When machines go down in a manufacturing facility, it’s costly and all too often “When a machine breaks, you know until it happens,” says Justin Rothwell, co-founder and CEO of ProAxion. The Cary-based company, just incorporated in September, is developing what it calls a “check engine light for big machines.”

Rothwell and his co-founder Elliot Poger, CTO, met at the Triangle Startup Weekend at the American Underground in June. They discussed the idea Rothwell had in his head for years and started working together in August.

Portable sensors make it possible for mid-sized manufacturing operations with machines that have rotating parts – gearboxes, rollers, conveyors, pumps, fans, compressors and so on – to get an early warning that a machine is about to fail.

Many facilities such as paper mills, have large rollers, and many also use fans to collect dust and if they fail, a facility has to shut down. “It’s critical equipment with an impact on the function of the plant,” explains Rothwell.

“The sensor technology has been around for years but was usually too expensive and only used at facilities with an extremely high cost of failure such as nuclear plants,” Rothwell notes. This is a great opportunity for mid-sized manufacturers. Its never been used in the mid-tier. It was a $50,000 to $200,000 solution that had to be hard wired and needed a powerful on site computer to analyze the data.

Now, though, Rothwell says, “Wireless sensors are cost effective these day and we do the computing in the cloud.”

What they bring to the party

Poger, a former Google employee, adds, “What we bring to the party is predictive maintenance to this new class of manufacturers. We’ve dramatically lowered the cost and made deployment easier and use simpler.”

Think about the engine light in your car, he suggests. “It doesn’t provide super detailed information. It tells you something needs to be looked at. This does the same.”

Both entrepreneurs like the idea that their technology could make U.S. manufacturing more competitive. “Being able to contribute to the economy excites me,” Rothwell says.

The company, bootstrapped thus far, just installed a system for its first customer, a large Fortune 100 company in the Research Triangle. While the technology is still in beta, they plan more installations this fall.

The company plans to raise a seed round to help support its formal launch next year.