Manufacturing facilities or factories take raw material inputs and add value through a sequence of processes per unit before the product is shipped. Now this process must follow the recipe. There is a range of instructions for products such as cars; in these instructions a list of parameter values, specific temperature for melting iron, specific pressure for casting into molds… and the list goes on.
These factories, such as those in the automotive space, perform all quality checks, in-line and at the end of the line, to ensure that the cars are in good condition; otherwise they are discarded or recycled and become wasted capacity and effort for factories. Employees hired to oversee these processes can make mistakes; therefore, such factories also rely on software to evaluate their experience, change parameters if necessary and ensure that the car achieves the highest possible quality at the end of production.
DataProphet is one such company. The South African company founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopff offers AI-as-a-service software in the manufacturing sector and announces the closing of its $10 million Series A round.
Cronje, the company’s CEO, told Root Devices on a call that DataProphet’s focus on providing end-to-end regulatory AI for manufacturing plants to improve their yield began in 2017. The company provides regulatory advice and suggests changes to manufacturers’ recipes. , to avoid mistakes that cause their products to be discarded or recycled. The company said its flagship AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped its customers experience a meaningful and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing non-quality costs by an average of 40%.
Manufacturers use DataProphet at various points in their digitization journeys; data collation and centralization are key to their launch. The first product in the DataProphet suite, CONNECT, enables manufacturers to extend their data infrastructure and bring data from where it was used for compliance in the production floor to the point where it can be used for optimization. The company currently consumes approximately 100 million unique data points on its platform daily. With this data, PRESCRIBE can make informed decisions to reduce errors, waste or substandard processes and improve the productivity of manufacturers.
Cronje says DataProphet takes a hands-on approach, where it constantly monitors data streams and sends advice and feedback to the desktop, ensuring customers follow through. And in cases where customers don’t follow the advice DataProphet offers, the company works with the customer to understand their concerns.
“Typically, when we talk about reducing errors, waste or rework, on average, we achieve a reduction of about 40% when a customer follows our advice,” said Cronje, who holds degrees in management consulting and statistics. “It’s a wonderful use of AI and manufacturing because it’s an in-depth application of theory to drive practical, meaningful impact for our customers and their bottom line.”
The 50-member team serves customers primarily in the automotive, semiconductor, rubber and foundry industries, and its solution is used in manufacturing facilities in Japan, China, India, Europe, South Africa, the US and South America. Some of its competitors – which are international, not local – include Braincube and Seebo.
“I think where we’re different is that we approach this from end-to-end factory control, where the implementation of our PRESCRIBE solution can enable the customer to realize this full site optimization,” Cronje commented on DataProphet’s unique selling proposition. “There’s another aspect: the solution we have to enable customers to achieve returns is an end-to-end prescribed solution. By that I mean 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 CEO also mentioned that unlike other players, DataProphet doesn’t depend on its customers to have employees with data science capabilities, which goes against the goal of providing an AI-as-a-service platform that thrives on the data infrastructure organization itself .
Knife Capital led the Series A round. 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 from Knife Fund III, a $50 million target fund it launched last year to support the international expansion of its portfolio companies.
“Accelerating DataProphet’s international expansion, given the leading 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 the next investment of our existing cohort,” comments Keet van Zyl, Co-Founder and Partner at Knife Capital.
Other investors in the round include South Africa’s IDC and Norican, one of the world’s largest providers of metal surface preparation and finishing equipment. According to a statement, DataProphet says the capital raised will help it further invest in its industrial AI product suite, while facilitating targeted growth in select geographies and product verticals.
“This is where we will use a large part of this fund: to support international sales,” added Cronje. “They will support features that are needed in markets away from the main engineering hub, South Africa. Thus, part of the investment will be used to develop a European sales office and then a sales office in the USA to support customers and partners abroad.”