Why We Are Investing in Poka and the Connected Factory Worker
40 North Ventures is excited to lead Poka’s $25M Series B financing and partner with a leader in connected worker technology for manufacturing businesses globally.
By: Ben Sampson
Founder frustration leads to industrial innovation
40 North Ventures is focused on bringing venture-backed innovation to traditional manufacturing sectors. We are proud to be partnering with Alex Leclerc, Antoine Bisson and the entire Poka team as they empower frontline factory workers with a software platform designed specifically for manufacturing collaboration and operational knowledge management. When we first met Alex and Antoine, we were immediately drawn to their steadfast focus on creating a product specifically catered to the manufacturing shift worker. This focus stems from Alex’s first-hand experience on the factory floor at his family’s multi-generation manufacturing business where he recognized quickly that there were no effective ways to train and share knowledge. We appreciate that founder frustration is often a powerful driver of innovation, and in Poka’s case it has yielded a product that is being rapidly adopted with impressive usage metrics while delivering immediate value across manufacturing factories globally. Historically, industrial equipment has continuously grown bigger, faster and more automated; the equipment operator has largely been ignored…until now.
What about the operator?
So many technology solutions in the manufacturing space are focused on automating everything and driving productivity by removing workers from the solution. How many ROI calculations have you seen where reduced headcount is the primary driver? In almost all cases, there is no headcount reduction and only headache creation. Most often, these solutions are fraught with integration issues, massive customization efforts and neglect the operators that will be charged with running the equipment. Ultimately, the promised ROIs never materialize or they require massive and risky investment — both time and money — in order to be realized. Poka’s connected worker platform delivers immediate operational efficiency throughout the organization by empowering the people trusted with operating the equipment and solving numerous problems on the factory floor.
Industrial product led growth
It did not take long for us at 40 North Ventures to recognize the value Poka customers are getting from the solution and how important it has become to their operations. Nestlé, Danone, Bosch, Johnson & Johnson and other leading manufacturers have deployed Poka’s software across their global factory footprints. Poka continues to expand within these customers — even through the last 15 months of a global pandemic — because they have realized real returns driven by productivity gains, quality and safety improvements, as well as onboarding and training speed. Many organizations are now building digital roadmaps for the factory floor built on the foundation of Poka’s platform.
The factory catches up to the digital enterprise
Poka’s platform is perfectly suited to become the digital foundation of manufacturing workforces for several reasons. First and foremost, it immediately enhances real-time visibility and collaboration. By providing an interface at the workstation, Poka can capture operational data that traditionally was either never captured or was written down with pen and paper and maybe recorded into an ERP, or other system of record later. Additionally, Poka provides a critical communication platform for frontline workers. As issues arise on the floor, workers can reach out to their colleagues and collaboratively troubleshoot problems with experts in the organization. This organizational knowledge has always existed, but Poka has unlocks the massive potential across the enterprise. Otherwise dormant knowledge is now easily accessed, documented as best practices and seamlessly incorporated into dynamic digital training materials.
Enterprise workers have become accustomed to this level of access to global colleagues and digital materials through platforms like Slack, Asana and Microsoft but the digital factory has lagged the digital enterprise significantly. Five years ago, many factories did not even have Wi-Fi connectivity. Today, after a truly trying period of a year plus, there is a recognition that digital tools are a requirement to recruit, train and retain talent while enhancing productivity by every measure across the organization. Deployed in over 450 factories in 30 countries and 18 product languages, Poka is equipped to lead the digital transformation of global manufacturing.
The end result we see at 40 North Ventures is one in which every factory worker is empowered with the tools to continuously improve, both individually and collectively with the broader organization. The same way that today’s advanced equipment can learn and improve by connecting to other equipment, we humans need real-time connectivity and access to critical information to continuously improve. Poka recognized this earlier than most thanks to some founder frustration and a dedication to their manufacturing customers and frontline workers across the globe.
To learn more about Poka visit them at www.poka.io or follow them on twitter @pokainc.