What Does Social Manufacturing Look Like?


ERP Analyst, Software Advice

Timing is everything. And this year’s Dreamforce conference, the annual Salesforce event that drew 45,000 people, saw an impeccable display of timing when the Kenandy launch took front and center stage. For those of you that might have missed it, Kenandy is the new cloud-based manufacturing software kid on the block.

So yet another cloud vendor tossed their proverbial hat into the ring. Big deal, right? Normally it’s not. But the launch of Kenandy rightfully made waves because it puts a very different spin on cloud enterprise resource planning software–also known as ERP software–and manufacturing. The twist? Kenandy blends social tools with manufacturing software and aims to turn manufacturing itself into a social enterprise. It’s a radically different take on manufacturing software. And it has the potential to fundamentally change the way manufacturers manage their supply chains and produce their products.

Turning manufacturing into a social operation is an ambitious undertaking, but it isn’t the only thing that makes this launch an important entry into the manufacturing software market. There are several other intangibles working for Kenandy – including their financial backers.

The Importance of the Kenandy Launch

When it comes to cloud ERP systems designed for manufacturing, start-up companies are fairly rare. Rarer still is the cloud ERP start-up that garners attention from the Wall Street Journal. As it turns out, Kenandy is the brainchild of a woman who’s no stranger to shaking up the manufacturing software market – Sandy Kurtzig.

Kurtzig is best known for being the founder and former CEO of ASK Group, the company that made ManMan. In the 1980s, Kurtzig propelled ManMan to market prominence and made the ASK Group a fortune in the process. The burning question: Is Kurtzig poised for an encore performance? Only time will tell.

In any event, I see four key reasons that make the Kenandy launch worth talking about.

  1. There are very few active vendors in the cloud ERP market. As Frank Scavo noted in his initial reaction to the Kenandy announcement, the cloud ERP space is wide open. Right now, there are only a handful of vendors – including SAP, NetSuite, Plex Systems and Epicor – that support manufacturing with a cloud solution. This means that there’s plenty of room for Kenandy to hammer out market share in this area.
  2. The company expects very short implementation times. Despite being founded in 2010, Kurtzig and the Kenandy staff already have a live customer. According to Scavo’s blog post, Kenandy’s first customer went live in only two weeks. Kenandy expects this to be the rule rather than the exception. Two weeks is short even by cloud standards. So we’ll have to wait and see if these implementation times hold up.
  3. Salesforce is a key investor and motivator behind the scenes. Well, maybe they’re not so behind the scenes. Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, was pretty vocal in his support of Kenandy and their intent to move into the ERP market. Kenandy has even taken up the motto of “No ERP” – a play on the “No Software” motto of Salesforce. Having Salesforce as a financial backer is important because they’re often viewed as the posterchild of cloud vendor viability – and the ERP world has yet to wholly embrace the cloud.
  4. Kenandy wants to make manufacturing a social operation. Salesforce has invested significant capital in creating social tools. Kenandy plans to incorporate these tools into the manufacturing process. Of chief interest is the applicability of Chatter to manufacturing processes. Since Kenandy is built on the Force.com platform, developers could use existing Salesforce apps to their advantage and are sure to develop more tools designed specifically for manufacturers.

Personally, it’s this last point that I find most interesting. Although Kenandy has shared some thoughts on what social manufacturing might look like, there’s yet to be significant elaboration on the idea. It got me thinking: What might social manufacturing look like and how would it impact the industry?

Chatter Can Improve Sourcing and Industry Collaboration

To be fair, Kenandy isn’t the first to put manufacturing ERP in the cloud. The company Plex Systems proved that cloud is a viable model for manufacturing more than a decade ago. But the idea of social manufacturing is a radically different software approach to cloud ERP for manufacturing. Incorporating Chatter into manufacturing processes has the potential to reduce the need to rely on an ERP system to make vital supply chain and production decisions.

Chatter can make a positive impact on sourcing and industry collaboration by:

  • Notifying suppliers when inventory levels are low;
  • Quickly finding alternate suppliers;
  • Instantly informing customers and distributors of available supply; and,
  • Sharing and comparing best practices and key performance indicators.

But the potential impacts of Chatter on the manufacturing industry aren’t limited to communications between manufacturers and their supply chains. There are benefits to be realized within the shop walls as well.

Social Shop Floors Can Enhance Workflow and Productivity

Creating accessible and actionable inter-shop floor communication can only work if an entire supply chain and other manufacturers are members of, and logged into, Chatter. In short, it requires organizational change for effective use. While manufacturers using Kenandy wait for that changeover, Chatter can be a useful tool for project management.

For instance, the engineer of an aerospace job shop could notify shop labor that they’ve just finished designing the wing component of an aircraft. The job shop could then begin building the wing while the engineer finishes designing the other components they’ve been contracted to build. This has great implications for just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing – as it frees up labor to work on more value-added activities rather than waiting for the completion of another phase of the production.

How Will Social Manufacturing Impact the Future of Production?

Clearly, the impacts of social tools on manufacturing aren’t limited to the software market. These tools have the potential to change the way manufacturers connect with their suppliers, customers, distributors and each other. It can transform software interactions from system-to-system communication to one that people monitor and control on a much more human level. These tools have the potential to create a much more collaborative sourcing and production environment.

Of course, this is all hypothetical. Kenandy only has one live customer and we’ll have to play the waiting game to measure the true impact of social tools on manufacturing. Now, I’d like to turn it over to your. I want to hear your thoughts on the implications of social manufacturing.

What are some of the ways you think manufacturing can benefit from social production? Your ideas don’t have to be software-specific. Feel free to share any that come to mind.

This thumbnail was created by Sean MacEntee

  • http://twitter.com/RickBullotta Rick Bullotta

    We’ve been doing “social in manufacturing” for about two years now here at ThingWorx, but we don’t limit the social graph to only human participants.  We extend it to the systems, machines, work orders, pallets, etc…  They all have something to contribute, and the exhaust stream of data and events is extremely valuable to capture, contextualize, and search. 

    The other key aspect of bring social into manufacturing is finding a way to engage and capture “tribal” process and product knowledge in a searchable way, given the incredible brain drain that many industries and manufacturing sectors are facing.

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