Behind the Term Sheet: Meet Pulsar, the AI Startup Out to Optimize Manufacturing in Latam & the US

Cathay Innovation
5 min readFeb 29, 2024

Real-time OEE monitoring & optimization for manufacturing excellence

Written by Federico Gómez Romero, Seaya Cathay Latam; edited by Jaclyn Hartnett, Cathay Innovation

In the dynamic and competitive manufacturing landscape, efficiency and optimization are not just desirable goals but essential requirements for success. However, even market leaders still rely on manual methods to keep account of their uptime and equipment efficiency, leading to lower output and higher production costs.

In fact — Pulsar, an industry leader in AI-driven analytics for manufacturing operations, has found that, unbeknownst to managers, most machines operate below 50% capacity. This is precisely why the Palo Alto-founded company developed its unique technology, leveraging AI and sensors that can easily be installed in any production plant to measure Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) with impressive accuracy. The goal? Empowering businesses to achieve manufacturing excellence.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce our investment in Pulsar’s recent $8M funding round, including COMETA, Kayyak Ventures, AC Ventures and us at Seaya Cathay Latam. The new financing will help the company further expand R&D efforts and offer a more holistic solution to its clients while accelerating international expansion across Latin America and the US. We look forward to supporting this effort with our global network of offices and leading corporations across industries. Following our last investment in Kuona, we’re doubling down on our strategy in backing B2B SaaS startups that will become regional and global leaders. Here’s why we believe Pulsar fits the bill…

Pulsar founders Matias Castillo, Juan Cristóbal Ruiz-Tagle and Cristian Bartolome

Latam’s massive nearshoring opportunity Vs. the limitations of traditional OEE monitoring methods

Following the pandemic-era disruption of global supply chains, and subsequent geo-political tensions, Latin America now has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a global industrial leader.

Investment in nearshoring, an industrial strategy involving the relocation of factories and production to neighboring countries, is booming in Latin America thanks to its highly skilled workforce, favorable business environment and proximity to the United States. According to estimates by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), “Nearshoring could add an annual $78 billion in additional exports of goods and services in Latin America and the Caribbean in the near and medium term, with opportunities for quick wins in the auto industry, textiles, pharmaceuticals, and renewable energy”, some of the sectors where Pulsar’s technology is already being applied.

Take Mexico for instance, recently becoming the top US trading partner while major companies like Tesla have announced plans to bring a $5B factory to the country. To seize the nearshoring and trade boom opportunity (particularly with the bordering US), there is no margin of error for manufacturers in the region — who are in a race to increase production levels and standards.

However, traditional methods of OEE monitoring are often manual, time-consuming and prone to errors. They rely on data collection from various sources, including sensors, production logs, and operator input. This fragmented approach leads to delays in data analysis and decision-making, and to managers often underestimating the underusage of production lines by 20%-30%, hindering the ability to identify and address performance issues promptly.

Enter Pulsar — cutting edge technology embraces AI to serve multiple industries

Launched in 2020 in Palo Alto, Pulsar has demonstrated impressive early traction, monitoring thousands of machines across Mexico, Chile and the US. Already serving 45 enterprise customers, Pulsar is present in over 100 factories in diverse sectors including metal, food processing, automotive, plastics, bottlers and cement. Its reliable real-time data offers a +20% productivity boost to production lines by facilitating rapid issue resolution and downtime reduction.

Pulsar was founded by a team of engineers — Matias Castillo, Juan Cristóbal Ruiz-Tagle and Cristian Bartolome — with robust research backgrounds in Artificial Intelligence and extensive practical experience in manufacturing operations and industrial automation. With the mission of guiding manufacturing companies on the journey to digital transformation, increasing efficiency and optimizing production capacity in Latin America and the United States, the company already works with world-class clients such as Femsa, Sigma, Gruma, Metalsa, Deacero and Cemex.

Pulsar eliminates the drawbacks of traditional OEE monitoring by providing a comprehensive and real-time solution. It allows factory managers to make data-driven decisions based on real-time production analytics from its proprietary algorithms and hardware, which is connected to a machines’ electric current. Installation can be achieved seamlessly within hours with a simple set-up, without requiring any equipment intervention, and thanks to AI, it is applicable to machines of varying complexity. The data collected by sensors is then aggregated, analyzed, and visualized in real-time, providing manufacturers with a clear and actionable picture of their facility’s OEE.

Key features and benefits:

  • Real-time OEE monitoring: Track OEE performance in real-time, enabling the identification and addressing of performance issues as they occur.
  • Production control: Track production and work orders in real-time, deepening understanding of how orders are produced and the associated costs to help get products to customers on time.
  • Granular data insights: Gain insights into the root causes of downtime, allowing for targeted improvement initiatives.
  • Actionable insights: Receive actionable recommendations for improving OEE, facilitating data-driven decision-making.
  • Scalable and flexible: Pulsar’s cloud-based architecture scales to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes and complexities.

Importantly, Pulsar is strategically positioned to capitalize on Mexico’s growing trade importance and supports the nearshoring trend — helping Mexican factories expand their capacity while assisting U.S. manufacturers in cost reduction.

Parting thoughts: right place, right time as Latam poised to become industrial & technological leader

The massive nearshoring trend will certainly position Latin America as one of the top industrial actors. However, Latam is also poised to give birth to leading tech companies. With investments pouring into the region in the past few years, and exceptional talent committed to solving structural problems with technology, we have seen the rise of world-leading companies such as Mercado Libre, Nubank, and Auth0 with more to come.

In this perfect storm, Pulsar stands as a powerful ally for industrial businesses seeking to optimize their operations with the use of advanced technology. At Seaya Cathay Latam, we remain committed to investing in transformative startups that are building the next global businesses out of Latin America and look forward to getting to work with the Pulsar team.

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Cathay Innovation

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