MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Drishti Technologies, Inc. recently announced an investment of $25 million in Series B financing led by Sozo Ventures. The investment round was based on demonstrated evidence that Drishti’s AI powered video analytics, data, and insights bring significant benefits to manufacturers, a company release said.

Alpha Intelligence Capital, Toyota AI Ventures, Micron Ventures, Presidio Ventures, and HELLA Ventures, as well as current investors Emergence Capital, Benhamou Global Ventures, and Andreessen Horowitz, also participated in the round, the release said. As part of the round, Uday Sandhu from Alpha Intelligence Capital has joined Drishti’s board of directors.

Investors see Drishti already addressing a clear, pervasive industry problem for global automotive and electronics manufacturers — a lack of data on manual processes that hinders decision-making. Drishti addresses the problem by providing a new dataset on manual tasks that drives business insights, empowering people in assembly processes and ushering in a new era of manufacturing: AI-powered production, the release said.

“This volume and quality of data is valuable as Toyota embraces AI-powered production for a data-driven world,” said Akiharu Engo, department general manager at Toyota, which is evaluating Drishti’s technology at manufacturing plants in North America. “We see Drishti’s technology as a way to help everyone in the factory — including the line associates themselves — identify opportunities to improve performance and create greater value.”

“Most manufacturers lack meaningful data about manual assembly processes, because human actions are very difficult to measure,” said Jim Adler, managing director at Toyota AI Ventures, in the release. “Drishti uses computer vision and AI to create continuous streams of data from video of manual actions.”

Manufacturers are still relying on the century-old time-and-motion study practice to measure manual processes. This methodology is suitable for incremental improvements, but today’s manufacturers need to exponentially accelerate the speed at which they reduce costs, improve quality, train people, and introduce new products, the release said.

“This is a segment of manufacturing that seems ripe for innovation, so long relying on humans to gather data and do analysis on a largely manual basis,” said Nick Patience, lead analyst for AI and machine learning at 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence, in the release. “When a manufacturer is trying to implement continuous improvement, it can get significant leverage using technologies such as computer vision and analytics versus people observing in person and then making changes.”

Discrete manufacturers such as DENSO, Flex, Ford, Nissan, and others who embrace lean production methods are working with Drishti to gain efficiencies and infuse resiliency into their workforces and supply chains. Drishti’s impact is felt across the entire plant ecosystem, from line associates to indirect labor to the front office, the release said.

“There is particular demand for Drishti’s technology in automotive, where the winners in a crowded industry will have low error rates and a steady supply of new products, and throughout the manufacturing world,” said Uday Sandhu, partner at Alpha Intelligence Capital. “Drishti provides rich data quickly to drive insights and allow automakers and suppliers to make better decisions faster. These implications reach far beyond the automotive world into broader manufacturing, as well.”

Drishti’s technology is particularly beneficial as manufacturers reestablish production amidst the impacts of COVID-19. For example, while remote access was a growing trend prior to coronavirus, the pandemic has accelerated its importance. Drishti allows indirect labor to access the line remotely, thus reducing crowding around line associates to protect their health.

“At Flex, we have used Drishti to feed data back to our remote business operations center of excellence, where the industrial and lean engineers can analyze footage and solve problems without adding congestion to the floor,” said Mike Doiron, chief technology officer of global operations at Flex. “In addition to providing valuable training and process optimization benefits, Drishti makes it easier for us to monitor operations remotely, search for key operation steps where quality issues are of concern, and it can also be used in parallel to assist in protecting employees during unique times such as COVID-19.”

“The macroeconomic developments of 2018-19 already required steep increases in productivity and efficiency to ensure long-term success in the automotive industry. COVID-19 only accelerated this motion,” said Marco Marinucci, partner and head of HELLA Ventures. “We at HELLA Ventures see significant value in combining Drishti’s best-in-class AI-based manufacturing productivity technology with HELLA’s 121 years of manufacturing excellence on a global scale.”

Drishti was founded with the mission of augmenting the role of people in manufacturing. In addition to improving standardized work adherence, highlighting any productivity issues and driving quality improvements, Drishti is providing AI-based continuous training for line associates.

“At Emergence, we promote the idea of coaching networks, where people use AI to help us get better at our jobs while learning new skills,: said Jason Green, general partner at Emergence Capital. “Drishti is an early example of a coaching network being successfully deployed and creating immediate value for an industry in need of disruptive innovation.”

Drishti’s training function uses AI, video, and best practices reinforcement to train new employees, cross-train existing employees, and identify what it considers “brilliant outliers” — creative line associates who excel in certain roles or develop new ways to improve standardized work. Employees tend to embrace Drishti because of its direct benefit to workers on the line.

“In the future, humans and machines will be working together to deepen the effectiveness of each, driving better outcomes than what would be possible with just humans or just algorithms alone,” said Frank Chen, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, in the release. “Drishti’s focus on extending human potential is an example of this principle in action, and the benefits to manufacturers and line associates are clear.”

In 2019, Drishti was recognized as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum because of its “clear potential to transform its industry and improve society for years to come.”

“Drishti’s mission, ‘to extend human potential in an increasingly automated world,’ resonates with the World Economic Forum and blends the important role of humans with Drishti’s belief that innovation is critical to the future well-being of society and to driving economic growth,” said Francisco Betti, head of advanced manufacturing and production at the World Economic Forum.

Drishti’s Series B financing will fuel its expansion into plants across North America and around the globe, including Japan.

“The manufacturing industry, and particularly the people who work on the assembly line, have long been neglected by innovators because of the misconception that factories aren’t ‘sexy.’ But manufacturing’s future relies on worker safety and happiness and supply chain resiliency,” said Anik Bose, general partner, Benhamou Global Ventures. “Drishti saw the potential impact that new technology like AI, computer vision, and machine learning could have in manufacturing, and transformed that opportunity into a deployed solution that is improving metrics across the board.”

“We’ve seen the massive impact our technology can have in driving significant improvements in critical business areas,” said Prasad Akella, founder and CEO of Drishti. “We have a vision of people and technology, human and machine, working in concert to the benefit of everyone in the organization, especially the people working on the line. This investment is the next step toward the era of AI-powered production.”

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