How One Company Is Using AI To Transform Manufacturing

From ChatGPT in classrooms to driverless cars on the roads to oddball memes sweeping Facebook, AI is marching its way into more parts of our daily lives. But one industry has been relatively untouched by the AI revolution: manufacturing.

Yet AI is now playing a part in the production of semiconductors, watches and even your favorite chocolate. And, an innovative company that has been working with those product makers is announcing a new AI tool that it says will make manufacturing much more efficient.

How AI Gives Manufacturers a ‘Sixth Sense’

The manufacturing industry has been slower to adopt the AI revolution in large part due to a scarcity of quality data. Over the past decade manufacturing has become increasingly automated and computerized with rapid improvements in sensor and cloud technology, not to mention manufacturing enterprise resource solutions (ERP).

With those advancements has come a mountain of data that can be difficult to analyze. EthonAI, a Swiss-based company, is pioneering the integration of AI into the industrial process in industries including semiconductor fabrications, HVAC components and one of the world’s top mass-produced chocolates.

EthonAI on Thursday unveiled a new software platform called the Manufacturing Analytics System, or MAS, which the company says is designed to provide managers and engineers with a “sixth sense” to follow what’s happening within their factories more closely.

MAS is designed to bring together data from several areas of the production process, then use advanced AI methods to study that data and share findings with operational leadership so they can make improvements in real time.

How AI Is Improving Quality and Combating Waste

The American Society for Quality estimates that many manufacturers face quality-related costs representing 15% to 20% of sales revenue and sometimes as much as 40% of total operating expenses. Those costs are passed on to customers in the form of higher prices and to all of us in the form of increased resources used and waste produced.

The consequences of poor quality are “even greater for producers’ top line because failing to deliver sufficient quantities of high-quality products often leads manufacturers to lose their customers, not just their profits,” EthonAI said in a news release about its new platform.

With AI tools like the MAS, it can be easier for companies to identify patterns that produce poor quality products and implement changes quickly. When a greater percentage of final products pass quality control, less waste is produced and more value is created for companies.

“While large manufacturers are already ready to benefit from AI today, we expect that medium-sized manufacturers will gradually adopt it as they catch up with sensor technologies and data storage over the next few years,” says Julian Senoner, co-founder and CEO of EthonAI.

Okay, But What About Chocolate?

No, a “Terminator”-style AI robot isn’t coming to take away your chocolate, but EthonAI does work directly with the gourmet chocolatier Lindt to help ensure that every one of its billions of Lindor truffles sold every year meets high standards.

So how can a computer guarantee that the chocolate you impulse-bought at the checkout line will taste as good as the truffles you find in your stocking every holiday? While human beings and master chocolate makers are still integral to Lindt’s process, EthonAI is able to analyze millions of data points throughout production to maintain high standards.

“A recurring problem was to identify and eliminate the root causes behind quality deviations and inefficiencies in production,” said Jessica Valli, program manager for Lindt in a statement on EthonAI’s site.

One specific example of how AI is helping with quality at Lindt factories is that production experts use it to fine-tune machine temperatures or product molds to avoid dips in quality before they even occur. This ensures every bite is as decadent as the last.

EthonAI Gets a Cash Infusion

EthonAI also announced on Thursday that it has raised 15 million Swiss francs ($16.5 million U.S.) in a Series A funding round led by Index Ventures. This new cash infusion will be used to accelerate growth and add new AI capabilities to help manufacturers analyze, synthesize and implement solutions from millions of data points.

“Data is only valuable if you can digest it, make sense of it, and use it to drive decisions. That’s where EthonAI comes in—helping you to make sense of the data and quickly spot problems, point to bottlenecks and drive operational excellence overall,” said Katharina Wilhelm, the partner at Index Ventures who drove the investment, in a statement.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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