In the three decades since I founded OPTEL, technology has evolved in ways I could only have imagined when I was a college student. Back then, we still used perforated cards. It was the very beginning of the age of computers.

When I graduated from university and decided to start OPTEL as an electronic optical vision company, I toured manufacturing plants to get the lay of the land. Computers at that time were not linked to each other; it was really basic. There were no sensors, no vision systems on the production lines. The processors of the day were simply not powerful enough.

Of course, it was possible to link computers so that the production lines could communicate information to other parts of the manufacturing plant, but very few manufacturers were doing it. Conducting vision analysis on the production lines required a very expensive box the size of three refrigerators. These were early days in the evolution of technology.

vision systems - Blog

At OPTEL, we set out to do something no one had done before because we envisioned a future where every aspect of production could be tracked, traced and communicated through shared data.

When we developed our optical vision system, it was the size of a shoebox and performed the same functions as the mega-refrigerator. We were at the forefront of capturing data from production lines, improving quality, speed and performance, helping operators to manage all the documentation involved in running a manufacturing plant.

This was in the early 1990s, and it was the start of the digitalization of supply chains. And it had to start with vision systems on production lines because you can’t digitalize processes if you don’t have a system that is capable of capturing production data.

Over time, OPTEL made a place and a name for itself providing vision systems to the pharmaceutical sector, and as we continued to evolve, we were able to do deeper data analysis that provided tremendous value to the industry. A good example is the Slat Counter, which was the ultimate vision system, able to analyze 60,000 pills per minute, detecting colors, anomalies and other information that continues to help the pharma industry to ensure the safety and quality of its products to this day.


The next logical step in OPTEL’s evolution was the development of supply chain traceability. Before that, production lines were disconnected from IT and ERPs. Everything was paper based. There was no automation of the exchange processes between the corporate demands for production and the production lines themselves.

Traceability changed all that, and it was a necessary step because the pharma industry was now subject to regulations that demanded it. The disconnect between the various levels of production was no longer permissible, and the solution was traceability.

Because of OPTEL’s expertise in vision inspection and our evolving technologies, we were in a position to control the flow of data between production lines and the other systems inside the manufacturing plant, so it made sense for us to take the company in that direction.

So we went from being strictly a vision company to being a controller or multiplexer of data. Because we were already on the production lines, we were in a natural position to build that bridge, automating procurement, order fulfillment and production planning.

Obviously, it wasn’t easy because the systems in place in manufacturing plants at the time were not designed to communicate with each other, which means a lot of customization was required.

vision systems - Blog


It was another step in OPTEL’s evolution, and it was a huge step forward along the road to the operational intelligence that companies now require if they want to survive and thrive in the new global economy of Industry 4.0.

So we began to develop software professional services, an integral component of what we at OPTEL call the Intelligent Supply Chain, which we see as the supply chain of the future. It became clear in 2017-2018 that systems could no longer be disconnected from one another. 

What happens at Level 1 has to be visible and useful to levels 3, 4 and 5. You have to be able to see where the data has come from before it reached your manufacturing plant, and where it goes after it leaves. The Intelligent Supply Chain aims to accomplish exactly that. 

It all comes down to the quantity and quality of data that can be collected and leveraged to gain total visibility on your operations. That visibility is what allows you to build operational intelligence because you have real-time granular data on the flow of all your processes and materials, from start to finish.

vision systems - Blog


Another key component of operational intelligence is the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which, by a strange coincidence, started around the end of the 1990s with vision systems. It’s vision technology that allows operators to generate the enormous amounts of detailed, structured data required for AI to do its work.

In fact, the vision system captures more data than any other system in a manufacturing plant. If you take a single pixel in an image, for example, that pixel can show you everything, including the nature, color and state of whatever the image depicts. This level of data allows AI algorithms to detect anomalies, recognize patterns, empower operators to make informed decisions and ultimately improve overall business performance.

In this sense, OPTEL’s story has a logic to it. We are leaders in traceability today because we started with vision systems that had the potential to do all this. If we hadn’t had vision systems, we would never have become leaders in traceability.

By being leaders in traceability, we then become leaders in operational intelligence, because the quality of the images we take and the power of our traceability technologies provide the data required to feed operational intelligence. That’s our differentiator.

Contact Us