Synergies raised $12 million to provide AI analytics assistants to plant managers.

There is no shortage of startups around the world working to make industrial activities more efficient with artificial intelligence. Some are inventing robots to assist or replace manual labor, while others are using machine learning to help businesses uncover insights. Synergy intelligent system It belongs to the second category.

Michael Chang Founded Synergies in Boston in 2016 to provide easy-to-use, AI-powered analytics tools to midsize manufacturers. In the late 2000s, at Foxconn in Shenzhen, using data analytics to help Apple suppliers improve yields or reduce the proportion of defective products, Chang realized that not all factories could afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on digitization.

Synergy’s vision and recent growth have been supported by investors. The company has mostly bootstrapped in its early years, but has recently embraced venture capital to accelerate hiring, market expansion, and product development. Raised $12 million in a Series A funding round led by NGP Capital. Nokia Growth Partners As the name suggests, it is backed by Nokia. New Future Capital, a private equity fund, also participated.

Synergies currently operates a team of approximately 70 people in Shanghai, Taipei, Guangzhou, Singapore and Boston.

The startup declined to disclose its values, but said it serves about 100 customers. 80% of these are in Greater China, including medium-sized factories operated by Foxconn, which employs thousands of workers, and Fuyao, one of the world’s largest auto glass producers. Chang told TechCrunch that Nokia and Synergies don’t have a large-scale partnership yet, but are working on some projects in the early stages.

As far as Zhang knows, the Finnish telecommunications giant is globally promoting “industrial 5G” that will bring next-generation connectivity to manufacturing. So it’s no surprise to see the two working more closely together in the future.

Synergy’s products can work well with 5G-based factories that continuously collect and analyze data in the cloud. It provides an “Augmented Analytics” platform for manufacturers to optimize efficiency in three aspects: supply chain, yield and capacity.

Synergies’ software can analyze operational data and make suggestions to managers. For example, you can suggest how much supply to procure, or how to quickly change product lines to maximize capacity at the lowest cost. As advice is executed and new data is gathered, Synergies’ machine learning systems can analyze and continue to improve algorithms to help improve the plant’s performance.

“Such machine learning is not rocket science for AI professionals, but for the average small and medium-sized factory in China, the overhead of building a comprehensive ‘data middle platform’ is too high because it requires coordination between IT departments. , project manager, AI expert,” suggested Chang, an MIT graduate and Ph.D. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

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

“Compared to advanced manufacturers in the West,” said Chang. “Now, it has only been 4 to 50 years since a large-scale factory in China was established. They are much more price-sensitive, operate with lower margins, and want a faster return on investment. So it’s difficult to ask them to spend $10 million upfront to build a data platform.”

Using data analytics and AI to shape business decisions also solves the problem of high turnover in the manufacturing industry, Chang explained. As China’s population growth slows, factories are struggling to recruit and retain workers, which means workplace knowledge is also difficult to preserve.

“It is not a business to see crazy growth like a cryptocurrency company,” Chang asserts. “But I think it is a meaningful project because it is making real changes in the field.”

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