Manufacturing plants or factories take raw material inputs and add value through a sequence of departmental processes before shipping a product. Now, this process should follow the recipe. There are series of guidelines for products like cars; In those instructions, there is a list of parameter values, a specific temperature for metal melting, a specific pressure for taking a mold… and the list goes on.
These factories, for example in the automobile space, do all the quality control on and off the line to ensure that the cars are in good condition. If not, they are cut or reworked, lost to the factories capacity and effort. Employees hired to manage these processes can make mistakes; So factories like these rely on software to evaluate their practices, change parameters if necessary, and make sure the car gets to the line in the highest quality possible.
Dataprofet is one such company. Founded by Frans Cronje and Daniel Schwartzkopf, the South African company that provides IT services software to the manufacturing sector is announcing that it has completed a $10 million Series A round.
The company’s CEO, Cronje, told TechCrunch on a call that DataProfet’s focus began in 2017 on providing factories with end-to-end automated AI to improve their production. Defects that cause their products to be canceled or renewed. The company’s main AI solution, PRESCRIBE, has helped its customers have a significant and practical impact on the factory floor, reducing the cost of non-quality by an average of 40%.
Manufacturers use DataProfit at various points in their digitization journey. Data collection and centralization are crucial to start them. The first product in the DataProfet stack, CONNECT enables manufacturers to scale their data infrastructure and move data from where it was used for compliance in the manufacturing facility to optimization. The company currently feeds around 100 million unique data points into its platform every day. With this information, PRESCRIBE can make informed decisions to reduce defects, waste or poor quality processes and improve manufacturers’ production.
Cronje says DataProfet uses a system that continuously monitors data streams and pushes advice and feedback down to the operations floor, which customers then follow. And when customers don’t follow DataProphet’s advice, the company engages with the customer to understand their concerns.
“Often when we talk about reducing defects, cutting or reworking, on average, when the client follows our advice, it is reduced by 40%,” says Cronje, who has a degree in management consulting and statistics. “This is an amazing application of AI and manufacturing because it is a deep application of theory to realize practical and meaningful impact for our customers and their products.”
The 50-person team serves customers primarily from the automotive, semiconductor, tire and foundry industries, deploying the solution to factories based in Japan, China, India, Europe, South Africa, the US and South America. Some of its competitors – international, not local – include Braincube and Seebo.
“I think the way we differentiate ourselves is that implementing our PRESRIBE solution is closer to total factory control that allows the customer to realize this whole site optimization,” Cronje said on DataProfet’s unique selling proposition. “And there’s a second aspect: our solution to enable customers to understand a product is an end-to-end solution. I mean, it has the ability to integrate the lowest levels of data in factories. We do not see this in our competitors. The CEO also mentioned that DataProfet is not as dependent on its customers as other players, which defeats the objective of providing an AI-as-a-service platform that thrives on organizing data infrastructures to have data science skilled workers.
Blade Capital led the Series A round. South African venture capital invested in DataProfit in early 2018 through KNF Ventures’ Class 12J funding vehicle. This latest round is the first investment made by Bila Fund III, a $50 million fund launched last year to support the global expansion of its portfolio companies.
“Accelerating the global expansion of DataProfet is a representation of the new fund in terms of its technological leadership – and it could not be more suitable for our initial investment to be a follow-up investment in the current community,” comments Keet van Zyl, co-founder and partner in investment at Knife Capital.
Other investors include South Africa’s IDC and Norica, one of the world’s largest suppliers of metal floor preparation and finishing equipment. In a statement, Dataprofet said the added capital will help it further invest in its industrial AI product suite, facilitating targeted growth in select geographies and manufacturing verticals.
“That’s where we’re going to use this fund a lot: to support international sales,” Cronje added. “And they support operations in markets far away from the main engineering hub of South Africa. Therefore, part of the investment will be used to develop a European sales office and subsequently a US-based sales office to support overseas customers and partners.