The Center for Data Innovation spoke with Neil D’Souza, CEO and founder of Makersite—a company headquartered in Germany that uses AI, data, and apps to enable decision-making at scale for manufacturers. D’Souza discussed the benefits of life cycle analysis and how AI can help businesses focus on sustainability in their supply chains.
Kir Nuthi: What is life cycle analysis?
Neil D’Souza: Life cycle analysis (LCA) is a method used to understand and evaluate the environmental impact of a product through each stage of its life—including extraction of raw materials, production, distribution, use, and end of life. By looking at design or buying choices and how they influence the environmental impact of a product at each of these stages, one can avoid solving a problem in production, for example, while creating unforeseen problems at the end of life. LCA also provides a mathematical basis for quantifying these impacts. For example, an impact like climate change is influenced differently by emissions such as CO2 and methane. These gases can be emitted at different stages where a kilogram of methane has 30 times the impact of CO2. Another amazing innovation of the approach is that it enables comparing vastly different products through the concept of functional use. With it, you can compare an apple and an orange through their functional use of providing the body with calories.
While LCA is an incredibly valuable tool for product innovation, life cycle thinking can be used to optimize across non-environmental dimensions like regulatory compliance, safety, risk, and cost. This is the core thinking behind Makersite. Unfortunately, these analyses are extremely complicated and need lots of data, expertise, and time to complete. I believe it’s the main reason for slow adoption despite being around for more than 40 years. Makersite changes that.
Nuthi: Which industries are likely to benefit from a software-as-a-service like Makersite?
D’Souza: Any company that manufactures a product can benefit from Makersite’s databases, AI, and apps. However, Makersite is particularly game-changing for companies that struggle with complexity. Companies with a large number of products, or even a few highly complex products, benefit most from its capabilities. Makersite is also a highly automated system, so it requires a certain level of data maturity to take full advantage of its capabilities. We’ve found that manufacturing enterprises in building & construction, chemical, automotive, electronics, and consumer goods sectors are an extremely good fit.
Nuthi: What differentiates Makersite from other organizations that bring automation and efficient analysis to supply chains?
D’Souza: When you hear of supply chain analytics, most companies mean logistics. When they talk about automation in procurement, they mostly mean source-to-pay tools. When we talk about supply chain analysis, we’re talking about everything from raw material extraction all the way to the end-of-life of the products a company makes and sells. This is where most of the value is hidden—up to 90 percent.
We look at deep-tier supply chains in a fully transparent, multi-dimensional view. Take a car, for example. Its body is white, and the car’s frame is typically stamped steel sheets. Steel sheets are rolled from steel ingots. Ingots are the product of mining and smelting. We look at each step, what we call a unit process, and render information about manufacturers, inputs to the process, outputs, regulations, costs, environmental impacts, and 30 other characteristics. This enables our customers to make high-impact, high-quality decisions about supply chains and understand the tradeoffs.
Working with unknowns is another area in that we excel. Ninety percent of value may sit in the upstream supply chain, but very few customers have information about even tier 1 suppliers. It is, therefore, crucial to work with unknowns while still delivering high-quality results and enabling customers to get specific where it matters. We have a unique, proprietary approach to this.
Nuthi: Your website says Makersite can help businesses automate their way to net zero. How does Makersite focus on sustainability and help its clients focus on sustainability?
D’Souza: Instead of mapping the supply chain through manual data collection and time-intensive interaction with suppliers, Makersite uses cutting-edge software and data to automatically create a product’s digital twin.
With our comprehensive product data and supply chain coverage, teams can easily import their product bill of materials (BOM) onto the platform to automatically build a complete supply chain model. This way, they can access a complete picture of their supply chain beyond Tier 1, deliver results faster, and understand their lower-tier suppliers’ sourcing, regulatory, and sustainability implications. Once the product and its supply chain are fully modeled and enriched with the company and Makersite’s data, it only takes a couple of hours to establish a complete Scope 3 baseline that enables them to track progress and improve on reporting. Thanks to our extended LCA data (based on databases such as ecoinvent, Agribalyse, USDA, etc.), our clients can perform full LCAs and Scope 3 assessments in minutes. The clever visualization, the simple interface, and the level of detail available make it easy to gather insights in record time. In parallel, our AI-powered suggestion engine highlights relevant alternatives. At the same time, our multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) tool allows our client to compare alternatives across criteria such as cost, compliance, sustainability, and more.
Nuthi: You’ve received €18 million in your series A round. What is the next series of goals for the company?
D’Souza: Our main focus is to expand our delivery capacities to support current and new customers. By investing in our database, AI capabilities, and customer service, we want to provide even greater transparency across supply chains and, therefore, increase the number of sustainable decisions made around the globe. To support this, we also work on growing our U.S. business by building out our sales and marketing team. We plan to grow to a 200-person-strong company in the next 24 months.
We believe that the way to truly have an impact on how the industry makes products of the future will have to integrate into the existing systems that product and procurement teams use. Partner integrations like the one with Autodesk will be a core technology focus for the near term. You will see us working with integrators and value-added resellers, enabling us to unlock further scale.