A pioneering unicorn that seeks to improve factory production processes by using sensors to listen to industrial machines, and a determined family company that focuses on enhancing factories’ productivity via computer systems that monitor the production floor, are generating a change in the world of manufacturing

A pioneering unicorn that seeks to improve factory production processes by using sensors to listen to industrial machines, and a determined family company that focuses on enhancing factories’ productivity via computer systems that monitor the production floor, are generating a change in the world of manufacturing

Although the Israeli company Augury is a member of the unicorn club (a unicorn is a company with an estimated value of over 1 billion dollars), it met with skeptical reactions when it was established in 2011 by the CEO Saar Yoskovitz and Chief Product Technological Officer Gal Shaul, at a time when everyone was talking about mobile apps.  

“Investors looked at us strangely. ‘Enterprise, hardware, and industry – are you crazy?’”, Shaul says, but the two were not deterred. Israeli investors also signed up at a very late stage. “We needed a very special type of investor who likes investing at high risk in exchange for a chance to change the world. But the Innovation Authority was there for us from the beginning, and we received significant support from the technology community”, Shaul says. “Today, a decade later, Israeli industry has also begun to adopt this direction – and leading forces such as Bazan are both interested and advancing these trends”.

“This was the first startup for both of us and we spent long hours learning the other aspects of a startup besides technology. There were two years of learning and experimenting ‘on the go’. The joy of learning still plays an important role in everything we do. It’s one of the strongest aspects of our team that already numbers 400 – a thirst to learn and develop in all areas – personal, technological, and in research”.

Augury’s products are revolutionary as far as category and market building are concerned. As Shaul explains: “We don’t have anyone to copy from. There is no existing product that we are taking to a new market. We are also in a very special place as far as building the categories and this product type within the industry are concerned. We are very grateful that this has been made possible. It’s an assimilation process that requires time and the entire ecosystem needs a bit more patience to learn, to experiment, to gain an impression, and to adopt it”.

Unlike the army or cyber security, traditional industry in Israel is not the alpha market where tests are being conducted”. The trial stage was therefore conducted overseas, and Augury returned to Israel with a working product and proven results.

Healthy Production Processes

Augury addresses the health of production processes in manufacturing factories, and especially, in the worlds of process production. The product with which the company started out was sensors attached to industrial machines that “listen” to the machines and use IoT to warn of faults or future disruptions.

The sensors are located on every one of the machine’s bearings, identify magnetic signals, vibrations, and temperature, and send the data to the cloud. An AI system in the cloud processes the data and sends insights and instructions about the machine’s operation to the field team’s dashboard. 80% of the warnings that Augury gives its clients occur in reality i.e., the end client checks, replaces, fixes things etc. In other words, the factory benefits from a higher degree of certainty and fewer cases of ‘putting out fires’, as well as a better ability to predict future events.

Augury calls this “machine health” but they didn’t stop there and continued to address the health of the production processes themselves. As Shaul explains: “We optimize the products’ quality and reduce environmental damage. Both these aspects provide us with a broad view of production lines in large factories that want to revolutionize the way processes are currently created and to enhance profitability, to empower their employees, and to protect the environment”.

This combination is not a trivial one – but it is possible. The process requires more accurate insights about events in the factory – whether with the machines or in production – however obtaining these insights involves a transformational-level organizational change. In other words, this means working according to what the sensors report on a specific situation on the ground instead of working according to an existing protocol and implementing changes according to a fixed schedule as previously practiced. This requires empowerment of the field teams and their access to information instead of merely following the calendar and obeying instructions. The change enables a company to be far more flexible and save resources, but also requires foregoing some of the certainty inherent in daily planning.

According to Shaul, adopting Augury’s technology leads to a 75% decline in negative “surprises” on the production line. The machines break down less, but the factory needs to learn how to react to developing situations and not to the predetermined workplan relating to upgrades and maintenance in order to achieve better quality.

It’s Time for a Digital Revolution

After successfully dealing with the machines, Augury is now looking at the next stage: assisting manufacturing factories look at the health of all production processes from a broad perspective. In other words, to integrate production, processes, and personnel rather than looking at each factor separately.

“This process has several stages – in the data, automation and optimization that enable autonomy in the production process and decision making. If, for example, we look at what’s happened to fields such as digital marketing, we can see that in the past, every decision was taken manually, but today it’s possible to manage everything almost automatically. The change took about 20 years. We believe that the manufacturing world will also get to this stage once there is sufficient confidence to work with an automatic pilot. We hope to transfer a more significant portion of the decision making to AI-based decisions”.

The second stage is to expand to further industries. Augury, that began with traditional industrial companies has, in the past two years, also entered the energy market and is examining other similar markets to help them generate the digital revolution as well.

The third stage is global expansion. Most of Augury’s sales today are to large corporations in the US and the aspiration is to expand their scope. “We are in the growth stages”, Shaul explains, “Although Augury sells to more than a hundred of the largest industrial companies in the world, we are just beginning because the industry is huge”.     

At the same time, Augury also invests in creating a community of people active in fields of machine health and production processes’ health. “These people want to be agents of this revolution”, says Shaul. “We help them expand distribution. We look at the combination of machines and people and believe that it enables us to achieve an improvement in our lives in every possible way. We build things that are supposed to serve and enable the manufacturing world to succeed in the long-term and hope to be positive partners in this journey and in a better future”.

Empowering Production Workers

When we examine what the digital revolution facilitates or requires – or why a revolution is even needed – we understand that there are changing global perceptions about how production is implemented and the factors facilitating quality production. “Everyone leading this industry today – from small-scale to the largest industries – understands that if we do not look after the planet, we simply won’t have a place to live”, says Shaul. “This understanding compels us to not only act differently than we have until today, but also to change our relationship with the planet”.

The path to change lies, according to Augury, in the empowerment of people in all fields, particularly people working on production lines for years. “They have received only limited empowerment until today”, Shaul emphasizes. “These weren’t sought-after jobs. High-tech talents turned to high-tech not to manufacturing. People stayed in factories for years because they had no other alternatives. Some of the fuel for success is that people have alternatives. Instead, production workers were taken for granted.

“Technology enables us to dream of another form of work”, Shaul continues. “In the past, we knew quite accurately how to forecast future waves of technology, but we couldn’t predict how they would impact our lives. This is true of both AI and generative AI. To dream differently, people must be empowered. We need to give them other tools and learn to listen to them. That’s what a revolution looks like to me. With people’s ability to dream of a better world, we can really generate a revolution. A sequence of small changes can also constitute a revolution. If we look at what a production process looks like today, what it looked like ten years ago, and how it will look in another ten years, you won’t be able to identify the factory. That’s a revolution”.

“In recent years, various traditional industries have undergone an accelerated process of integrating digital technologies, sensors, control, and automation (sometimes called “the fourth industrial revolution” or “Industry 4.0”). This has opened the door to the introduction of Artificial Intelligence into manufacturing processes, whether to increase outputs, reduce inputs, resolve bottlenecks, improve safety, enable optimal function of employees and machines or to economize the supply chain. To a large degree, Artificial Intelligence enables us to reap the benefits of previous years’ large-scale investments. Although Israel is not considered a leading power of heavy industry, we can definitely take pride in a series of companies (and even unicorns) that integrate Artificial Intelligence into their products and allow heavy industry worldwide to leap directly into the 21st century”.
Dror Bin, CEO – Israel Innovation Authority

From Production Floor to New Energy

Yehuda Segev, an electric and electronics engineer who worked for years in control and computerization in leading companies, established Amitec in 1996 when his vision was to find advanced solutions for the industry. His wife – Hanita Segev, a systems analyst – subsequently joined the company and together, the couple formed a team of programmers to characterize and develop smart products for advancing the industry. Amitec, led by Yehuda and Hanita as joint CEOs, is currently developing software and control solutions for the industrial, defense and energy sectors.

Amitec was among the first companies in Israel to begin developing manufacturing execution systems (MES) for factories – the stage following the manual control and reporting systems that Israeli industry was used to.

“Unlike the US and Europe, these systems were unknown in Israel in 2000”, Segev says. “We needed to bring articles written at large companies to CEOs and COOs and explain to them why they need it. Until then, the managerial level received information from the operator about what was happening during the production process. The entire operation was based on Excel files and paperwork that the operators wrote. That’s how they knew the factory’s output at the end of the day – but they didn’t know the true potential”.

The role of MES is to provide data automatically, independent of the operator. The information passes directly to the management and allows them to make real-time decisions, to solve problems, to alter production processes etc. The ultimate objective is to enable the managerial level’s control of events, with the stated objective of this process being to improve the factory’s productivity.

“This is a constant process of improvement”, Segev explains. The system gathers data, analyzes it, and helps to understand what is happening so that it will ultimately be possible to improve output, reduce waste, and improve quality. When the system is connected, it offers insights as to which of the operators is best equipped for each action, which machines are best suited to produce a certain product, how much raw material has been used, and which batches have been used etc.

In such situations, management can make decisions at each stage of the production process – from the question as to which raw material to use to the decision how to correctly time tasks without wasting time. “The fact is that once the system helps make decisions in a more correct and computerized way, the work becomes more efficient”, Segev explains.

“For example, with regard to a raw material – something that is relevant for every industry – there is a minimum standard quantity but if you use too much, you incur a loss. That’s why we added control systems that check the product after the material was added and provide an indication on how it should be fixed, it if necessary. These are aspects of planning online monitoring and quality control. The system also has aspects that monitor procedural parameters such as speed, temperature, pressure etc., and which can issue an alert of an imminent irregularity that may shut down activity, thereby preventing such an eventuality”.

After addressing the problem of production floor management, Amitec transferred its focus to management of the factory’s energy and infrastructures. “Energy is the third resource after raw materials and personnel”, Segev says. The system they developed oversees the means with which the systems are operated: electricity, water, gas, fuel etc. All these must be in a state of maximum readiness in order to avoid shutdown and to ascertain the energy’s cost to the factory. In case of high consumption, the system issues an alert which enables the operator to assess and rectify the situation.

The system also facilitates maintenance management, including preventative maintenance and fault prediction. In other words, it learns the processes of all the infrastructures and production machines and identifies potentially problematic anomalies.


Following the Sun

A special program developed by Amitec is intended to monitor home, commercial, or ground solar energy sites. The company’s smart solution enables to analyze raw data from the panels and storage system, to identify problems and to assist in resolving faults.

Another problem tackled by the company is energy storage. “This is a very trending issue”, Segev explains. “The sun creates heavy mass of energy during daylight hours, but people want to use it during dark hours as well.

We help each factory or office building decide when it’s worthwhile to use the different energy sources – solar energy, a generator, or electricity from the grid. The AI system we developed enables to automatically decide when to flick the switch, so the consumer pays less.

It’s difficult for a normal person to make a decision when there are numerous parameters involved and that’s where Artificial Intelligence can provide an answer and help make a better decision. There is a huge number of applications in our field for what is termed Artificial Intelligence – faults management, infrastructures management, and planning. We try to provide a comprehensive solution in our field of knowledge that integrates all relevant systems and smart decision making based on Artificial Intelligence.

Small Money, Big Incentive

“Many factories have close down in Israel over the years”, says Segev. “Israel cannot depend exclusively on outsourcing. The transition to computerized systems has somewhat helped to sustain the traditional industry that has dwindled over the years.

“At Amitec we fought for years to subsidize computerized systems. The penny dropped three years ago, and now most small and medium-sized factories gained support, making it easier for them to decide to adopt a computerized system. This support definitely encourages them to take this step. As far as the state is concerned, it’s a small sum, but a large incentive for the company.

“We have already completed several projects with the Innovation Authority and the Advanced Manufacturing Institute, and our vision is to continue to develop the future generations of smart tools. We continuously listen to the market and think how to make improvements: everyone has something to say, and we process this information. As soon as we hear about something that is good for the market, we develop it and offer it to everyone”.