Manufacturing plants or factories take raw materials and add value through a sequence of unit processes before shipping a product. Now, this process must follow a recipe. There are a series of instructions for products such as cars; in these instructions, a list of parameter values, a specific temperature for iron melting, a specific pressure for mold casting…and the list goes on.
These factories, for example, those in the automotive sector, carry out all the quality inspections, in line and at the end of the line, to ensure that the cars are in good condition; otherwise, they are scrapped or reworked, becoming a waste of capacity and effort for factories. Employees hired to monitor these processes can make mistakes; thus, these factories also rely on software to evaluate their experiences, change settings if necessary, and ensure that the car reaches the end of the line with the best possible quality.
DataProphet is one such company. The South African company, founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, provides AI software as a service in the manufacturing sector and announces the completion of its $10 million Series A.
Cronje, CEO of the company, told TechCrunch on a call that DataProphet’s focus on providing end-to-end prescriptive AI for manufacturing plants to improve their performance began in 2017. The company provides prescriptive advice and suggests changes to manufacturers’ recipes to avoid making defects that lead to the scrapping or reworking of their products. The company said its flagship AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped customers experience a meaningful and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing the cost of non-quality by an average of 40%.
Manufacturers use DataProphet at different points in their digitization journey; the collection and centralization of data are essential to launch them. DataProphet’s first stack product, CONNECT, enables manufacturers to augment their data infrastructure and bring data from where they used it for compliance in the manufacturing space to a point where they can use them for optimization. The company currently ingests around 100 million unique data points per day on its platform. With this data, PRESCRIBE can make informed decisions to reduce defects, scrap or non-quality processes and improve manufacturers’ performance.
Cronje says DataProphet uses a hands-on approach, where it constantly monitors data feeds and pushes advice and feedback to the operating floor, ensuring its customers follow through. And in cases where customers do not follow the guidance provided by DataProphet, the company engages with the customer to understand their concerns.
“Usually when we talk about reducing defects, scrap or rework on average, we realize about a 40% reduction when the client follows our advice,” said Cronje, a graduate in management consulting and statistics. “It’s a wonderful application of AI and manufacturing because it’s a deep application of theory to achieve practical and meaningful impact for our customers and their bottom line.”
The 50-person team serves customers primarily in the automotive, semiconductor, rubber and foundry industries, deploying its solution in manufacturing plants based in Japan, China, India, Europe, in South Africa, the United States and South America. Some of its competitors – which are international, not local – include Braincube and Seebo.
“I think the way we differentiate ourselves is that we approach this from a holistic factory control where implementing our PRESCRIBE solution can enable a client to achieve this full site optimization,” commented Cronje on DataProphet’s unique selling proposition. “And there’s a second aspect: the solution we have to enable customers to realize performance is an end-to-end prescriptive solution. What I mean by that is that it has the ability to integrate some of the lowest levels of data in factories. And we don’t see that in our competitors. The CEO also mentioned that, unlike other players, DataProphet does not depend on its customers to have employees with data science capabilities, which defeats the purpose of providing a platform. form of AI as a service that feeds into the organization of the data infrastructure itself.
Knife Capital led Series A. The South African venture capital firm originally invested in DataProphet in early 2018 through its KNF Ventures Section 12J funding vehicle. This latest round is the first investment made by Knife Fund III, the targeted $50 million fund he launched last year to support the international expansion of his portfolio companies.
“Accelerating DataProphet’s international expansion, given the cutting-edge nature of its technology, is exactly the mandate of our new fund – and it couldn’t be more fitting that our first investment be a follow-on investment from our existing cohort. “, comments Keet van Zyl, co-founder and partner of Knife Capital on the investment.
Other investors in the round include South Africa’s IDC and Norican, one of the world’s largest suppliers of metal surface preparation and finishing equipment. According to a statement, DataProphet says the injected capital will help it further invest in its industrial AI product set while facilitating targeted growth in select geographies and manufacturing sectors.
“That’s where we’re going to apply a lot of this fund: to support international sales,” Cronje added. “And they will support the functions needed in markets far from the main engineering hub, South Africa. Part of the investment will therefore be used to develop a European sales office and then a sales office based in the United States to support customers and partners abroad.