Figure | Zhou Yuxiang works in the workshop
Although the current intelligent manufacturing track is very hot, the original Heihu Intelligent Manufacturing is not “stepping on the wind to start a business”.
Nowadays, enterprises in the intelligent manufacturing industry chain have reached the time to “eat dividends”.
However, in the early years, in order to more accurately identify the “pain points” of manufacturing companies, such a group of people once went to the workshop as workers to experience the manufacturing process in the workshop.
Finally, they found it. It is also this personal experience that created the current “Black Lake Intelligent Manufacturing”.
After going wrong, they entered the factory floor in person
Before graduating, Zhou Yuxiang worked as an intern in an investment bank in Hong Kong, and was assigned to the overseas acquisition team of the manufacturing industry, serving related companies to complete overseas mergers/acquisitions.
It was this experience that made him feel the gap between Chinese and foreign manufacturing industries—informatization for the first time. “Although Chinese factories are not weaker than foreign countries in terms of equipment, production processes, and quality standards, they are still using primitive communication tools such as people, paper sheets, and Excel to manage factories, while German factories have basically completed informatization.” It is also this concept gap that makes domestic companies face difficulties in integration even if they acquire overseas factories.
This internship experience made Zhou Yuxiang see the opportunity of manufacturing. So he returned to China after graduating in 2015 and started a business with two friends who majored in computer science.
However, “our direction went wrong.” Zhou Yuxiang said.
How is this going?
In the initial direction, Zhou Yuxiang’s team’s idea was to analyze and optimize based on real-time data in the factory, and then achieve fault prediction, production line path optimization, and so on. In fact, there is no problem with the logic of this project. After all, there are many companies working in this direction, but the time is wrong.
As Zhou Yuxiang felt in his internship experience, even the domestic factories at that time, even large enterprises such as Yili, Mengniu, and Sany Heavy Industry, had not done a good job of data work in the production process. How can we support the operation of the algorithm model?
Naturally, Zhou Yuxiang’s team’s first attempt ended in “failure” and the team was dissolved immediately. However, this series of operations does not mean they give up.
In his words, the lesson of this failure is to just trust the algorithm and not investigate the factory on the spot. To this end, they decided to give themselves another chance to go deep into the factory assembly line as workers.
During the process, they found that the existing information base could not support the production line to adapt to the high-speed, flexible and flexible dynamic adjustment tasks. Even if the industrial software of Siemens and other foreign companies was used, there were still factors such as high cost and slow launch. To this end, Zhou Yuxiang and the others thought: What kind of product form or technology allows us to subvert the previous online model of traditional industrial software?
Soon, they found the answer in the worker’s roommate – the mobile phone. “After talking about digitization for so long, why can’t we infiltrate a product form like mobile app + public cloud, which can be developed and configured flexibly, into the factory?”
On the second try, they break with tradition from the bottom
With this idea in mind, Zhou Yuxiang and the others walked out of the factory and started their second business. However, learning from the previous lessons, this time they did not build a car behind closed doors, but first let the workers try out the app developed based on the app. Facts have proved that this product direction is right.
After that, Zhou Yuxiang’s team spent 2 years to evolve the product from an initial mobile app to a full-stack application covering the mobile web.
As far as products are concerned, there are three core points of Heihu Intelligent Manufacturing, namely mobile terminal, public cloud and data.
Specifically, the inspiration for Black Lake products now comes from the scene where workers play with mobile phones. Based on mobile devices such as mobile phones, in Zhou Yuxiang’s words, in addition to being cheap, customers do not need to re-purchase hardware for embedded transformation and development. The most important thing is to use the “mobility” of such devices to realize the last meter to implement data-driven collaboration.
It should be noted that the original intention of Heihu Zhizao to create products is to achieve “collaboration” in industrial scenarios, but the collaboration here does not only refer to the interoperability and collaboration in a certain factory, but multiple factories and supply chains. Downstream collaboration across regions, time and space.
“This is the value of public cloud, helping us connect factories in different provinces, regions, and even different countries, so that the entire operation efficiency of the group and the industrial chain can be improved, rather than the efficiency improvement of a single factory and a single point.”
After talking about data collection and cloud connection, for an industrial collaboration platform, the next important link is data analysis.
In Zhou Yuxiang’s words, only online, structured, and relational data can be regarded as “data assets” and have the value of being analyzed, otherwise it is just data garbage.
To do this, there are problems such as different data definition standards across departments and data silos between departments. In response to this, Heihu Intelligent Manufacturing has made an abstract model, dividing all activities of the production line into four major sections: production management, quality management, material management and equipment maintenance, and then divide each section into planning layer, execution layer and Data analysis layer.
“These 12 modules allow each of our data to be related. At that time, based on relational data analysis, when the defective rate increases, we can find out whether the reason is that there are defects in the raw materials before they enter the market, or whether Problems in the production process caused by the prolonged equipment maintenance cycle.” Zhou Yuxiang said.
In terms of products, the current Heihu Intelligent Manufacturing has two core products – “Black Lake Intelligent Manufacturing Collaboration Platform” and “Black Lake Small Work Orders”, which are aimed at medium and large enterprises and small manufacturing enterprises respectively.
In the specific service process, Heihu Zhizao also follows a three-step principle. Of course, the three-step process here is not the path of “consulting first, then transforming, and then digitizing” traditional industrial software deployments in the past, but “first data transparency, then locating problems, and then segmenting optimization”:
The first step is to promote comprehensive digitization with low cost and high efficiency; the second step is to locate the problem through the accurate and objective data deposited; the third step is to use the analysis and decision-making module to empower all levels of the factory to solve problems in a targeted manner .
Among them, because of the “cloud native + microservice” architecture, on the one hand, Black Lake packages various services into small components, so that the software deployment process is like “building blocks”. From another perspective, this is also a Variations of personalized service.
On the other hand, in addition to taking on the role of connection, the “cloud native” architecture also enables Black Lake to be agile and efficient in the development of new requirements and new structures.
It is also this service architecture that enables Heihu Zhizao to complete system training within a week and complete the system launch within 4-6 weeks, which solves the problems of slow online launch and long running-in period of traditional industrial software in the past.
All are intelligent manufacturing, but “we are not stepping on the wind to start a business”
It can be seen that the start-up time of Heihu Zhizao is still very delicate, which is the first year of the 13th Five-Year Plan. However, in Zhou Yuxiang’s words, at that time, the domestic innovation of intelligent manufacturing did not attach much importance to it today, so they did not step on the wind to start a business.
And the first-mover advantage is very important. “We spent more than two years before we got the product that we are not perfect today.” Zhou Yuxiang said, “Just like ofo and Mobike did share bicycles when they were hot, now there are When many entrepreneurs carry out industrial Internet innovation, if they want to catch up with the first-mover queue, from the perspective of brand effect, market share, customer group, etc., the difficulty should not be underestimated.”
He went on to mention that the team of Heihu Zhizao integrates a group of technical experts who have the most cutting-edge framework technology and have gone through the best technical practices, as well as a group of experts who have their own experience in the industry and understand each scenario. The integration of the species group itself forms a very high barrier.”
In addition, although it has only entered the commercialization stage since the beginning of 2019, Heihu Zhizao has accumulated a number of leading customers such as China Resources Group, China Weapons, Nongfu Spring, etc. At the same time, Heihu Zhizao has not ignored those small and medium-sized customers.
“Adding several points together, our network effect is quite obvious.” This can be said to be most vividly reflected in the income of Heihu Zhizao – in 2020, which is like a “black swan”, the business growth rate will exceed 300% grade.
And just in February this year, Heihu Zhizao also completed a 500 million C round of financing led by Temasek. Counting the angel round in the early stage of entrepreneurship, in the five years since its establishment, Heihu Zhizao has conducted a total of five rounds of financing, with a cumulative total of more than 800 million yuan.
In addition, Heihu Zhizao has also become the second alumni enterprise of Suzhou Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Center. Microsoft Innovation Empowerment and Ecological Acceleration Program-Suzhou Artificial Intelligence Industry Innovation Center is the first project of Microsoft Innovation Empowerment and Ecological Acceleration Program in the world. It integrates operational investment experience, focuses on the new generation of information technology industry led by artificial intelligence, and conducts unified recruitment and selection nationwide. The second phase will accelerate 15-20 high-quality projects, support the transformation and upgrading of 20 projects, and assist Large enterprises jointly build an innovation ecosystem.