Synergy raises $12 million to give plant managers an AI analytics assistant – TechCrunch

There is no shortage of startups around the world trying to make industrial activities more efficient using AI. Some invent robots to aid or replace manual labor, while others use machine learning to help companies discover ideas. Synergy Intelligent Systems It falls into the second category.

Michael Chang He founded Synergies in 2016 in Boston to provide easy-to-use AI-powered analytics tools to mid-size manufacturers. Having worked at Foxconn in Shenzhen in the late 2000s helping Apple suppliers improve the rate of return, or reduce the percentage of defective products, using data analysis, Chang realized that not every manufacturer had the financial ingenuity to spend tens of thousands of dollars on digitization.

The recent growth and synergy vision has been supported by investors. The company was mostly bootstraps during its early years, but recently accepted project funding to accelerate hiring, market expansion, and product development. It has raised $12 million from a Series A funding round led by NGP Capital, previously called Nokia Growth Partners It is powered by Nokia, as its name suggests. The private equity firm New Future Capital also participated.

Synergies now operates a team of approximately 70 employees across Shanghai, Taipei, Guangzhou, Singapore and Boston.

The startup declined to reveal its assessment but said it serves nearly 100 customers, 80% of which are in Greater China, including mid-size factories run by thousands of workers by Foxconn and Fuyao, one of the world’s largest auto glass producers. Chang told TechCrunch that Nokia and Synergies are working on some early-stage projects, although there is no extensive partnership between the pair yet.

The Finnish telecom giant, Chang knows, has been promoting “industrial 5G” around the world, bringing the next generation of connectivity into manufacturing. So it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two working closely together in the future.

Synergies’ product can work well with 5G-powered factories that constantly collect and analyze data in the cloud. It provides a so-called “enhanced analytics” platform to help manufacturers improve efficiency on three fronts – supply chain, productivity, and capacity.

By analyzing operational data, Synergies software can make suggestions to managers, for example, recommending how much supply they should buy, or how to quickly change a production line to increase capacity at the lowest cost. Once the advice is put into practice and the new data is harvested, Synergies’ machine learning systems can analyze their algorithms and keep improving them to help factories improve performance.

“Such machine learning is not rocket science for AI experts, but for a small and mid-size factory in China, the overhead of creating a comprehensive ‘middle data platform’ is very high because it requires coordination between the IT department, project managers, and experts. in artificial intelligence,” suggested Zhang, an MIT graduate and Ph. in electrical engineering and computer science.

“Most small and medium factories only maintain a small team of IT staff, not to mention a team of dedicated AI scientists.”

“Compared with the advanced manufacturers in the West,” Zhang continued. “Chinese factories, even huge ones now, have only been around for four or five decades. They are more price sensitive, operate at lower margins, and want faster returns on investment. So it’s hard to ask them to spend $10 million up front building a data platform.”

Chang explained that using data analytics and artificial intelligence to improve business decisions also addresses the problem of high turnover in the manufacturing industry. With population growth slowing in China, factories are struggling to hire and retain workers, which means it’s hard to maintain knowledge in the workplace as well.

“It’s not a company that sees this kind of crazy growth like, say, crypto companies,” Zhang said. “But I think it’s useful work because we’re making real changes on the ground.”