As the macro economic environment softens, some tough business decisions begin to be made. One decision, captured by WIRED, was Ford’s choice to pull the plug on its autonomous driving unit Argo AI. So what went wrong?
Ford executives laid it out most bluntly on a call with investors this week: They don’t think self-driving makes much sense right now. The reasons given suggest big problems for the whole nascent self-driving industry. Jim Farley, Ford’s CEO, said the company learned through Argo “that we will have a very long road” to get to a truly self-driving car. Overall, some $100 billion has been poured into the AV industry, he estimated, “and yet no one has defined a profitable business model at scale.”
Bloomberg also reported alarmist headlines earlier this month proclaiming, “Even After $100 Billion, Self-Driving Cars Are Going Nowhere.” Despite this backdrop, there are autonomous vehicle startups being funded that have promising prospects.
Fox Robotics “combines the latest in robotics, machine learning, optimization and planning to build automated forklifts that are smart, safe and effective.” You read that right, forklifts! Forklifts are a roughly $50 billion dollar market. They operate in relatively constrained warehouse environments and require significant labor costs to utilize. Noting how difficult autonomous vehicle development is going, Fox discusses it head on in their latest funding press release:
Although autonomous vehicles are not yet ready for mass deployment on public streets, the same technology is being commercially used in closed warehouse environments today. Fox retrofits a standard forklift with sensors and software to enable autonomous material handling operations with precise navigation and robust pallet picking and movement. Deep learning systems use on-board cameras and LiDAR sensors to detect pallets, boxes and other obstacles in real time and enable the forklift to pick pallets out of trailers it is seeing for the first time.
Fox isn’t the only startup making forklifts autonomous. Other companies such as A-Robotics, OTTO Motors, and Boston Dynamics have found autonomy in forklifts to be an achievable and economical way of reducing material handling costs by up to 90%.
Capturing this week's trending industry 4.0 and emerging industrial technology media
Industrial DataOps: The data backbone of digital twins
What is needed is not a single digital twin that perfectly encapsulates all aspects of the physical reality it mirrors, but rather an evolving set of “digital siblings.” Each sibling shares a lot of the same DNA (data, tools, and practices) but is built for a specific purpose, can evolve on its own, and provides value in isolation.
The data backbone to power digital twins needs to be governed in efficient ways to avoid the master data management challenges of the past—including tracking data lineage, managing access rights, and monitoring data quality, to mention a few examples. The governance structure has to focus on creating data products that may be used, reused, and collaborated on in efficient and cross-disciplinary ways. The data products have to be easily composable and be constructed like humans think about data ; As a graph where physical equipment are interconnected both physically and logically. And through this representation select parts of the graph may be used to populate the different digital twins in a consistent and coherent way.
Overview of the Digital Twin Lifecycle
Productionizing digital twins in an industrial, regulated environment is challenging. From connecting to a variety of data lakes and cleaning data to make it human or machine useable, all the way to visualization, modeling, and exporting of key model outputs to various stakeholders, there are a dozen different steps organizations need to get right to effectively benefit from digital twin technologies. In today’s age of aspirational Industry 4.0, many organizations are at various stages of their digitalization journeys. On one end, some may be working at sorting and centralizing their data onto cloud-based data lakes, while others may be further along and already have numerous sophisticated models built to represent their assets and related processes.
The core of productionizing digital twins is subject matter expertise across multiple teams to work synchronously to meet stringent engineering, regulatory, and cybersecurity requirements. From an engineering perspective, digital twins need to be explainable and grounded in the physical system’s physics, biology, and/or chemistry. From a regulatory perspective, diligent record-keeping is required for auditability (i.e., tracing when models were built, what data was used for training, how model outputs were consumed, etc). Lastly, from a cybersecurity perspective, IT departments often require significant controls on how digital twins may interface directly or indirectly with control systems and/or other mission-critical databases.
This article provides an overview of the digital twin lifecycle through a TwinOps workflow shown in the figure below. TwinOps is focused on the lifecycle of taking digital twins from design to production, and then providing the infrastructure to maintain and monitor them once operationalized.
CO2 emissions can be most effectively reduced by sourcing #RenewableEnergy or reducing energy consumption overall. Seurat provides a roadmap that will lead green transitions for #manufacturing.— Seurat Technologies (@SeuratTech) October 27, 2022
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The Benefits of Production Stabilization and the Sorcery of the Product Wheel
Volatile demand is everywhere, and companies facing it typically choose between two options: One, attempt to meet demand as it arises (chasing the volatility). Two, maintain a certain inventory level as a buffer from volatility. Of course, there are situations where option one is viable, but option two is the one that most companies take. Still, pursuing the benefits of production stabilization, even in this environment, is worth the effort.
The product wheel is a framework for consuming capacity by making specific products – on a particular asset, in fixed quantities – over a defined time horizon. Therefore, the ability to populate the wheels with products that can conform to smooth production is essential. Determining which products work with this strategy and which don’t is an analytical effort requiring product segmentation, statistical forecasting, replenishment policy selection, and inventory parameter development.
The Next Revolution: Industry 4.0 in the Intelligent Enterprise
Which companies benefit from being able to automatically control the entire supply chain through machines and sensors?
“Auto-control” management means saving effort in manual processes along the entire supply chain and realizing the full potential of intelligent machines and sensors. Businesses in Europe in particular are creating opportunities here – their strength is traditionally more in customer-centric manufacturing, rather than mass production. However, standard products also benefit from flexibility. The global crisis of supply and logistics poses challenges for every manufacturer. Only those who dynamically parameterize production to deploy alternative materials and processes at the push of a button will win the global race for capacity and resources.
How This Startup Cut Production Costs of Millimeter Wave Power Amplifiers
Diana Gamzina is on a mission to drastically reduce the price of millimeter-wave power amplifiers. The vacuum-electronics devices are used for communication with distant space probes and for other applications that need the highest data rates available.
The amplifiers can cost as much as US $1 million apiece because they’re made using costly, high-precision manufacturing and manual assembly. Gamzina’s startup, Elve, is using advanced materials and new manufacturing technologies to lower the unit price.
It can take up to a year to produce one of the amplifiers using conventional manufacturing processes, but Elve is already making about one per week, Gamzina says. Elve’s process enables sales at about 10 percent of the usual price, making large-volume markets more accessible.
Young Guns shoot for AI automated shipping container
“There is a significant drive from leading retailers internationally to innovate within their supply chain transformation strategies – predictability, visibility, and productivity will be a key component in these transformations, and we believe our shipping container innovation will create opportunities for this to occur at the container face that are not currently availability in the industry.”
The team mocked up their distribution centre, containers, and the Polaris product in a 3D CAD (computer-aided design) model, and transitioned the data into an augmented reality environment in HoloLens. The simulation used in the development of Polaris tracks the actions and interaction of each aspect of container de-stuffing. Each unpacker, forklift, container, and pallet are represented as an agent within a distribution centre. “We showed what the product would look like at various stages of utilisation in the distribution centre,” Kelly said. “We had YGCC’s frontline team come in and they could put the headsets on, and they could walk around in the virtual future distribution centre environment with two people at a time. “They could discuss what it would be like to use the device in different stages and get a feel for it and what it’s trying to do. That was hugely beneficial for them in terms of being able to engage with what the device is, because they didn’t just have to imagine being with it, they could actually be with it.”
“Waste time in the form of movement and waiting can be reduced from 25 down to 5 per cent,” Mr Kelly said. “Allocating the correct number of workers per stock type is important in achieving these improvements.”
How Junior's Bakes 5 Million Cheesecakes During A Cream Cheese Shortage
Tracking this week's major mergers, partnerships, and funding events in manufacturing and supply chain
Fox Robotics Announces $20M Investment led by BMW i Ventures
Fox Robotics, the autonomous forklift company, announced today the close of a $20M oversubscribed funding round led by BMW i Ventures. Additional new investors include Zebra Technologies, Japan Airlines & Translink Innovation Fund, and Foothill Ventures. Existing investors Menlo Ventures, ENIAC Ventures, and SignalFire also participated in the round.
Fox is on a mission to deploy its forklifts across warehouses and production environments across the globe and develop new autonomous capabilities to expand use cases. It intends to use the new funds to ramp up production, invest in talent, and expand globally.
Proemion Announces €33.5M Growth Investment from Global Technology Investment Firm Battery Ventures
Proemion, the multinational technology company creating hardware-enabled software solutions to connect mobile machines with humans, the cloud, and each other, today announced a €33.5M growth investment from Battery Ventures, the global technology-focused investment firm. In July, Battery announced new, global funds capitalized at a combined $3.8B.
Family-owned since its founding in 1987, Proemion creates connectivity solutions with proprietary telematics control units and accompanying cloud-based software. Proemion customers include original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and mixed-fleet companies who use Proemion’s telematics solutions to operate machinery more efficiently through the use of remote diagnostics and analytics. Specifically, the technology allows customers—who operate in industries including construction, agriculture, logistics, and natural resources—to better manage equipment, plan maintenance, save fuel costs, monitor CO2 emissions, and more. The predictive capabilities of Proemion telematics allow global customers to increase productivity with robust, cloud-based remote diagnostics while reducing operational costs and downtime.
With this growth investment from Battery—and anticipated future capital infusions from Battery and the founders—Proemion will expand international operations, execute other organic-growth initiatives and pursue acquisitions. As part of this transition, Robert Thomas Michaelides, current Proemion COO, will assume the role of chief executive officer.
Shippeo Announces Record $40m Funding Round to Accelerate Global Supply Chain Resilience
All existing investors took part in the new round, including Battery Ventures, Partech, NGP Capital, ETF Partners, Bpifrance Digital Venture and SAP.io, alongside new strategic investors Hong Kong-based LFX Venture Partners and Japan-based Yamaha Motor Ventures, whose investment will help to ramp up operations across Asia-Pacific.
The investments will support Shippeo’s mission to help shippers and carriers run more collaborative, automated, sustainable, profitable, and customer-centric supply chains, leveraging global partner networks, real-time data and AI to enable greater ecosystem collaboration. Regarded by many companies as the heart of their operations, supply chains can now benefit from highly accurate, real-time operational visibility and perfect workflow orchestration, which have become crucial for overcoming the unprecedented challenges, uncertainty, and financial fallout from disruption that organizations continue to face.
Orbex Secures £40.4 Million in Series C Funding
UK-based spaceflight company Orbex has secured £40.4 million for its Series C funding round, led by a new investor, the Scottish National Investment Bank. The new round of funding will allow the company to scale up its resources as it counts down to the first vertical launch from UK soil, as well as unlocking additional funding to support future projects.
Orbex recently revealed its “Prime” rocket in its final form, making this the first full orbital micro-launcher to be unveiled in Europe. Prime is a 19-metre long, two-stage rocket designed to transport small satellites weighing up to 180kg into low Earth orbit.
Stratasys acquires quality assurance software firm Riven
Stratasys has announced the acquisition of quality assurance software company Riven for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition was closed in October 2022 and includes all intellectual property associated with Warp Adaptive Modeling (WAM) and Predive WAM (PWAM), as well as members of the Riven team.
Riven, already a Stratasys connectivity software partner, will now be fully integrated into Stratasys’ GrabCAD Additive Manufacturing Platform. It represents Stratasys fifth acquisition in the last two years, following the takeovers of Origin, RPS, Xaar 3D and Covestro Additive Manufacturing. By integrating Riven’s software into GrabCAD, Stratasys believes it will further enhance the potential for customers to scale their shipments of 3D printed end-use components, while also reducing waste via a reduced number of iterations.
ABB partners with Samotics to expand its condition monitoring services
ABB and Samotics, a leading provider of ESA technology that is a high-growth scaleup company based in the Netherlands, have entered a strategic long-term partnership to provide enhanced condition monitoring services. The approach will leverage each company’s capabilities to deliver more insight into machine health and energy efficiency. As a first step, ABB will integrate Samotics’ plug-and-play monitoring solution into its digital portfolio. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Samotics’ technology is complementary to the well-established ABB Ability™ Condition Monitoring service for powertrains, a sensor-based solution that analyzes the health and performance of rotating equipment. Samotics’ SAM4 technology, based on electrical signature analysis (ESA), will expand ABB’s application of asset health monitoring of motor-driven industrial equipment as it does not rely on mounting sensors in the field. This means that SAM4 can be deployed on machines in harsh and submerged environments.