Manufacturing plants or factories use raw materials and add value through a series of unit processes before shipping a product. Now this process must follow a recipe. There are a set of instructions for products such as cars; in those instructions, a list of parameter values, specific temperature for melting iron, specific pressure for mold casting… and the list goes on.
These factories, for example those in the automotive industry, perform all quality checks, both in-line and at the end of the line, to ensure that the cars are in good condition; if not, they are demolished or reworked and lost capacity and effort for the factories. Employees hired to control these processes can make mistakes; therefore, such factories also rely on software to evaluate their experiences, change parameters if necessary and ensure that the car reaches the end of the production line as high as possible.
DataProphet is such a company. Founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff, the South African company provides AI-as-a-service software in the manufacturing sector and announces the completion of its $10 million Series A round.
Cronje, the company’s CEO, told londonbusinessblog.com during a call that DataProphet’s focus on providing end-to-end prescriptive AI for manufacturing plants to improve their yield started in 2017. The company provides prescriptive advice and proposes changes to the manufacturers’ recipes to avoid the defects that cause their products to be scrapped or reworked. The company said its flagship AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped its customers experience a significant and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing non-quality costs by an average of 40%.
Manufacturers use DataProphet at various points during their digitization journeys; data collection and centralization are crucial to kickstart them. The first product in DataProphet’s stack, CONNECT, enables manufacturers to extend their data infrastructure and bring data from where they’ve used it for compliance in the production space to a point where they can use it for optimization. The company currently ingests approximately 100 million unique data points on its platform daily. This data enables PRESCRIBE to make informed decisions to reduce defects, waste or non-quality processes and improve manufacturers’ profitability.
Cronje says DataProphet takes a hands-on approach, continuously monitoring data flows and sending advice and feedback to the shop floor for customers to follow. And in cases where customers do not follow DataProphet’s advice, the company contacts the customer to understand their concerns.
“If we talk about reducing defects, downtime or rework on average, if the customer follows our advice, we’re getting about a 40% reduction,” says Cronje, who has a degree in management consultancy and statistics. “It’s a wonderful application of AI and manufacturing because it’s a deep application of the theory to realize practical, meaningful impact for our customers and their bottom line.”
Mainly serving customers from the automotive, semiconductor, rubber and foundry industries, the 50-person team deploys its solution at plants in Japan, China, India, Europe, South Africa, the US and South America. Some of its competitors – who are international, not local – are Braincube and Seebo.
“I think the way we differentiate ourselves is that we approach this from a holistic factory control, where the implementation of our PRESCRIBE solution can enable a customer to achieve this full site optimization,” said Cronje of the unique sales proposition. from DataProphet. “And there’s a second aspect: the solution we have to enable customers to realize ROI is an end-to-end normative solution. What I mean by that is that it has the capacity to integrate some of the lowest levels of data in factories. And we don’t see that with our competitors.” The chief executive also said that unlike other players, DataProphet does not depend on its customers to have employees with data science capabilities, which is the goal of providing an AI-as-a-service platform that thrives on organizing. destroys the data infrastructure itself.
Knife Capital led the Series A round. The South African venture capital firm had initially invested in DataProphet in early 2018 through its financing vehicle KNF Ventures Section 12J. This latest round is Knife Fund III’s first investment, the $50 million target fund it launched last year to support the international expansion of its portfolio companies.
“Accelerating DataProphet’s international expansion, given the leadership nature of its technology, is precisely the mandate of our new Fund – and it couldn’t be more fitting that our initial investment is a follow-up investment to our existing cohort,” commented Keet van Zyl, co-founder and partner at Knife Capital on the investment.
Other investors in the round include South African IDC and Norican, one of the world’s largest suppliers of equipment for preparing and finishing metal surfaces. According to a statement, DataProphet says the infused capital will help it further invest in its industrial AI product set while enabling targeted growth in select regions and manufacturing verticals.
“This is where we will deploy a lot of this fund: to support international sales,” Cronje added. “And they will support features needed in markets outside the major tech hub, South Africa. So part of the investment will be used to develop a European sales office and then a US-based sales office to support customers and partners abroad.”