Sight Machine Raises $29M to Connect Dots of Manufacturing Enterprises

When it comes to manufacturing, production and quality is everything. Systems to monitor manufacturing have been around for decades, but they aren’t always complete, sometimes only overseeing specific machines or locations.

That’s a problem that Sight Machine aims to address with its software that analyzes the manufacturing process. Its technology uses artificial intelligence, machine learning, and advanced analytics to help address problems that arise in a manufacturing enterprise, and is designed to oversee an operation’s entire, complex manufacturing system. Sight Machine co-founder and chief technical officer Nathan Oostendorp sees a big role for its software in tracking things like the rates of machine failure, and where defects are occurring, especially as the manufacturing industry becomes further automated.

“A lot of existing manufacturing analytics is focused on optimizing locally,” he adds. “Our goal with Sight Machine is to get all the data between assets and materials and really connect the dots throughout the supply chain and steps.”Investors seem to think the company is on the right path. Sight Machine announced last week it has raised $29.4 million in Series C funding. Since inception, it has raised approximately $80 million.

The round was led by Korea-based LS Group and included participation from Mercury Fund, Jump Capital, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, and E.ON. As part of the deal, Sight Machine will add two new members to its board: Yumi Lee, chief strategy officer at LS Corp., and Dan Fishback, former CEO of DemandTec. Oostendorp says having the backing of LS Group, a conglomerate that sells manufacturing equipment and is an automation vendor, provides validation of its technology.

The 60-person company, founded in Michigan in 2011, got its start working with the auto industry. (Sight Machine remains based in Ann Arbor, MI, and the Bay Area.) “It was a good way to cut our teeth on complicated, multi-step manufacturing processes,” Oostendorp explains.

Today, Oostendorp says Sight Machine is working on  transforming the way manufacturing data is analyzed and digitizing operations at scale and across entire multi-layered enterprises. The company currently works with manufacturing customers across verticals, including Nissan, Heineken, and Westrock.

Adrian Fortino, a managing director at Mercury Fund, says his firm first backed Sight Machine in 2015 and has continued to do so in every subsequent round because it sees an opportunity in manufacturing tech. Having LS Group join the company’s roster of investors only intensifies the scope of that opportunity, he says.

“Manufacturing is one of the biggest industries in the world, worth multi-trillions, but it’s still ripe for improvement,” he continues. “Companies were slow to adopt Industry 4.0 technologies at first, but now we’re seeing big manufacturers embrace a digital footprint and realize the enormous amounts of data they have just sitting there.”

Oostendorp is similarly bullish on the manufacturing industry, calling it “very healthy” despite factories continuing to shut down.

“In the US, manufacturing does not have the necessary strategic priority the way other countries like Japan and Germany do—they’re really aggressively investing in it,” he says. “There is pain in the manufacturing industry as it goes from being focused on purposing labor to using technology, similar to the agriculture industry in the 20th Century, but we expect output to continue to get better. There may be fewer jobs, but they’ll be more technical and will pay better.”

Speaking of jobs, Sight Machine plans to hire in 2019 at both its Michigan and California offices. Oostendorp calls Ann Arbor the heart of the company’s data science and data engineering operation.

“It’s an excellent place to recruit from,” he says. “The larger Southeast Michigan region has a unique cross-section of academic and manufacturing backgrounds. It’s given us a really good skill set for leading uncharted territory.”

Oostendorp says with new capital in its coffers, Sight Machine is “really excited about the next couple of years. The round really gives us an opportunity to expand our footprint.”

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the Custom Content Editor for Xconomy Insight. You can reach her at sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @Xconomy

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