I just finished watching a webcast presentation and demonstration of the Kenandy Manufacturing Cloud. In case you are unfamiliar with the name, this is Sandy Kurtzig’s new company. Anyone who has been in this business as long as I have knows who Sandy is, but for those from the younger set, Sandy was the founder of ASK Computer Systems back in 1974. As I listened and watched I was struck by two opposing thoughts:
1. How much things have changed since I worked for ASK from 1984 to 1994. It used to be me giving those presentations and demos.
2. How much some things stay the same
In the 1980’s, as the market was making the shift from mainframes to minicomputers, there were two camps – the IBM camp and the non-IBM camp. ASK, with its MANMAN product running first on the HP3000 and then (also) on DEC VAX (and later Alpha), was the definitive leader of the non-IBM camp. SSA pretty much led the field on the IBM side. Back then there were two ways you could deliver a demo. Either the prospect came to one of your regional offices, or you went to their manufacturing facility and used a 1200 BAUD modem to dial in to do the demo over a phone line. This was after you had given your presentation – not using PowerPoint mind you, but using a carousel full of slides and a slide projector. Customizing meant reordering or removing some of the slides. You see, we didn’t have laptops back then and there was no Internet. Was 1984 really only 28 years ago? Seems like it must be a couple of lifetimes ago – at least.
So what has stayed the same? In many ways the demo flow and business processes that Jennifer Roberts, the senior solutions consultant demonstrated were the same as those I used to demonstrate in 1984. I generally started with the item master. Then I would enter a sales order, go through the planning cycle to produce, ship and invoice, purchasing components along the way. She started with the item master. Then we took a sales order, which of course could have been automatically generated from an opportunity in Salesforce.com (although not a prerequsite). OK, I didn’t do that. I just entered a quote and then converted it into a sales order. Then she did some planning… You can see where I’m going with this. Hmmm…
The big difference – Jennifer got through the entire scenario and also created a custom report (that she put right on her dashboard) in about 40 minutes. It probably would have taken me the entire day to do this on green screen MANMAN and I would have had to do a demo of Cognos’ QUIZ product to come anywhere near creating a custom report (without the nifty pie chart). That would probably have been another day. And we’re talking state of the art for 1984.
So today, Kenandy’s solution is delivered as a service (as in Software as a Service or SaaS). And the folks from Kenandy are quick to point out that it is “manufacturing management built for the cloud” using Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform. As a result, much of what Sandy had to develop specifically and exclusively for MANMAN (in Fortran) came already pre-packaged and ready to use. But there is more to this than just a technical platform. In formulating a vision and a philosophy behind Kenandy, Sandy not only recognized the seismic technology shifts that have occurred since the ‘70’s and ‘80’s but also perceived a shift in the way manufacturing is done.
While we had outsourced operations and purchased subassemblies even back 30 years ago, we didn’t have the level of outsourcing, offshoring and near shoring that we see today. Sandy picked up on a shift from vertically integrated manufacturing to what Kenandy now calls horizontally integrated manufacturing. Actually I don’t believe this is really new. Let me share an excerpt from a book with you….
“The strongest companies in the past were those that were vertically integrated. By being self-sufficient through each step of the entire process of transforming pure raw materials into a finished consumable good, and taking the added responsibility of delivering that product to the end customer, the strongest chain has been forged. By having a single company responsible for all of the steps in the entire process, that company has the greatest possible control, the least contention for materials and the best chance of synchronizing all the necessary components of the process.
“However, there are inherent weaknesses in this approach. While it reduces the tension between the links, this is basically the most rigid of supply chains. Because no company can achieve excellence in everything, this approach is most likely to produce a weak link and is susceptible to failure as a result….
“While companies have tended to become less vertically integrated in attempts to focus on their core competencies, this has also necessitate new ways of companies doing business with each other… These new business models involve multiple companies working cooperatively and collaboratively together in a seemingly seamless manner, as if they were a single, virtually vertical enterprise.”
This happens to be an excerpt from my book, ERP Optimization, which was written in 2002 (yes, 10 years ago) and published in 2003. I spent several years prior to this travelling around the world speaking about this concept of virtually vertical manufacturing. I believe this is what Kenandy is actually delivering and calling horizontally integrated manufacturing. So while I am obviously a big believer in the concept, I don’t regard it as particularly new. But it is gratifying to finally see a company zeroing in on providing tools for this coordination and collaboration and cloud based solutions indeed provide a leg up.
Interestingly enough, back in the day, one of my favorite quotes from Sandy Kurtzig was, “Writing software is like having a baby. You can’t put nine women on it and do it in a month.” Nonetheless, with the powerful tools available to her from Force.com and the backing of big names in the industry like Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com) and Ray Lane (Kleiner Perkins) she appears to have indeed brought her new baby to market in record time.