After years of leaning on China to manufacture its electronic wonders at a low cost, Silicon Valley’s factory of the future may soon be located just up the highway in the heart of San Francisco.
Tempo, a low-volume electronics manufacturer, said today that it has raised $20 million to build a “smart” factory in the city. The facility will be 42,000 square feet and lean on Tempo’s advanced software to create an efficient, effective manufacturing process that can deliver affordable gadgets in one of the nation’s most expensive places to live.
The company says that its manufacturing process allows for a flexibility and speed that is critical for companies seeking to churn out new consumer electronics at an accelerated pace.
“Whether they’re building products from rockets to medical devices to autonomous cars, today’s leading companies are racing to get their ideas and concepts to market faster,” said Tempo CEO Jeff McAlvay, in a statement. “Yet the tools to design and manufacture hardware have not improved in decades. When developing new software, it would be unimaginable to have to wait weeks and trade tens of phone calls and emails just to see if your code works or not. Yet that’s the daily experience of electrical engineers today.”
The expansion for the manufacturing startup comes amid increased talk of “Industry 4.0.” The dream that sensors, connectivity, artificial intelligence, and new materials will revolutionize all facets of production is starting to be realized across a wide range of industries. Of course, tech companies have in general been under pressure from President Trump to bring more of their overseas manufacturing back to the U.S.
In the case of Tempo, which is currently located in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood, its manufacturing service helps hardware companies rapidly prototype new products. In its connected factory, customers can upload design information directly to machines in the facilities that allow for a quicker turnaround. The same manufacturing line can be used to build up to 15 different products in one day.
“In the same way that when a consumer makes an order on Amazon, the software is connected to Amazon’s warehouses, inventory systems, robots on the warehouse floor, and then shipping and delivery, Tempo’s connected factory is bringing that same digital thread to custom manufacturing so every step of the process — from design data to machines to material vendors and to technicians — is interconnected, which results in our customers being able to iterate up to 5 times faster,” said Shashank Samala, Tempo’s cofounder and vice president of product, in a statement.
The new factory, which will be located up the road in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, will have five such production lines. Tempo reports that its revenue grew 500 percent last year. With the new money, the company plans to grow its staff from 60 to 100.
The investment round was led by P72 Ventures and included money from existing investors Lux Capital, Uncork Capital, and AME, as well as new investors such as Dolby Ventures, Industry Ventures, and Cendana.