Imagine the following: A diamond-mining company operating with self-driving trucks loads its haul of ore to the processing plant, where rough diamonds are separated from waste and arranged in their rough forms into different sizes before being sent for further aggregation. The goods are fed into machines that determine their color and clarity potential while also assessing where the stone fits best amid the many assortment options. The diamonds are then run through the company’s computer-based planning mechanism, which analyzes how to get the optimal polished yield.
From there, the stones go to the polishing department, where machines use artificial intelligence (AI) to carry out the cutting and polishing process. The resulting diamond receives a grade via automated systems covering the four Cs. It then gets shipped to the jeweler or end-consumer, and all its information is uploaded to a blockchain or cloud-based traceability program.
That process was presented as a real possibility in a panel discussion at the Dubai Diamond Conference in September, which revolved around the theme of “Disruption in Diamonds.” The session posed the question: How will increased manufacturing automation affect our supply chain? Moderator Anish Aggarwal, founder of consultancy Gemdax, probed further: What will automation mean for the hundreds of thousands of workers employed in the manufacturing sector? And how long before we get to full automation of the manufacturing process?
The answer, the panelists agreed, is sooner than you think.
“There is pressure in the market and strong demand for a solution,” stated Bernold Richerzhagen, founder and CEO of Synova, which that same week launched DaVinci — an automated cutting and shaping system for diamonds. “We’re ready to propose the solution, and it’s a question of how long it will take to implement.”
Diamonds in a day
The push toward automation stems from the lack of efficiency in diamond distribution channels, asserted David Block, CEO of Sarine technologies, which provides equipment used in diamond manufacturing. The fact that there are over 100 steps in the manufacturing process is a case in point, he added.
The trade’s inability to manufacture according to consumer demand has resulted in the excess stock of a year or two being stuck in the pipeline, Block continued. While it can take about a year for a newly mined rough diamond to make it to the market at present, technology can shorten the cycle by helping the trade adapt the rough to what the consumer wants, he said.