Increasing efficiency and productivity on the plant floor with an app
Poka had raised $25 million in Series B funding to help manufacturers adopt emerging technologies to make their plant floors more efficient and productive, through a proprietary app that has been described as a mashup of YouTube and Facebook.
“It’s a hub for operational knowledge on the factory floor. Workers able to interact and be social with one another on different shifts, see updates and take in important information without having to check a whiteboard,” says Alexandre Leclerc, CEO and co-founder. “It’s an entire factory’s feed; we’re trying to break down these isolated silos so the factory information can be shared with the entire organization top to bottom.”
Poka is responding to demands in manufacturing for upskilling and retraining by providing regular training and certifications through the app as well, trying to address the talent shortage by providing a more meaningful work experience. The certification process will help workers grow, and develop future-proof skills and adapt to a workplace that is calling for less manual labour and more tech-savvy skills.
“The more automation you bring, the more complexity you’re bringing. You have to have the tools to address that complexity, and plant workers want to see their talent and skills put to use towards that complexity. In our daily lives now, workers are on Instagram, on Twitter, taking advantage of complex social feeds and online capabilities, but we’re expecting them to come into work and use pens and pencils? And read manuals on paper? It’s a tough sell,” says Leclerc.
Poka currently boasts a client list that includes Danone, Nestle and Kraft-Heinz, seeing themselves as strong players in the food and beverage manufacturing space, as well as the consumer packaged goods industry. Poka’s expansion and funding is due in part to the pandemic, which played a significant role in its growth.
Poka’s app is showing clear benefits in helping manufacturers troubleshoot problems with production line inefficiencies, faulty robots and product auditing, through community-sourced solutions from plant workers working together and collaborating. The solution is then left posted on the app for the entire plant to troubleshoot future issues.
Which leaves an important question while Poka continues to grow. If two different companies use FANUC robots, and one of those companies is experiencing a problem with their robot, why can’t Company A see how Company B solved their problem as it relates to the FANUC robot?