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.
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.
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.
[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.
Video as a sensor has been a topic for several posts here at The Manufacturing Connection. One notable case study involved detecting unwanted critters wandering into the facility when gates were opened to allow train cars to enter or leave. Machine vision has been usable since the 1980s to detect flaws, presence, and other quality issues, as well as to guide robots.
Anurag Maunder, CEO and founder, and Subbu Kuchibhotla, VP Growth and Development, of a new company in the video streaming market called Sensable.
They told me this is the first vision platform built for industrial engineering. Almost all current vision and video applications involve narrowly focusing on a part or a piece of a machine. The idea of the Sensable platform is to broaden the focus of the camera, or combine multiple camera, such that an entire operation or segment of the plant can be viewed, captured, and analyzed.
My grandfather told me of the time he was summoned to the front office of the GM plant where he was a production superintendent. The US had entered World War II and his plant was converting to production of aircraft armaments. Production ramp up was slow. Management picked him to organize things and get production up to expectations.
He explained to 8-year-old me how he went up on the mezzanine and watched the process. Guys were performing a process, dragging a crate of parts to the next operation across the department, where the next operation took place, and that operator dragged the crate across the facility to the next operation. He told me how he organized the process to minimize material handling. That and other things boosted production and won the war—well, anyway, he did his part. And I learned a lesson.
Now imagine that you don’t have people to just stand and observe and take notes over three shifts a day for a week or so. What if you could position a few cameras in strategic locations. The video is captured and run through analytics. Engineers, operators, and managers would not have to manually parse through hours of video. They would be presented with data visualization designed to help them get to root causes of problems, assist worker ergonomics, improve safety, and boost productivity.
That is what the Sensable solution does.
Imagine another scenario. You are an operator on a production line. You have been trying to point out bottlenecks to production on your machine. Then engineers install streaming video pointing not just at a specific point on you or the machine but with wide enough scope to see the larger process. The video analytics point out the bottleneck. Voila. Vindicated. Proof in the data.
The video is not for spying on employees. It is designed to help them. Just what true digital transformation is—an aid to decision making and continuous improvement.
- Missed throughput targets—station utilization lower than expected, unplanned downtimes more than planned
- Low process efficiency—cycle time variability, too many interruptions
- Low operations visibility—safety challenges due to best practices violations, missed inspection or assembly steps
- Manage work area or assembly line—real-time feedback, identify bottlenecks, performance reports by shift/day, remote visibility-ideal for managing off shifts
- Perform long duration time studies—data-driven Kaizen setup/changeover analysis, run/analyzed over weeks, compare across time and facilities, store metrics for Kaizen, perform SMED analysis in large areas
- Identify missed inspection steps with 360 degree analysis—rapidly identify root cause of defects, search for video clips associated with product assembly
- Achieve healthier, safer, well trained workforce—capture near misses and best practice violations, capture the impact of fatigue by measuring throughput at beginning and end of shift, capture and share the best practices for training
- Build realistic engineering standards—capture data for the entire shift or multiple shifts before creating a standard to be enforced
I think that hybrid might just be the future as IT managers review the costs and constraints of depending too much on cloud vendors (AWS, Microsoft, Google). Customers of Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform must be asking for a public cloud implementation, though.
I’ve highlighted a blog post by Dante Augello of Inductive discussing some of the reasoning and features of a Cloud Edition coming in 2023. Following that announcement are notes about the latest update to Ignition—8.1.22.
Ignition Cloud Edition
- Many hybrid architectures have taken advantage of the cloud over the years, allowing controls applications to run on-premise while communicating and sending data to the cloud in order to take advantage of virtually unlimited storage and computing power.
- This connection to the cloud also offers better integration with artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other cloud-native technologies.
- The goal of Ignition Cloud Edition is to enable a hybrid architecture that connects one or more on-premise gateways and numerous edge gateways that send information to a Cloud Edition gateway for enterprise-wide data aggregation and monitoring.
- This new product will differ from the standard version of Ignition in three key ways: distribution, purchasing, and features.
- Unlike standard Ignition, Ignition Cloud Edition won’t be a service provided directly through Inductive Automation, so it won’t be downloaded from the Inductive Automation website. Like other cloud-based applications, it will be made available through your preferred cloud infrastructure marketplace.
- Since Ignition Cloud Edition will be purchased through a cloud infrastructure marketplace, there is no need to buy an upfront license as with standard Ignition. This allows for elastic deployments, scalable payment options like pay-as-you-go, as well as the ability to adapt compute size and number of instances as needed.
- Ignition Cloud Edition will run in the cloud, so it won’t be ideal for direct data acquisition from plant-floor PLCs. For this reason, it won’t have Ignition’s original device drivers built in. Instead, Cloud Edition will have a collection of cloud connector modules for cloud-native technologies such as document databases, message queues, and key-value stores like MongoDB, Kafka, and Redis.
- A key benefit of Ignition Cloud Edition’s infrastructure is elasticity. If you find that you need more or less computing power than you anticipated, you will be able to scale the infrastructure much more easily than with an on-premise infrastructure.
Ignition 8.1.22: New Configuration Explorer, Enhanced SVG Importer, and CSS Stylesheet Resources
This blog post by Aaron Block gives points about the latest update.
- Ignition 8.1.22 arrives with major upgrades to Perspective, the Gateway Network, and redundancy, plus improvements focused on general quality of life.
- Perspective gets the majority of attention in Ignition 8.1.22, with three big updates: a new Configuration Explorer, SVG Importer enhancements, and resources for CSS stylesheets.
- The Configuration Explorer locates active bindings on any particular Perspective view. Now in Ignition 8.1.22, simply right-click and choose “Configuration Explorer” to display the location, type, and state of all enabled bindings. Embedded views and root containers are also represented in this overview.
- In prior versions of Ignition, it was sometimes difficult to import complicated SVGs with intricate shading or other non-supported components within the raw SVG file. 8.1.22 offers more support for these complex SVGs, as well as most common SVG elements.
- The “convert to drawing” function stays true to its name, allowing users to simply choose the function in the right-click menu and convert existing components into SVGs.
- Rounding out the trio of major Perspective updates is an advanced project-scoped CSS stylesheet resource and resource editor. Users can now conveniently add their own CSS stylesheets into the Perspective project itself instead of spending time inserting CSS through the gateway’s style directory.
- And there are many more updates. Check out the blog for more detail.