Instead of machines and processes, Bennit turns its focus to people
When you think manufacturing floor, you probably think large machines, conveyor belts, a mass of tools and fixtures needed for assembly. Most likely, what’s not on your mind is the communication and interaction that needs to happen among the floor workers or operators. Bennit AI in Chagrin Falls seeks to fill that gap with an Internet of Things (IoT) solution — machines that can talk to people to improve safety and communication among teams.
“Bennit was founded to address a hole that we see in the industrial IoT landscape, which is solutions that directly impact manufacturing workers,” said Mike Yost, co-founder and CMO. “Machine learning is often focused on the assets or the system, and we see little emphasis placed on the workers. We believe that the work people encounter every day, the knowledge available through those more personal or physical interactions, are not captured through devices or sensors. We should be able to give people ways to connect with each other to make them more effective at what they do.”
Where IoT is often thought of as a smart refrigerator or controlling your house lights from your phone, Bennit’s platform works among teams or workers to allow them to communicate with machines, and more importantly, each other. If a worker encounters something on the plant floor like a leak, or something on a machine that is out of place, Bennit gives them the opportunity to capture that situation with their cell phone and share it directly with someone who is responsible for fixing the problem. If an action item needs to be addressed, Bennit can even help a team create a step-by-step plan to remedy the situation.
“When we started off, our focus was very much on AI,” said Katherine Cahalane, CEO. “Now, Bennit focuses on interactions and usability, making sure that people have something they will use to capture what is going on behind the scenes. We want to emphasize the empowerment of frontline workers. With the emergence of AI, we see that with simple devices like your phone, companies can impact not just their production cycle, but also their workers’ experience.”
Located in the manufacturing heartland of America, the mentorship and funding Bennit received through the Innovation Fund, a northeast partner of the Ohio Third Frontier, has helped them turn a business plan into an investable tech solution.
“When we started, we thought we knew the problem areas, that we knew there was a simple solution that was available,” said Yost. “As we took that simple notion and tried to turn it into a business plan that people were willing to invest in, it wasn’t as simple or elegant as we thought. The Innovation Fund helped us pull together the story and the financial plan — all the resources that were available to us were immeasurable.”
With these resources, Yost and Cahalane’s plan for Bennit is to help bring the heartland into a new age of tech and make it part of the cyber-physical world. By reinvigorating the industry with modern technologies, they hope to drive the manufacturing base forward in Ohio.
“We want to be able to empower people on the floor,” said Cahalane. “If they’re given the responsibility to run these machines, then it should be our responsibility to give them the tools to allow them to do it. I see the opportunity for Bennit to initiate collaboration on a social level that doesn’t exist in manufacturing today. Manufacturing is what brought us to Ohio, and the next wave of industrial revolution is what we’re excited for.”