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The Machine Whisperers: This Startup Improves Machine Health Through Digital Transformation


Augury (noun) – a sign of what might happen in the future (Cambridge English Dictionary).

Various predictive and preventive maintenance methods for industrial machinery have been around for a long while now. The newest technology disrupting this mix, though, revolves around continuous diagnostics and didn’t get its start on the manufacturing floor. It came instead out of the medical devices world.

Gal Shaul is one of two co-founders and CTO of Augury, an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) company focused on production machine health. Years ago, while he was working as a software developer of a medical device startup, he was visiting a client’s site to understand why their product wasn’t functioning properly. When he arrived, Gal could hear right away that the machine’s cooling fan was clogged. That got him thinking about monitoring the sounds machines make to prevent failures. That episode eventually led him to partner with his fellow co-founder and CEO, Saar Yoskovitz, who was working on machine learning solutions for speech recognition at the time, to launch Augury in 2011. Their goal was to develop hardware and software, combining Artificial Intelligence and the IIoT, to improve reliability within the manufacturing industry based in part on the sounds that machinery makes.

Augury now has total funding of about $60 million, including funding that was raised this past January in a Series C round led by Insight Partners. They have about 100 employees, and they boast around 40 Fortune 500 clients. Augury’s vision is, “To build a world where people can always rely on the machines that matter.”

“We look at ourselves as a data analytics company that also offers hardware,” said Yoskovitz. “We added the AI aspect to legacy technologies for predictive and preventive maintenance. We’ve been at it for eight years now, and we’ve built a whole catalog of what different machines sound like during normal operation and as they approach failure.”

The team at Augury combines mechanical data from assets, including vibration, temperature, and magnetic field data, with operational data from facilities. The data is uploaded to cloud applications that run AI-based diagnostics to detect malfunctions before they occur - and issue actionable alerts as necessary. Each asset is given a health score to help prioritize maintenance activities. The aim is to help their partners digitize machine health and maintenance to transform how industrial companies operate.

Augury's sensor on rotating equipment in a paper mill. Image courtesy Augury

“Once you digitize everything, you move one level higher,” Yoskovitz explained. “Where you used to get data once a month, quarter, or year, now it’s all real-time. We create a single source of truth for the health and performance of industrial assets. This breaks down operational silos, transfers institutional knowledge and serves as a foundation for companies to transform and meet new operational and business challenges.”

Augury’s software can be integrated with existing maintenance management and business systems software, so that the data can be shared throughout the organization and used for related activities, such as parts ordering, work order scheduling, and budgeting.

Augury has reached its new solutions by taking advantage of recent technology developments. “Look at the last five years, and you’ll see three major trends in tech,” Yoskovitz said. “The first trend is in sensing technologies - the same sensors found in your smartphone can now be used in the industrial setting. Secondly, there’s rapid progress in connectivity, where we can connect more and more devices at low power and lower costs. And lastly, there’s AI - think about the quantum leap in the pervasiveness of speech recognition. We now expect every device to fully understand us, like with Alexa and Siri. That only happened in the last couple of years. We’re the first to combine these three trends to provide digital machine health insights at scale.”

They think they’ve only just scratched the surface of their opportunities. While they have a strong start in the manufacturing market, there are other potential segments they’re just starting to look at. “We want to greatly expand our reach - we’re building the digital machine health platform that sits on top of the physical world,” said Yoskovitz. “Everything in our lives depends on machines in some way, from power generation, to water resource management, to manufacturing. Our goal is to make those machines more reliable and more productive.”

Meanwhile, Augury continues to refine its product, both hardware and software. “We’re constantly working to improve our technology,” Yoskovitz said. “We’re combining PLC [programmable logic controller, the on-floor computers that run industrial machinery] data with mechanical data to improve our diagnostics and provide a holistic view of production lines and facilities as a whole.”

The team sees additional selling points as they refine their real-time analytics and feedback. “At some point, the activity changes from predictive and preventive maintenance to risk management,” Yoskovitz explained. “You can start to realize savings in spare parts stocking, in frequency of periodic maintenance, and so on, because you have better visibility on when and how assets need to be repaired. And then we look beyond that, and ask, ‘How does this really transform the organization? Does it enable Just in Time or facilitate Agile manufacturing? Will it enable us to up-skill our workforce?’ These are all potential improvements you can get from machine health technology.”

Yoskovitz thinks Augury’s turnkey solution, which includes hardware, software, installation, training and support, fits well with overall industry trends toward IIoT and Industry 4.0 technology adoption. “The whole industry is changing,” he said. “Legacy manufacturing companies are deploying tech to make everyone’s life better - their customers’ and their employees’. Our vision is to facilitate that and help keep machines up and running simply and reliably.”

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