Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is essentially a process-based system, and perhaps that's why it often lands on the radar screen of enterprise-level executives and IT practitioners but isn't of much interest to individual engineers.
Nonetheless, PLM -- in its ideal form -- should be an essential piece of most organizations' product development strategies. With that in mind, startup Kenesto is vying to be the non-PLM, process automation system that engineering organizations will embrace mostly because of what its developers and marketing gurus say is a "maniacal" focus on simplicity.
"There's been a mismatch between the cost, complexity, and rigidity of typical process systems exemplified by PLM," Alex Neihaus, Kenesto's vice president of marketing, told us. "People run into road blocks and they can't get the (PLM) systems to do what they want so they revert back to email and paper-based processes."
Kenesto supports viewing of 2D and 3D parts files that are attached to processes. By storing product information with the process, Kenesto documents what was done and by whom. (Source: Kenesto)
Kenesto 2012, now generally available, aims to blend simplicity with a cloud-based approach to circumvent some of those familiar road blocks. Via use of familiar metaphors like attachments and email-like conventions, the platform allows engineering teams to route drawings and documents, create and circulate RFQs (request for quotes), interact with external suppliers, and populate bills of materials, all without any behind-the-scenes programming. The system is particularly compelling for organizations that have been chained to paper-based processes because they didn't see the appeal of existing, often hard-to-implement PLM platforms, Neihaus said.
Kenesto 2012 offers all of the features previously available in the beta release, including zero client installation, a browser-based process creation environment, and automatic generation and execution of processes. Based on feedback from the Kenesto beta program, the general release adds a few additional capabilities, including:
Integrated forms. This capability allows users to easily transform paper-based processes into Kenesto processes directly from within the browser. Kenesto forms remain with the process, unlike paper-based forms, and are searchable and access-controlled.
Enhanced reporting. To aid managers in making crucial product development and supply chain-related decisions, Kenesto 2012 incorporates a range of reports to give managers visibility into a company's processes. Among the standard reports included with the system are Activities by Users, Process Throughput, Process by Time, and Process Steps by Time. Neihaus said the report piece of Kenesto is a moving target and additional reports will be added over time.
3D-viewing of parts and video. While Kenesto deals with the behind-the-scenes process capabilities of product development, there remains the requirement to attach digital and visual product information to the process. Leveraging visualization technology from Tecsoft, Kenesto 2012 builds on the beta release's ability to view formats like Microsoft Office documents and Autodesk DWG files with new 3D viewing of many 3D parts files, in addition to SolidWorks assemblies as well as .mp4 and .wmv video formats. The video formats, in particular, can be useful for incorporating animations and product assembly instructions as part of the process. All files are rendered in a browser without any installation of client software.
That's funny, Beth. You have non-PLM process management to pick up the engineers who are dizzy from all the bells and whistles in the evolving PLM world. Reminds me of all our commenters who want cars to go back to simple electronics.
That's a good analogy, Rob. I guess with any technology, the more you add to it, the more complicated it gets, which can be a turn off for many--especially when you don't need half the functionality. In PLM's case, because it's really a process-based tool, the user interfaces and complexity of setting up the systems has been a real barrier to getting people to actually use it. If something takes too much effort, no matter what the reward, you're going to fall back on tried and true processes (can you say email), no matter how inefficient.
Beth, I like that you contrast the PLM tools with the manual processes that are typically performed today. That is a point that most people do not understand when talking about software tools in general. Typically, you are already doing whatever the software is automating. There has been a lot of talk here about PLM tools and in the software industry about ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) tools. I don't really see them getting a lot of traction, frankly.
One of the reasons is that the users need to be convinced that there will be a benefit, No matter what system you implement, there will be time and money invested. If there is not a percieved benefit, engineers will not really embrace it. The Un-PLM approach you mention for the Kenesto tool is interesting in this regard. If engineers can use a tool that does not force them into a paradigm that they are not used to, it may have a chance to succeed.
Yes, it sounds like this system is offering an alternative to advanced complicated systems, Beth Sometimes you just need a screwdriver. Is this a big part of the process management market, or is this a small counter-trend.
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