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Driving Industry 4.0 with predictive AI and networking expertise

By Rick Oppedisano, president and CEO of Delta Bravo AI

From supply chain challenges to talent shortages, manufacturing has taken a beating in recent years. But a renaissance is coming.

Smart manufacturers are making investments that will propel them into the industry 4.0 era. Because without doing so, they simply won’t be able to compete.

That’s why I’m so excited about the partnership between my company, Delta Bravo AI, and Cisco. We’re combining our collective expertise — Delta Bravo’s in predictive analytics, and Cisco’s in networking and security — to help pave the way for a great future in manufacturing.  And it’s not just talk.  The solutions we’re building together are being used on the shop floor every day, improving quality, throughput, and workforce readiness. The benefits of reduced rework and scrap are showing up in improved plant sustainability metrics.

Before I started Delta Bravo in 2016, there was a pressing need for a fast, efficient, and easily scalable platform to process the vast amounts of data that were beginning to reshape manufacturing. Just because you have data though, doesn’t make it valuable.  We saw an opportunity to turn mountains of plant floor data into real-time insights and tools that reveal precisely what is happening in your machines or your processes — and even more important, what will happen.

Machine learning and AI are the key to pulling correlations and trends from those vast troves of data. But the resulting insights have to be passed onto users in a simple to understand way, and without bias. So, they could make better decisions, faster.

Our platform accomplishes all that and more.

From mountains of data to instant insights

As the Industrial Internet of Things becomes pervasive in manufacturing, all those connected machines, devices, sensors, and systems spin off huge amounts of data, often in different formats and frequencies. This makes it difficult to put them together and understand correlations and influencers on plant outcomes. Data sources aren’t always properly secured, leading to availability and corruption challenges that could also limit the data’s value.

Enter Delta Bravo AI.

A simplified version of our value prop is that we enable manufacturers to create more product faster, at a higher level of quality with less waste and downtime. At the same time, we make workers’ jobs easier and more productive by giving them tools to make better decisions faster. And for the environment, we help to support cleaner, more energy-efficient processes.

An early client was Rolls-Royce Power  Systems. They wanted to predict failures in their engines — which are highly complex, mega powerful, and used in everything from diesel locomotives to maritime vessels and fracking drills. But we quickly realized that to use our models to their fullest, data would need to be captured within extremely tight timeframes — twice a second as opposed to every 10-30 minutes, for example. All of which was beyond our — and Rolls Royce’s — networking capabilities.

Enter Cisco.

We knew that we needed a partner that could help us scale, secure, and accelerate our platform. There was one obvious choice.

Cisco stepped in at Rolls Royce and instituted a network upgrade to facilitate the huge amounts of data we were taking from the industrial machines and into our system.

At the same time, security was a paramount concern. With all that data moving around, it was imperative that it remained secure and uncorrupted. Again, Cisco brought a level of expertise that went beyond our own capabilities.

Of course, Rolls Royce was not only customer that needed much-increased network capacity to take full advantage of our solutions. Since 2016, more than 75 companies have taken advantage of our innovative partnership, in industries as diverse as automotive, aerospace, metals and mining, agricultural, and life sciences.

The steel manufacturer Nucor is a great example of our platform at work. We collect data from the plant floor to analyze how different elements interact in the steel-making process. And we predict when each element reaches the correct tolerance within the context of more than 1,000 steel products. So, the plant-floor operators know precisely when to make a cut for each product. That level of precision maximizes quality and reduces the waste associated with steel scrap. Downstream benefits include a reduction in energy usage tied to the reduction in rework.

Strategic value and human worth

Those are just a tiny sample of the value that we are bringing to companies. And we do it in a way that’s quick to scale and simple to use, with virtually no disruption from training or testing.

Because the last thing operators need is a complex, hard-to-understand tool. So, we create customized visualizations that work within whatever existing platform is being used by the operators.

At Rolls-Royce, our capability integrates with tools their operators already use, so there was no training, learning curves or disruption.  At Nucor, there’s been a reduction in employee training time, making new workers more valuable to the company faster, and reducing the stress of making good decisions in a tight production window. Since people are at the heart of manufacturing, I’m especially excited by the role we play in making workers’ lives easier — and, ultimately, towards attracting and retaining talent. Because during the Great Resignation, making work as seamless, stress free, and productive as possible is a must. It’s essential to turning your people from short-term assets to committed, valued team players.

In the end, I believe that individuals, companies, and nations are at their best when they’re making things.

Industry 4.0 is the way to accomplish that on a whole new level. I’m looking forward to seeing all that Delta Bravo AI and Cisco can accomplish together in the future.

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