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.

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. 

Cloud Range Live-Fire Cybersecurity Training

Mindful people are marked by curiosity. At least, that is one characteristic. I don’t know about being mindful, but I embody a healthy dose of curiosity. A press release came my way from a company I had never heard of touting a process I also had never heard of—range. So, I had to investigate. In addition to the Web (yes, you can still do research by searching on the Web, but thanks to Google, it’s not as easy or as fruitful as it used to be), I also talked with Debbie Gordon, CEO  of Cloud Range.

This technology solution relates to cybersecurity. Specifically, these solutions provide training for varieties of personnel regarding identifying and thwarting cyber attacks. The “range” term is known in the IT world. Cloud Range, Gordon told me, is the first company to take the concept, develop it specifically for the operations environment, and use it to train operators, engineers, manufacturing IT, and any others who may be involved. 

Gordon used the metaphor of a flight simulator. It’s better for a pilot to train on abnormal situations in a device that isn’t going to crash and kill everyone on board. The problem for operations people lies in the fact that they may have never experienced a cyber attack. They may treat it as just another alarm that can often be ignored.

Cloud range also understands that while IT’s concern is data, OT’s concern is uptime. This requires an entirely new look at how to train and solve the problem.

On to the news:

Cloud Range introduced Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure—the first-of-its-kind full-service, live-fire simulation training specifically designed to proactively train and prepare incident responders (IR) and security operations (SOC) teams in operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) environments to defend against cyber attacks to critical infrastructure. 

The digital convergence of OT and IT in critical infrastructure sectors has increased the focus of cyber attacks against OT and industrial control system (ICS) environments. This has accelerated the need for cyber defense teams to understand, train, and prepare to protect these assets. However, OT and IT environments can have very disparate objectives, setups, and risks. OT security requires different protocols, analysis, forensics, and other security methods than traditional IT security networks. That’s why OT/ICS security teams require unique training to ensure they can overcome the threats and challenges they face. 

Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure is the industry’s first and only full-service OT/ICS/IoT cyber range simulation training environment with dynamic, live-fire OT/ICS, OT/IoT, and IT/OT incident response and security operations exercises. The customizable OT environments include unlimited network scenarios to simulate any organization’s OT/IT network and emulate any industrial sector, including energy, nuclear, transportation, communications, water systems, buildings/facilities, and more. The new OT solution not only strengthens the resilience of security teams, but also improves operational efficiency by providing a collaborative environment for IT/OT teams to work and train together and remove the complexity and friction between them that is common in most organizations. 

The product is a program with a taskmaster where personnel set aside a training time of around four hours to participate in the simulation.

Cloud Range for Critical Infrastructure mimics potential real-life cyber attacks and enables cyber defenders to see and understand an attack before it actually happens, preparing them to be ready to defend. Attack scenarios are mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK Framework for Industrial Control Systems (ICS) so teams can understand the specific tactics taken by adversaries. The immersive, live-fire cyber range environment gives OT IR and ICS security teams the needed expertise, judgment, skills, and muscle memory required to be ready when a real attack occurs. 

Cloud Range training missions are led by expert attackmasters providing teams with real-time guidance. Additionally, security leaders receive performance metrics and analysis with prescribed training plans based on the results of an exercise.

Learn more about OT cyberattack simulation training by watching the webinar, “Conquer OT Attacks in an IT-focused World” featuring Debbie Gordon, founder and CEO of Cloud Range; Bryan Singer, Principal Director, Global OT Incident Response Lead at Accenture; Mark Cristiano, Global Commercial Director – Cyber Security Services at Rockwell Automation; and Lucian Niemeyer, CEO of Building Cyber Security.

Metaverse Solutions For Enterprises

Press releases and extensive news coverage provoked some thinking about the Metaverse and its assorted technologies—Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), eXtended Reality (XR), and Mixed Reality (MR). It’s enough to distort in one’s mind just what is reality. Some psychologists and philosophers think there is no reality outside of what’s in your head. At this rate, they may be right. I even devoted a podcast to thoughts about this.

Mostly I’ve been exploring AR usually in the form of glasses that project the digital over the physical or VR usually in the form of an eye covering totally immersing you in the digital world. I’ve controlled machines while wearing glasses such as Microsoft’s HoloLens and seen training demos in VR. But VR can be on a flat panel, too. My wife the other day was holding her iPhone up and pointing at the walls of her “reading room.” She was visualizing a piece of furniture.

But I am here today to talk about constraints and overcoming them. 

Dijam Panigrahi, COO and co-founder of GridRaster, talked with me the other day. 

We started with constraints. Even AR requires a lot of compute power. And memory. And networking/communication bandwidth. Not to mention an electric power source. It’s hard to fit all that into an acceptable form factor. Rumors were that Apple was about to release its long awaited AR and VR products. The rumors pointed to the need for the wearer to have a battery pack clipped on their belt with a cable to the device. (For those who don’t wear pants with belts, well, I have no idea what you would have had to do.)

Panigrahi told me they started from a different point. They saw the power of the cloud plus the power of new communications networks such as 5G. Add to this advances in 3D CAD. Why, they asked, should designers try to put everything into the wearable device. Why not host the data in the cloud and use advanced networking to communicate with the device.

GridRaster does not design and sell end user devices. It works with any device and cloud service. It has what they call a unified and shared software infrastructure that enables enterprise customers to run AR, VR, XR, and MR applications.

Here are some underlying ideas and technologies:

  • Ultra-low latency high fidelity remote rendering using distributed GPUs for graphics heavy computing for high-fidelity rendering without time-consuming polygon reduction, and wirelessly streaming the solution to headsets, mobile phones, and tablets. 
  • Millimeter precision 3D AI based spatial mapping achieving accurate 3D spatial mapping with high fidelity 3D scene reconstruction, scene segmentation, and 3D object recognition using 3D computer vision and deep learning-based AI running on discrete GPUs on the server. 
  • Auto scaling and deployment using DevSecOps applying gaming tools and concepts in a cloud native environment that allows for agile, secure, and rapid development, deployment, and operations on the cloud/on-premises. GridRaster uses Kubernetes for deployment and scaling. It follows a CI/CD pipeline for deployment of its services into the cluster following the best practices and CNCF graduated projects. This enables loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable, and future proof.
  • Easy API-based integration open architecture approach enables a frictionless onboarding and seamless integration with existing content formats and provides future proof cross-platform support. This also allows the platform to integrate with other systems to share data and allow for interoperability.

And some use cases:

DESIGN & ENGINEERING

Enables Real-time Collaboration for Rapid Prototyping

  • Enables quick iteration on the ideas and concepts 
  • Clearer communication among team members
  • Quick decisions. 
  • Precise overlays of virtual models on real-world on any commercially available mobile devices, HMDs, smartglasses and PCs in real-time.

REMOTE MAINTENANCE, REPAIR AND TRAINING

  • Enables photo-realistic visualization and remote collaboration.
  • Create a virtual environment close to real world settings, along with photo-realistic product visualization and real-time collaboration, so that the most effective environment can be created for remote maintenance, repair and training.

LARGE SCALE SIMULATIONS AND TRAINING

  • Manages ultra-realistic mixed reality simulations.
  • Combines the best of the gaming and traditional simulations to provide a massive multi-user and multi-platform ultra-realistic large world simulations in AR,VR and MR. 
  • Provides a cloud-based agile and secure deployment and operation that distributes complex computations across compute server nodes and handles scaling in real time using Kubernetes.

Emerson Ventures Makes Strategic Investment in ZEDEDA

ZEDEDA provides network edge management and orchestration for industrial applications. It has been reaching out to large automation companies for partnerships or collaboration. Its solution integrates with Emerson’s DeltaV automation system. It announced in mid-December 2022 that Emerson Ventures, the corporate venture capital arm of Emerson, has made a strategic investment.

Emerson’s solution integrates ZEDEDA’s edge management and orchestration offer into its DeltaV automation system, enabling Emerson customers to extend DeltaV to the distributed edge. This expansion will deliver enhanced OT solutions while also continuing into the IT environment, providing software-defined automation and revolutionizing how customers can deploy and connect workloads within their distributed environments.

Advantive Acquires DataNet and PQ Systems

[Updated headline: darn autocorrect, anyway.]

I’ll be honest, the main reason I’m picking up this news is that I know PQ Systems located on the south side of Dayton, Ohio. Back in the early 80s I interviewed for a position there. It was not a fit for me, and I was not a fit for them. But it was an interesting company. I’ve never heard of Advantive. It looks like a software company on the move.

Advantive, a mission-critical software provider for specialty manufacturing and distribution businesses, announced December 6, 2022 the acquisitions of DataNet, a leader in Statistical Process Control (SPC), and PQ Systems, a provider of manufacturing quality and gage calibration software solutions. These acquisitions will expand Advantive’s current offerings in the manufacturing and distribution space, while allowing the company to continue delivering the highest quality solutions to its customers across industries.

Advantive, which comes together through the combination of Advantzware, DDI System, Distribution One, InfinityQS, Kiwiplan and VIA, has more than 2,500 customers today across a number of industries including corrugated and packaging manufacturing, equipment and supply wholesale distributors, and automotive and other specialty manufacturers. Advantive will be headquartered in Tampa, Florida.

With a global footprint across more than 2,500 facilities worldwide, DataNet’s flagship product, WinSPC, provides statistical decision-making and delivers real-time, actionable data to manufacturers, which will serve to complement Advantive’s existing offerings.

PQ Systems helps manufacturers optimize process performance and improve product quality with its two key product offerings. Both solutions, SQC Pack, an easily scalable SPC software solution, and GAGEpack, a calibration management solution, optimize the manufacturing process for customers.

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