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Digital flow

By Lynn Stanley

Software developer helps manufacturers make sense of too much data with native cloud-based ERP software

September 2016 - In the CBS TV series “Person of Interest,” ex-CIA agent John Reese and billionaire programmer Harold Finch work to prevent crime with the help of the Machine, an artificially intelligent mass surveillance system that predicts events by monitoring and analyzing electronic communications. A sentient AI that resides within the nation’s electrical grid may be science fiction but storing colossal amounts of data, managing projects, programs and entire portfolios in the cloud is commonplace. There are nearly 320 million iCloud users today. Facebook users have uploaded more than 400 billion photos and add an estimated 350 million per day. Amazon’s cloud services alone operate in 190 countries. 

Analytics and cloud computing also dominate developers’ plans for Internet of Things (IoT) apps in manufacturing. Nearly 79 percent of IoT app developers spend 25 percent of their time with analytics or databases while 42 percent work on Big Data or advanced analytics projects, according to a 2015 study by Evans Data Corp. Fifty-five percent of IoT developers use the cloud to connect devices. Nearly 26 percent of developers correlate cloud computing with IoT and are more inclined to use the cloud as their drawing board. The IoT and the Industrial Internet promise manufacturers game-changing capabilities but for many, deciphering the how-tos, scalability and cost factors is easier said than done. One software developer spent the last four years fine-tuning proprietary native cloud-based project portfolio management (PPM); professional services automation (PSA) and enterprise systems to help manufacturers make sense of too much data.

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“Helping manufacturers move into a digital role to eliminate inefficiencies is a must,” says Lauri Klaus, KeyedIn Solutions' founder and CEO.

Reach for the sky

Lauri Klaus founded KeyedIn Solutions in 2011 and is its CEO. Though young, the Minneapolis-based company has quickly expanded its reach with several acquisitions. It has opened a research and development facility in Ireland where KeyedIn obtained ICEBERG, an application platform as a service (aPaaS). Rebranded Konfigure, the technology allows KeyedIn to use the cloud to bring its software products to market faster. 

“We wanted to create a space in the market that was unfilled,” Klaus says. Her goal: to transform the traditional enterprise-software market with agile, scalable and affordable cloud-based apps. But Klaus brings more to the venture than just ideas. 

The former executive vice president of Epicor Software Corp., she and her husband, then-CEO George Klaus, built Epicor from an idea in 1972 to its sale in 2011 to Apax Partners for nearly $1 billion. Klaus began her career as a programmer, later transitioning to ERP consulting. One of just a few female sales team members at Epicor for more than a decade, Klaus got to know customers’ pain points. She also learned it takes passion, consistency and integrity to become a leader. “If you follow that, people will follow you,” Klaus says. Epicor’s sale was merely a station along the Klaus’s entrepreneurial road. “I felt like we could grow a company from scratch again, this time with some key differences.” 

For one: more computing power. KeyedIn has engineered a cloud-based enterprise resources planning (ERP) solution to solve the main challenges manufacturers face in everyday operations.

“Helping manufacturers move into a digital role to eliminate inefficiencies is a must,” she says. “To do that, we put the planning back into ERP with a production engine designed to give manufacturers real-time visibility of supply and demand. This allows manufacturers to evaluate priorities, make adjustments and ensure completion of delivery schedules.”

Previously, materials resource planning (MRP) could take a weekend to run. KeyedIn can run MRP in as little as 3 minutes. In addition to the flexibility that faster speeds and more power affords, KeyedIn also takes the guesswork out of its products.

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“We put the planning back into ERP with a production engine designed to give manufacturers real-time visibility of supply and demand,” says Klaus.

Conventional on-site software typically means manufacturers and service centers have to do the heavy lifting for tasks that range from software implementation and installation of upgrades and patches to maintaining an IT department, backup and disaster recovery services and end-user training. If it sounds like a big job, it is.

KeyedIn’s offering takes those and other responsibilities out of the hands of customers and instead gives them access to decision driving information with intuitive, drop and drag tools and easy data that doesn’t use queries SQL or XML.

Making connections

The rapid adoption of KeyedIn’s products rests on the strength of its own infrastructure, which combines Konfigure and software as a service (SaaS); a software licensing and delivery model. These cloud services allow KeyedIn to develop problem-solving products more quickly. Konfigure is up to 70 percent faster than conventional software and requires no coding. KeyedIn partners with data hosting provider Dimension Data, a $6.7 billion business that serves the majority of Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies worldwide. “The cloud offers a level of data protection you just can’t get with servers in a back room,” Klaus explains. 

KeyedIn’s cloud ERP solution allows managers and operators to safely connect to and access data anytime, anywhere from bottom to top. 

“Manufacturers need to automate beyond conventional ERP software,” says Klaus. “It is no longer a competitive advantage, it is a competitive requirement. Our software extends a manufacturer’s reach upstream and downstream. ERP will soon have the capability to transmit production data from the floor, machines and equipment directly into the software. This is powerful technology.”

In addition to giving companies a bird’s eye view of their production flow, managers and operators also get detailed looks at customer orders, profit margins and potential supply chain problems. The system dramatically improves a myriad of tasks at multiple levels. Take estimating quotes for example. In the past, cycle times were an unknown variable or poorly estimated. With smart machines data is automatically shuffled into the ERP. Since data automation eliminates manual input, estimates are highly accurate.

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“ERP will soon have the capability to transmit production data from the floor, machines and equipment directly into the software. This is powerful technology.”

KeyedIn’s software carries open APIs for easy integration capabilities to other systems and applications. This design ensures that KeyedIn’s Manufacturing Cloud ERP is the sole source for complete, accurate information. KeyedIn recently partnered with Sage Live cloud-based accounting software that connects manufacturing production and accounting to give manufacturers real-time visibility from quote to cash. This powerful integration was made easy through open APIs – connecting the two solutions seamlessly. The pliability of the software means end users can conform the product to their individual business model.

Getting started is as easy as the software is to use. “Companies can start small,” says Klaus. “They don’t have to do a rip-and-replace up front. All they need is an internet connection to begin test driving the product.” KeyedIn performs about 70 percent of the implementation and can work through partners such as Microsoft. 

“The benefits are immediate,” Klaus says. “Cloud-based ERP extends the IoT by facilitating data flow across devices, systems and software. The next wave is imminent. Manufacturers need to be sure they have the agility to optimize their facility and get ahead of their competition. Things are changing quickly. I can only imagine what the digital landscape will look like a year from now.” FFJ

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