Accelerating manufacturing transformation with technology

Jonathan Kaplan, COO of Magic Software in the Americas, explores how agile innovation empowers manufacturers & builds successful digital transformation

Magic Software is a software development company. It was founded in 1983 and started out building low-code software, a very new concept at the time. According to Jonathan Kaplan, COO of Magic Software in the Americas, it's having a renaissance. 

“Forty years later, we're still in that business. We have a low-code development product called XPA, and we have customers who have been using it for 20 and even 30 years in the US.”

Kaplan oversees Magic Software’s entire portfolio, which includes three main products:

  • XPI integration product
  • Smart UX Mobile product
  • FactoryEye, which is focused on IT and OT convergence.

“About 20 years ago, we shifted our focus to integration, and started focusing on connecting systems. Our XPI product came out of that and in that space, over the course of many years of integration work, we found that manufacturing was an increasingly important part of our customer base. So, over the last four years, we've been looking at new products to bring to market specifically for manufacturers,” Kaplan says. “Even though we have a lot of manufacturers using XPI integration in their back office, for example doing ERP to CRM integrations, we wanted to do something that had a little more impact directly on the factory floor. Looking at this convergence of IT and OT, we found ourselves in a perfect place to do that, and that's when we built FactoryEye.”

Here, he tells us more. 

Jonathan Kaplan, COO of Magic Software in the Americas

Jonathan Kaplan, COO of Magic Software in the Americas

Hi Jonathan! How do you support SMEs?

“We have two core value propositions for manufacturers. The first is around our traditional integration platform, which has a lot of benefits in terms of being in the market for 20 plus years and being able to connect to all kinds of systems. 

“We know from our experience that manufacturers, especially SMEs, don't always have the latest and greatest technology. They have a combination of things that have built up over the years to support them and having an integration tool that can talk to all of those, whether it's mainframes, flat files, or modern cloud REST services, is really important. We extend on that value proposition of integration, to bring that specifically to the factory floor with FactoryEye.  

“With FactoryEye, we go beyond moving data by adding in capabilities that give manufacturers a much broader view of their data, and allow them to transform from collecting data to actually using data. Now, they turn that data into actionable intelligence so that they can go and make better decisions. We do that by centralising their data into a cloud-based data lake. Then, we build reports, create digital forms, set alarms and alerts, all kinds of things that you can do once you have visibility into all that data. This can help with predictive maintenance, quality control, operational efficiency and more. 

“Because of our strength in integration, we're not requiring SMEs to replace all the systems that they have. We're allowing them to use their existing systems and build on top of that. Then, they can replace them as needed, as opposed to being forced to upgrade everything all at once. That's part of our broader commitment to making smart manufacturing accessible to manufacturers of all sizes. We combine this with our sprint implementation which focuses implementation on one problem at a time and breaks digital transformation into small, achievable steps.”

How do you help them to achieve successful digital transformation?

“Everybody tries some form of digital transformation, so I love that I love the emphasis on successful digital transformation. It’s easy to put initiatives and software into place that are part of “digital transformation,” but that at the end of the day, if it isn’t used it isn't successful. 

“We are very much aligned with our customers in looking at ROI. And again, that is where our sprint approach helps a lot. We’re always asking, “How can we identify the problems that are the biggest pain points, that have the biggest return for fixing them?” We focus on fixing just those problems, by working with the systems they have in place and augmenting them with whatever is needed. This allows manufacturers to get that business benefit in a cost effective way. 

“When we talk about digital transformation, we don't think about digital transformation as a single, Big Bang, kind of a change. We see digital transformation as a series of small steps. We really look at each business and recognise the first step for different businesses might be different. We examine what the real drivers are for value in their business, whether it's improving quality, reducing scrap, changing scheduling, or increasing traceability – any one of those might be a good place to start for a different business. By doing that, we make sure that we focus on the “success” piece of the successful digital transformation.”

Tell us about your sprint implementation strategy.

“The sprint implementation strategy comes from the world of agile software development and Magic has been in the software world for a long time. We’ve seen the benefits firsthand. 

“The idea behind sprints is that you define a set amount of work in a specific period of time, and you focus on being able to achieve something in that window. In manufacturing, typically, that time period is about 90 days. Our goal is to go from the problem statement to a solution in production within those 90 days. By constraining yourself to a certain amount of time, obviously, you're getting cost savings because you know how much time you're going to spend, and time is a main driver of costs. But you're also really focusing and allowing yourself to concentrate on the most important problems that have the highest return on investment. 

“Once you go through the sprint, then you can start another sprint to build on that into your next set of projects. This allows customers to move between stable points very quickly, and then reassess between each one to figure out what is the highest value? Where are you seeing value? Are there any things that you thought would bring value that you don't? Once you answer these questions, you can make changes. But by staying with that sprint methodology, it keeps things nice and tight and contained. We find that that's how customers get the most value.”

What do the next 12 months hold for you and the company?

“We are on this journey of looking at how we can move from integration into things that are more valuable to manufacturing customers and affect their day-to-day operations. So, we are very much looking to not just take the data they have already, but to augment that data. This looks like bringing in things like AI and predictive maintenance. We’re also looking at the alerts and alarms in the platform to make sure that they're more actionable. We also want to help manufacturers with change management strategies, and make sure they understand what new technologies are available and what it takes to be prepared for those new technologies. 

“For example, AI is something everybody loves to talk about. It's a really great space and can add a lot of value. But a lot of companies don't have the underpinnings that allow you to make use of it. They don't have the prerequisites. So, we’re working with companies on their overall strategy and advising them on how they can divide that up using our sprint-based approach. We want to turn digital transformation from something that can look like a very big, challenging project into something that is a set of manageable sprints that you can go and achieve from where you are and get you to where you need to be.”


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