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Exclusive: Pico MES raises $12.4M led by Bosch Ventures

A worker at a Tritium factory uses Pico MES tech. Photo: Courtesy of Pico MES.

Factory automation startup Pico MES has closed a $12.4 million round, the company tells Axios exclusively, as it seeks to expand its customer base and grow its team.

Why it matters: The U.S. is undergoing a manufacturing boom, but small and medium-size factories have had fewer software and data tools available to connect the factory floor, drive efficiency and reduce errors.

Details: Bosch Ventures, the venture arm of automotive supplier Bosch, led the round. New investors Momenta and Counterpart Ventures also joined in.

  • Existing investors Congruent Ventures, the VC arm of energy company Schneider Electric, Lemnos, and Union Labs also participated.
  • Pico MES co-founder and CEO Ryan Kuhlenbeck previously worked in manufacturing at General Motors, Tesla and Alta Motors.
  • The company, founded in 2019, has 30 deployments with customers, including EV charging company Tritium and battery pack startup Lithos Energy.

Of note: "Having reliable data streams coming off the factory floor is extremely valuable," said the CEO of Lithos Energy James Meredith.

Big picture: Manufacturing execution systems, which makes up the MES in Pico's name, have been around for years, and companies that operate the largest factories commonly work with suppliers like Rockwell Automation.

  • But "98% of factories have less than 500 employees," says Kuhlenbeck, and the technology needs to be more nimble, more quickly deployed and more affordable.
  • "In order for factories to remain competitive they need to digitize their labor‐intensive production setups," Ingo Ramesohl, managing director of Bosch Ventures, said in a statement.
  • Low-cost chips, ubiquitous wireless networks, smart algorithms and cloud computing are enabling the future of the connected factory.
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