The data derived from connected sensors can help reduce energy consumption by optimizing various aspects of plant operations. This is pretty easy to understand, but historically hard to implement. Using existing machine data or installing new sensors isn’t a project that most operations managers can afford to take lightly.
But Lightapp, a startup based in Tel Aviv, has built a software and services business that helps pull in information from plants and uses it to help reduce energy costs. Current customers include guitar maker Fender, Bimbo Bakeries, and a Pepsi bottling plant in Fresno, Calif. It was also part of a project with UC Berkeley, MIT, and the University of Chicago that aimed to test the utility of its software when it comes to saving energy.
That project, called Project Engage, was funded by the California Energy Commission and brought Lightapps services and software to a variety of different manufacturers in California. So far a handful of the program’s participants, which had been trying a portion of Lightapps software for free, have signed up to expand their energy monitoring efforts, says Lightapp CEO Elhay Farkash.
The final results from the Project Engage effort aren’t out yet, but the company says fully deployed California customers that took on the Lightapp technology once Project Engage concluded are seeing, on average, a 23% reduction in total energy consumption. At an individual level, Pepsi’s Fresno bottling plant has seen a 32% efficiency improvement on compressed air generation, equal to $45,000 of annual savings, and a Bimbo Bakeries California plant saw a 47% efficiency improvement, yielding savings of more than $160,000 on an annual basis.
The Engage project focused on reducing the energy associated with compressed air, but the Lightapp sensors and software can track other aspects of factory operations. When a manufacturer brings in Lightapp, the startup’s staff use custom tools to figure out what sensors are needed and what existing sensors could be used. Lightapp also has software that maps out where new sensors need to go and algorithms that it can use to start making insights early into a deployment.
The initial deployment isn’t as easy as signing up on a website, but it’s not entirely custom, either. Farkash says Lightapp has built software that makes much of the process simple to deploy while leaving room for customization as needed. Once installed, customers see the data and get insights into the health of machines, energy consumption, and other metrics.
In a unique twist, Lightapp can not only sell its software to the original manufacturing customers but to suppliers of equipment and repairs for that manufacturer. Using a dashboard, suppliers can track equipment servicing and replacement parts. Which means that with each customer win in the manufacturing space, Lightapp also gets a chance to meet and sell into new suppliers, who could it turn also recommend it to their other manufacturing customers.
These sorts of network effects are common in the consumer web but fairly rare for the industrial IoT. The 8-year-old company raised a $10 million round in October of last year but is now seeking a Series B round, according to Farkash. It also plans to undergo a rebranding effort later this month.