QAD CEO Speaks To Recent Acquisitions

While I was researching the QAD acquisition of RedZone, I noticed the prominence of something called “Adaptive Solutions.” When I mentioned I was curious about what that meant in beyond marketing terms, the PR team went to work and set up a conference call with QAD CEO Anton Chilton.

He told me, “The pace of change facing manufacturers has required a real-time response to situations. Industry models are changing. For instance, look at the automotive industry transitioning to electric vehicles. So they need solutions to adapt to rapid change.”

This explanation comes from the company’s website under the manufacturing tab—Digital manufacturing fully integrates planning, scheduling, quality, cost management, material movement and shop floor control. The solution allows manufacturers to leverage advanced digital manufacturing technologies to better communicate, analyze and use information to meet cost and quality objectives. Build a strong foundation for lean manufacturing concepts that eliminates waste throughout your operations. QAD’s manufacturing ERP capabilities also adapt to any style of manufacturing and to the unique needs of a geographic location and industry.

I mentioned that my experience and coverage usually ended with the MES layer. I have only a little ERP experience. Chilton said, “Some people see ERP as something like concrete poured in the form and left to harden. Enter a platform emphasizing no-code or low-code where users can build new capabilities on it without intrusive customization.” That sounds like a step in the right direction.

We spoke of the meaning of the RedZone acquisition. “We speak of the foundation of people, process, systems,” he said. “We due process and systems well with our current portfolio. With the RedZone acquisition, we can better address the people part of the equation. RedZone is a pure SaaS play providing real-time information to front line workers. It’s in the hands of workers on a tablet configured to each person’s role. The secret sauce includes locking in best practices such as kaizen right in the system on the tablet.  The system encourages the team to work collaboratively.”

I’m always curious about integrating the new acquisition into the existing structure. “RedZone can take in information from directly from QAD. It offers deeper interpretation with deeper modules, such as enterprise quality management and others.”

How good is this application? Chilton—“on overage RedZone users have seen 42% increased productivity for medium sized companies and 20% for large enterprises. It scales because it’s implemented at the plant level. The improvements are typically seen within the first 90 days on average. It’s in 1,000 locations with 300,000 users.”

Only a few months earlier, QAD had acquired LiveJourney. Its product is a data mining and predictive modeling application. It offers analysis of real-time data on the fly. It compares patterns from the actual to the as-designed. Managers and workers can use the results to find constraints or other problems and attack them as part of their Lean continuous improvement.

eYs3D Launches One-Stop XINK Development Platform for Vision-Equipped Robots

The vision and streaming video area seems to be ripe for continued investment and innovation. I’ve discussed a few applications lately that look promising. Here is news of an underlying technology that will boost these other applications.

eYs3D, a silicon-design-AI computer vision solutions company, introduced at CES a state-of-the-art computer vision development platform for next-generation autonomous robotic applications such as AIoT (artificial intelligence of things), smart city, indoor cleaning robots, and outdoor agricultural robots for both industrial and retail sectors. 

XINK offers multiple benefits:

  • Industry 4.0 application readiness, via high-speed communications and conformance to IEEE 1588 standards
  • Effective power management, including with sleep and deep sleep modes for unused blocks, supporting always-on capability
  • Superior computing performance through the quad-core Cortex A55 and the 4.6 TOPS NPU in the eCV1 chip, which provides dedicated machine learning instructions, a patented neural network engine, and Tensor Processing Fabric
  • Highly flexible image and computer vision processing for domain-specific applications

The platform, called XINK, is both a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as well as a hardware and software development kit that is a cost-effective solution for design of safe, vision-capable mobile AI products equipped with field analysis, object recognition, obstacle detection, object tracking and following, and route planning functions.

XINK provides all the necessary elements for product development, including high-performance compute power, AI accelerator, I/O controls and Flexi-bus communication peripherals, smart power management and machine vision subsystems. The modular XINK platform takes care of low-level programming, freeing developers to use cut-and-paste coding for application-specific design while reducing design cycles for quicker commercialization.

The platform has H.264 compression for video streaming as well as Imaging Signal Processing (ISP) support features. XINK accepts image data from either an external ISP such as eYs3D’s separate eSP87x series stereo video and depth processor, or from the ISP soft code inside the XINK CPU. 

The edge AI processing is powered by eYs3D’s new eCV1 AI chip that incorporates four Core ARM 64-Bit CPUs and a 4.6 TOPS neural processor unit (NPU). An additional low power ARM Cortex M4 processor can be used as an MCU. The platform supports various AI inference tools including TensorFlow, TensorFlow Lite, PyTorch, Caffe, TVM and more.

ABB Divests Power Conversion Business

One more ABB news item. That company has made a flurry of news over the past several weeks.  ABB here has completed its portfolio divestments announced after some acquisitions in 2020. This one is the power conversion business for $505 million. ABB Ltd Chairman Peter Voser sees his firm acquiring between 5 to 10 small-to-medium enterprises a year to add to the company’s organic business, he said on Monday.

“Each division of ABB should be active in organic and inorganic strategies, which would see ABB acquiring between five to 10 small-to-medium business every year,” Voser told the Reuters Global Markets Forum on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting at Davos.

Definitely a major realignment of the company has reached a normal phase.

ABB has reached an agreement to sell its Power Conversion division to AcBel Polytech Inc. for $505 million in cash. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in the second half of 2023. Upon closing, ABB expects to record a small non-operational book gain in Income from operations on the sale. The Power Conversion division, formerly Lineage Power, was acquired by ABB as part of the GE Industrial Solutions acquisition in 2018 and is not core to ABB.

The division is based in Plano, Texas, USA, and employs roughly 1,500 employees worldwide, predominantly at three major sites and the US headquarters. It generated revenues of approximately $440 million and Income from operations of approximately $50 million in 2022, with a clear focus on the North American market.

AcBel is one of the global leaders in the manufacture and design of switching power supplies. Besides offering power solutions for a wide range of applications including PCs, smart home appliances, smartphones, servers, and networking equipment, AcBel also emphasizes opportunities in sustainable energy and electric vehicles. AcBel is headquartered in Taiwan with over 8,800 employees worldwide, the company aims to power the world with sustainable energy and high efficiency power supplies.

QAD Acquires Redzone

Software company consolidation maintains hectic pace. I think I missed the 2021 announcement of Thoma Bravo acquiring QAD. I became familiar with QAD through a contact from GE who wound up there. However, I can’t believe it’s been 7 years since I became acquainted with the company, attended its annual conference, and spoke on a panel with a lively Q&A from the audience.

In this news, QAD has acquired Redzone. QAD is an ERP software and services provider. It has a significant MES-type offering. I remember visiting at least one plant using the software. (Hint: I don’t get enough plant visits any more. They are enlightening.)

Redzone, billed as the “Worlds #1 Connected Workforce Platform,” adds a component to the portfolio with mobile software solutions that can improve communication and collaboration with frontline workers.

This is the second acquisition completed by QAD in the last two months – in December, QAD acquired Livejourney, a provider of a real-time process mining and predictive modeling solution designed to discover, monitor and improve business processes.

Redzone received a growth equity investment from Summit Partners in 2020 and has continued to deliver strong growth over the last several years. In 2022, the Company defied a slowing SaaS market, accelerating bookings growth to 46 percent, adding over 100 new clients and over 200 new plants by meeting the critical needs of manufacturers with its suite of frontline Productivity, Compliance, Reliability and Learning applications. Global manufacturers that benefit from the technology include the likes of Nestle, Post Holdings and Tyson.  

Labor productivity improvements directly impact efficiency. Productive and empowered employees increase the effective capacity of a manufacturing plant and accelerate time to productivity for new employees. This gives manufacturers the agility they need while also reducing the amount and impact of employee attrition.

Recent worker shortages have plagued manufacturers and are not going away – according to Deloitte, the labor shortfall is likely to reach 2.1 million and cost the economy $1 trillion by 2030. With the addition of Redzone, QAD now has a complete end-to-end solution for manufacturers to fully realize the potential of the Adaptive Enterprise from the shopfloor to the top floor, and from supplier to end customer.

Barclays served as financial advisor to Redzone, with Wilson Sonsini acting as legal counsel. Kirkland and Ellis LLP served as legal counsel to QAD and Thoma Bravo. 

Universal Robots Cobot Awareness and 2022 Results

Two items from Universal Robots recently came my way. One discusses new uses for Cobots, while the other reveals Universal’s growth in 2022.

Turnkey robotic solutions, complete with all hardware, software, sensors and interfaces, will be powerful automation drivers in 2023, according to Universal Robots

“In 2023, cobot automation will become more sophisticated yet more straightforward to use,” predicts Joe Campbell, senior manager of applications development and strategic marketing at Universal Robots (UR). “We are going to continue seeing phenomenal growth within complete robotic systems for applications such as welding, palletizing and machine tending, propelled by UR partners creating full solutions powered by our collaborative robot arms.”

Sales of UR cobots for integration in OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) solutions grew about 50% in 2022. UR enters the new year with more than 80 OEM partners integrating UR cobots in turnkey systems, and over 300 UR+ partners launching application kits and components certified to work seamlessly with the UR cobots.

A significant share of new cobot-powered turnkey systems now handle welding applications. UR’s welding channel grew over 80% in 2022 as new cobot welders hit factory floors in places such as Raymath, a sheet metal manufacturer in Ohio, where the company CEO was able to visit a local UR partner, THG Automation, offering cobot welding solutions.

As more companies move towards cobot automation, many will want to handle heavier payloads. In 2023, UR’s new UR20 cobot becomes available to customers. The UR20 is built for 20kg payloads, with faster speeds and superior motion control all within a lightweight, small footprint system.

Universal Robots Reports Record Revenue Despite Global Uncertainty

Universal Robots, the Danish collaborative robot (cobot) company, has reported Q4 revenue of USD 85 million, bringing 2022 annual revenue to USD 326 million, up 5% on 2021. On a constant currency basis, growth over the year was 12%.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Kim Andreasen, said: “We are proud to have continued to grow our business despite facing a difficult macroeconomic environment in 2022. We focused on those things we are able to control, and we overcame supply chain challenges to report our highest annual revenue to date.”

The demand for automation in Europe slowed in 2022 following the start of the war in Ukraine. Universal Robots’ results have also been impacted by the change in exchange rates, which created an additional headwind to growth.

Despite the change in global markets, overall demand for automation is predicted to continue to grow in 2023 and beyond, driven by growing labor shortages and changing workplace expectations.

Universal Robots has taken steps in 2022 to meet this growing demand. The company’s President, Kim Povlsen, said: “We invested last year in building world-class expertise in welding, palletizing and machine tending. We have also been working with our ecosystem partners to make automation easier for our customers than ever before. 2022 has been an important year for the company overall. We started construction on new headquarters, reached our 1000 employee milestone and launched a ground-breaking new cobot.”

Follow this blog

Get a weekly email of all new posts.