While shop floors at large OEMs are embracing the beginning of the robotics and automation eras, the actual humans working in these shops have been mostly forgotten by technology. But Tulip, a software platform for shop engineers, operators and managers, is looking to change all that.
To that end, Tulip has raised $13 million in Series A led by NEA, with participation from Pitango Venture Capital and other existing investors. As part of the deal, NEA partner Dayna Grayson will join the company’s board of directors.
Even though the rise of robotics and automation stands to change the way manufacturers produce goods, people working in these plants are often using the most rudimentary tools to refine processes, debug, etc. That includes clipboards, stop watches, and Excel spreadsheets, which are far from real time and simply collect troves of manually input data without pulling insights automatically.
That’s where Tulip comes in.
Tulip provides a software platform that lets sensors, cameras, and other IoT hardware communicate with each other in a central back-end system, regardless of the protocol. Folks unfamiliar with this type of software (like shop floor operators and engineers) are able to plug and play various ‘If/Then’ situations to get a birds’ eye view of problem areas on the floor and fix them immediately.
Through Tulip, manufacturers can implement interactive work instructions, automatic data collection, quality control, audits, machine monitoring, and training.
For example, Tulip allows a floor manager to focus on data and insights instead of wandering the show floor and standing over operators’ and engineers’ shoulders. A sensor at a specific workbench, or on a specific tool, or a camera on the assembly line can automatically detect what’s happening during the entire process and help managers refine the process without all that manual data collection and entry.
“In a way, we’re enabling these operators, engineers and managers to do what the information workforce takes for granted,” said Tulip CEO and founder Natan Linder, who built Tulip as a spin-out of his MIT research around interfaces. “And beyond that, Tulip turns work into a sort of game, with the mechanics of a leaderboard, and generates the sort of dynamic that lets employees be informed about their own performance.”
Tulip says that analysis by Deloitte found that Tulip increased production yield by more than 10 percent and manual assembly quality issues decreased by 60 percent in the first four weeks of operation at global manufacturer Jabil.
Though the company isn’t disclosing its full pricing, Tulip charges its clients through a SaaS model on a per/bench basis.
Tulip plans on using the new investment to grow product, design and research team, as well as building out customer support.