Samsung, one of the biggest and best manufacturers in the world, made a mockery out of itself when it recalled millions of Galaxy Note 7 phones last year due to overheating. Not only did the episode cost the electronics major a whopping $5 billion in costs, it also lead to a major hue and cry among people using other Samsung electronics, which ultimately led to a major dent in the company’s credibility.
Manufacturing consumer electronics is a serious job, and Samsung realised it the hard way courtesy last year’s fiasco. In order to make sure that no other company into manufacturing has to live what Samsung went through last year, two former Apple engineers, Anna Shedletsky and Samuel Weiss, have given birth to a company called Instrumental that aims to make manufacturing electronics easier than ever and ward off any complications before they end up costing the company thousands of dollars per second.
The startup has been successful in raising over $10 million from venture capitalists including names like Eclipse Ventures, First Round, and Root Ventures. This includes a $7.5 million Series A that the startup raised earlier this year.
Being former Apple engineers has helped Shedletsky and Weiss in garnering a deep understanding about all the kinds of problems that might sprout up when a company is manufacturing millions of complex gadgets.
Speaking to Business Insider, Shedletsky, who is also the CEO of Instrumental, revealed that she met Samuel Weiss in 2014 when she was leading the Apple Watch program, and he was working on the Taptic Engine and other components inside the watch. The combined experience they gained working on ground in factories in China troubleshooting top-secret Apple components before the watch launched helped them greatly in building their startup’s product, for other engineers and hardware companies that might experience the same issue that Instrumental’s founders faced while working at Apple.
The founders are leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence and their combined experience in the electronics manufacturing industry to make the path smoother for any company that might want to get into manufacturing electronics and ship the manufactured products on time.
How Does It Work?
Instrumental makes custom hardware for its customers which then gets installed on a factory assembly line. More often that not these factories belong to giant contract manufacturers like Foxconn etc.
The startup’s software makes it possible for an engineer from the design company to keep a track of specific units as they are getting assembled in the factory, by taking photographs and pointing out the exact place when something went south. This work even if the engineer from the design company is in one corner of the world and the factory where the product is getting manufactured is in the opposite corner.
Traditionally, one needs to be physically present on the assembly line at the right place at the right time in order to catch any issues. However, with Instrumental, this process becomes much easier as the hardware box (which Instrumental calls a station) custom manufactured by the company ends up right on that line, and then takes a photograph of every single individual device while it’s in production.
The data collected by the Instrumental box is then delivered to the decision makers at the brand that’s making the gadget at the factory through Instrumental’s software.
Instrumental is capable of pinpointing the exact place and time when the device starts to be put together incorrectly resulting in faulty gadgets.
Once it has found out an issue in a device, it can even look at the units before and after the faulty one to ensure that no faulty gadget makes it way into the market.
In addition to keeping an eye on when something goes wrong, Instrumental’s software is also capable of helping engineers in exploring how smoothly and efficiently the manufacturing process is going in general.
An electronic’s overall look and finish is what helps them in having an identity of their own and makes them standout from their cheap knockoffs in the market. By making use of Instrumental software, an engineer can even precisely measure the distance between two parts, or other measurements, from a photo of the device. Thus, making sure that the each of the device is testimonial of the brand’s quality promise that it extends to its customers.
Making The Case For AI in Manufacturing
Instrumental’s software makes a strong case for the industry belief that increased automation will lead to more and more people in factories being replaced by robots and data in the near future.
The startup employees machine learning to successfully be able to find out the defective units even before a human gets to it. The startup launched this feature on Wednesday this week and has named it “detect.” It makes use of machine learning software to process hundreds of units of a product and pick out the outliers among them.