What do artificial intelligence and pudding have in common?
If you ask Alpha Strauss and the innovative Israeli startup n-Join, the answer is quite a lot. In fact, for the last two years, n-Join has been using its proprietary AI-powered technology to help make Strauss’ production of their trademark pudding snacks — and other hugely popular products — even more efficient than the company’s already-high standards entail.
n-Join was founded in late 2014 on an exciting and challenging idea: to use artificial intelligence algorithms, plug-and-play implementation, and the billions of data samples living and flowing within production networks to quickly and painlessly transform nearly any factory into a smart factory. The company was founded by a trio of childhood Israeli friends — production engineering veteran Haim Piratinskiy, networking and IT expert Elkana Porag, and computer science PhD Or Biran — and in 2015, the trio found a powerful partner in Alpha Strauss.
From the very first days of the companies’ collaboration, the idea of n-Join’s technology resonated with Strauss. Led by senior food technologist Guy Tsur, the Strauss team not only worked with n-Join to implement the innovative system into their production lines, but also to serve as full development partners, helping n-Join test and refine their system in a real world, high-tech food and beverage production setting.
Within Strauss’ central dairy facility, n-Join’s technology has been applied in use cases focusing on predictive maintenance, identifying the root cause of production problems, and finding ways to improve overall efficiency. To date, Strauss continues to work with n-Join to help the startup innovate new features, including n-Join’s cutting-edge anomaly detection capabilities, which allow the system to help identify potentially damaging changes in factory operations before they become disruptive and costly.
n-Join’s collaboration with Strauss has been a success both on the production floor and in the industry as a whole. Tsur was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal talking about the use of n-Join’s technology.
To learn more about n-Join and see if the company’s plug-and-play, AI-powered productivity tool is right for your own production lines, visit www.n-join.com.
This “simplicity” officially saw the light of day around five years ago, but it actually started long before then. Generations of Achla technologists never stopped thinking, planning and trying to manufacture hummus of this kind. Sometimes efforts just failed, sometimes it was too expensive, and sometimes investing in the equipment was out of the question.
What was clear to everyone, however, was that no loose thread would be left unraveled and no stone unturned, but the mission seemed impossible: remove the preservatives and retain the flavor and manufacture the product at a reasonable cost?
And then, five years ago, we identified a new heating technology at Alpha Strauss, one that allows products to be heated using a method that is so smart and accurate that their flavor is not affected. We brought all the technologists from all our business units in Israel together at a workshop hosted by a young startup company to see, play and imagine. We hoped that the “bait” would hook the tech people, and to tell the truth we weren’t surprised when the people from the salad company were the first to suggest using the technology to manufacture preservative-free hummus.
We approached entrepreneurs to look into development possibilities. The development of a prototype for a machine came at a hefty price of over one million dollars… At this point we stepped up the process and embarked on a worldwide search for companies using the same technology for other purposes. After several months we found a few, and one of them – an Italian company – matched the profile. Although the company does not specialize in food, it definitely specializes in technology, and as opposed to other companies, its employees had that sparkle in their eyes that aspires to doing new things. The love affair began when we sent Guy Tsur, a senior technologist in Strauss Israel’s engineering HQ who has a lot of experience in salads, dips and spreads in Israel and at Sabra, to Italy. After two trips by Guy and a visit by the Italians to Israel it was obvious that there was definitely an iron in the fire…
This time, under the joint leadership of the salad company, engineering HQ and Alpha, we built a development plan together with the Italian firm and sought supplementary funding from the R&D program run by the Israel Innovation Authority at the Ministry of Economics (formerly the Chief Scientist). Once the plan was approved we faced a long development process of some 18 months, with the team running production trials in Italy, testing the results in Israel and so forth. When the trials were completed we had preservative-free hummus with a long shelf life, and the taste wasn’t bad.
But “not bad” is not good enough for us, and we had to take another risk: to be certain that we were able to manufacture a perfect product, there was no choice but to build a new production line in Karmiel. The investment was approved by the unit management and the management of Strauss Israel, and the teams set out to plan a completely new production line to manufacture hummus on the basis of the joint development with the Italians. The entire planning and execution process was managed by the engineering and tech teams of Strauss Israel and the salad company.
Then, another six months of procurement and setup, and six more months of development, testing and various regulatory approvals, with everyone determined to introduce a simple product (which turned out to be not at all simple) to market, but armed with a lot of patience and effort it certainly is possible.
Thus, the 100% Achla preservative-free Hummus series was born.