We continue to have a few new hires around Kinaxis and part of their orientation is to meet with me and get the history of Kinaxis. I always enjoying sharing the history of how the company began and thought it would be interesting to share on the blog.
There were three of us who started the company and we had been working at Mitel, which at the time was a producer of telephony PBX equipment and also offered key integrated circuits that facilitated its core product functionality.
We were all in the Computer-Aided Design area, providing and supporting software used by electronic circuit designers. We observed that wonderful things happened when designers could run multiple, interactive, simulations of circuit performance. Optimizers were available at the time but had two huge barriers for utilization – we could not practically provide all the rules and alternatives to the optimizer, and for any problem involving more than a few decision points, run times became so long that our designers did not want to use the optimizers. Instead, we observed designers using simulation to experiment with factors they thought might be significant. After a few simulations, they often discovered breakthrough solutions. We were having great success with one particular piece of special purpose hardware which ran logic simulations about 1000 times faster than our software-only solution. Remember, 1000 times faster turns three hours into 11 seconds!
At the same time, we had been given responsibility for the corporate MRP system. The key process, Material Requirements Planning, was run on weekends because it needed about 40 hours to run. And more frequently than anyone really wanted to admit, there would be a problem with the weekly run. At that point, the operations organization was faced with a huge decision: stop ongoing transactions and re-run MRP for the next 40 hours or continue to execute from last week’s results. Also, due to the long run times and weekly processing, users couldn’t decipher the relationship between changes they made and the results they saw the following Monday.
We believed there was an opportunity to make supply chain planning into an interactive process, complete with truly iterative simulations. On this belief, we resigned our positions at Mitel and started the company that is now Kinaxis.
The Kinaxis RapidResponse product now being used by our customers represents at least five complete redevelopments of the product. Our first product was single-user custom hardware housed in two 6-foot, 19-inch racks. Today, the product is purely software, runs in Windows Server, is accessed from anywhere on the Internet, and can have thousands of users simultaneously seeing information and simulating potential changes.
What we learned along the way is core to the differentiation our product holds today. We learned that:
- It is indeed possible to calculate full MRP at least 1000 times faster than any other approach.
- The system must easily integrate and process data from multiple sources including the user’s own ERP environment plus data from customers, suppliers, and other sites in each of those organizations.
- The sheer volume of data available can only be turned into actionable information through a user interface that provides limitless capabilities in aggregation, sorting, selection, analysis and comparison.
- Users need a multi-scenario environment that supports both independent simulations and sharing of scenarios amongst various users.
Kinaxis has been unbelievably fortunate that most of our original developers continue to develop new product functionality. They have learned through each redevelopment resulting in the incredible functionality available in RapidResponse today and new functionality that will become available in the future. We are also incredibly fortunate to have many field personnel who have worked with RapidResponse for many years, often as our customers, and have deep understanding of the markets we serve.
So there you have it – The background of how Kinaxis began. Many things have changed over the past years but it’s always been fun and always leading edge!