scale cloud solutions
Founded: 2021
Employees: > 100
Special feature: 

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Chemnitz

9. Staffbase GmbH

Focus: Software for corporate communication
Founded: 2014
Employees: > 800
Special features: Unicorn, subsidiaries in Germany, UK, USA and Australia

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Leipzig

10. Appsfactory GmbH

Focus: User-friendly user interfaces for complex IT solutions
Founded: 2009
Employees: 380
Special feature: 

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Meerane

11. N+P Informationssysteme GmbH

Focus: Digitization of production and construction
Founded: 1990
Employees: 200
Special feature: 

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Schöneck / Vogtland 

12. GK Software SE

Focus: Store management systems and software for retail
Founded: 1990
Employees: > 1.200
Special feature: Branches in Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland, France, South Africa, USA, Australia, Ukraine and Singapore

👉 To the website


World company in the countryside: GK Software headquarters in Schöneck (Source: GK Software)

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The author

Michael Schmidt
Text | Concept
Lewickistraße 55 b, 01279 Dresden
Phone +49 351 25062955
Mobile +49 151 55591473
ms@schmidt-text.de

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This article was created as part of NEXT “In the spotlight: Software”.

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