Home » Bringing AI Manufacturing Innovation to the Table with Talli Zahavi from Tnuva

Bringing AI Manufacturing Innovation to the Table with Talli Zahavi from Tnuva

A group of happy dairy cows look into the camera

As an innovation and digital manager at the biggest dairy enterprise in Israel, Talli Zahavi brings big-data smarts to manufacturing dietary staples consumed daily by millions of people. “When I bring innovation to production, the production line creates more for our customers.”

Talli Zahavi is a big-picture thinker who knows that solving real-world problems requires getting down into the details.

Talli Zahavi, Innovation and Digital Manager

After earning her degree in Information Systems Engineering from the prestigious Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Talli first worked for Amdocs, a multinational telecommunications technology company. After about a decade with the company, she returned to the Technion to pursue her master’s degree, which she earned in 2010 with honors, focusing on strategic management and entrepreneurship. Then, she joined the Technion as a teaching assistant, and also held multiple roles in their Knowledge Center for Innovation.

During that time, Talli developed a passion for the value that innovation and technology can deliver all companies and economies. “Israel is well known for our high-tech sector,” she says. “And it’s undoubtedly important – it’s the engine of our economy. However, we cannot rely on just one industry to drive our economy.”

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“We dive into the challenges that don’t have solutions and scout out new technologies that may bring value and a competitive edge to our business.”

As the old adage goes, “If you aren’t growing, you’re dying.” Talli appreciates that in today’s world this is particularly true. The lessons she gained at the Technion and the Knowledge Center for Innovation helped her evaluate what industries and sectors were ripe for innovation. Manufacturing stood out. “If industrial manufacturing companies are not strong enough, then the economy will not survive. So I began learning about manufacturing. And for Israeli manufacturing to be competitive, we’ve got to innovate.

When a project manager role leading digital innovation opened up at Tnuva, Israel’s largest dairy manufacturer, Talli saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

Leaning Into Manufacturing Challenges

“The work our team does is so exciting,” Talli says. “We dive into the challenges that don’t have solutions and scout out new technologies that may bring value and a competitive edge to our business. This is how we came across Augury’s Process Health solution. Our dairy technologists were looking for ways to increase the yield and quality on some of our production processes. We evaluated different potential solutions and narrowed it down to Augury.”

Talli’s team deployed Augury’s Process Health solution at their Alon Tavor facility on one of their largest cheese production processes. Process Health is designed to analyze process performance and provide insights on how to improve it. This includes guidance on adjusting things like temperature, duration, and adapting to raw material properties. 

The deployment with Augury was successful. “Now it is used regularly to identify those small changes we can make to optimize our processes and output – something we couldn’t do previously.” Tnuva is now looking to extend the work they’re doing with Augury and implement Machine Health technology in their sites, too. 

The value Talli and her colleagues bring to Tnuva extends beyond the plant floor. “When I bring innovation to production, the production line creates more for our customers. In the case of Tnuva that means more milk, cottage cheese, mozzarella, brie, camembert, goat cheese, and even many lactose-free products to each Israeli household at every meal.”  

“In IT, we use and talk about big data, AI, and machine learning all the time. But we are a manufacturing company, and our employees don’t necessarily know what these terms mean and how they can be helpful in production. So we created a training program, and people throughout Tnuva could apply to become a part of it.”

Spreading the Innovative Mindset

Talli is passionate about creating a mindset shift around innovation not just for Tnuva’s IT Teams, but for the entire company. Developing “citizen data scientists” is an example of this.  

“In IT, we use and talk about big data, AI, and machine learning all the time. But we are a manufacturing company, and our employees don’t necessarily know what these terms mean and how they can be helpful in production. So we created a training program, and people throughout Tnuva could apply to become a part of it.”

This was no ordinary training program. The employees who were selected to participate attended courses about machine learning and then created a project applying what they learned to real life environments. Talli supported the process, ensuring participants had the tech infrastructure needed for their project.

“My job was to introduce these students to new technology, escort and support them as they evaluated different challenges, and mentor them as they experimented using new technologies to solve those challenges.”  

The best part? The training program included an element of competition. Employees presented projects to Tnuva’s management, and prizes were awarded for their innovations.

“I think in the 21st century, data science has to extend beyond the IT department,” Talli says. “People throughout the organization need to know the added value, strength, and benefits it can bring to their jobs.”

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