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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

L&H Design Werks Migrates and Benefits from Kenesto’s True Cloud Vault

November 9th, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

Like many small- and medium-size businesses contemplating a PDM system, L&H Design Werks wondered what PDM could do for them. The Coopersville, Michigan-based company designs customized production machines, but also designs fixturing, and robotic cells, with experience in welding, metal forming, automotive glass and high-speed material handling applications. L&H has also done a considerable amount of conceptual design. All these capabilities demand that design and associated data be managed with a secure PDM system that can be accessed by those needing the data. It was secure data management and access that prompted L&H to make the decision to implement a PDM system in the first place.

Since 2005, L&H Design Werks has been using SOLIDWORKS as its primary design tool, largely because it perceived its industry moving toward it, and they saw SOLIDWORKS as being a more flexible a tool than some of the other CAD packages they had evaluated.

After the CAD tool was in place, what prompted L&H Design Werks to consider PDM in the first place? According to Brian Land, CEO of L&H Design Werks, “We wanted to be able to have more than one person work on a project/design at a time. We started with SOLIDWORKS PDM Workgroup because it was relatively inexpensive and fairly straightforward to use. We started using it right away with our first purchase of SOLIDWORKS.”

The Move to Kenesto PDM

While L&H was satisfied with SOLIDWORKS PDM Workgroup for a while, it started to look for alternatives because SOLIDWORKS decided to no longer offer Workgroup PDM and wanted the company to move to SOLIDWORKS PDM Enterprise. “Because we are not very large, we like to keep things basic. I felt Enterprise had more bells and whistles than we needed. We like the keep it simple, stupid (KISS) approach,” said Land.

“Also, one of our customers wanted to be able to easily access our CAD files. That way if they made changes on the floor it was immediately updated, so that we saw the changes as soon as they did. I also knew that cloud-based storage seemed to make the most sense moving forward for safety in knowing it’s always backed up. That’s when we seriously looked at Kenesto as an alternative and replacement, and have been using it for the past several months. We have been putting some of our older projects up to Kenesto and put all new projects there.”

Land said, overall, his experience with Kenesto has exceeded his expectations. “The people I have dealt with at Kenesto are all excellent, going above and beyond to help us out. We had some problems in the beginning that were a result of some of our equipment and setup, and they helped us to get in the right direction and it’s made a big difference. There have been some glitches from time to time, but most of those problematic issues are related to SOLIDWORKS, and not Kenesto.”

When asked what are the top two or three things you like about Kenesto compared with SOLIDWORKS Workgroup PDM, Land said, “Flexibility to have access to your files anywhere you have Internet access, as well as when you don’t have a connection and can work offline. Our customers are able to access our files from the beginning of a project. Believe it or not, I think overall speed is quicker with Kenesto than the PDM tool. It has to do with the way they cache the files, that makes it fast.”

Bonding cell for pickup truck rear slider (Photo courtesy of L&H Design Werks)

Prior to Kenesto, the only experience the company had with cloud-based applications was using Dropbox to exchange files, but not as a PDM-style server, so implementing Kenesto’s true cloud vault was a big step in the right direction.

Land said that Kenesto is helping L&H stay ahead of its competition by allowing them to have a more seamless design process with their customers, which makes for a quicker completion of projects.

How Kenesto Contributed to Cost Savings

According to Land, have found that Kenesto has provided an overall cost savings for L&H Design Werks in the following areas:

  • By moving to a central location for files, our customer, who also has access to our files, is able to keep all the files in this location only. In the past they copied it to multiple computers. If they wanted to modify a file, the modified file may not get back to the original folder. Now they can modify it, with the confidence that any changes will stay where they belong. Where this really helps is if we reuse portions of a design on future projects. This saves time and money, because the same mistakes are not repeated. Also, the job of having to copy these files and keep track of them is gone.
  • Because all personnel have access to the designs from the start, they are able to look at the design earlier. This helps to speed up their end of the program. As an example, an electrical engineer can now look at the design and start their controls design much earlier. The purchasing department can look at the design and see if there are any long lead items that they should order.
  • Moving to SOLIDWORKS Enterprise would have been costly for a small organization like ours. Between the new server and software that was required, we saw this as more than we wanted to invest, to stay virtually the same as we were. We also would not have had access to the files outside our organization.

Bonding fixture for pickup truck rear slider (Photo courtesy of L&H Design Werks)

Kenesto’s Evolution

Founded in 2008, Kenesto initially focused on building a cloud-enabled workflow-based management system, but with the release of its Kenesto Drive service, took a slightly different path where the focus remains on the document, but also now the collaboration of input on the document as needed.

Obtaining access to the master file of a document has always been a critical element in engineering.

At its core, Kenesto’s intent is simple. Your design and engineering team uses its Kenesto drive service as the central access point for all design and engineering data.

Simply put, Kenesto works like any other data drive on your computer. However, unlike computer drives, Kenesto handles data conflict resolution. If you have instances where your team needs to take data off-site or expect to be offline, the system has an “always cache” option for data access at anytime, under any circumstance.

Using the vaulted folders takes this a stage further, allowing full revision control — particularly when combined with the more advanced workflow design tools.

Shared drives are common in engineering, particularly when you have small teams working across multiple projects and don’t have the additional budget for a larger scale, more complex (expensive) data management system.

It acts in the same way as any other cloud-based folder sharing service does (such as Dropbox), but Kenesto also has added layers that provide more control (in terms of access, workflow, and management), more collaboration tools, as well as a greater understanding of the intricacies inherent with CAD data.

According to Mike Payne, CEO of Kenesto, “We founded Kenesto on the principle that we wanted to help customers solve document and file problems that were never solved before. These problems can appear to be simple but, when left unresolved, contribute to a very expensive and time-consuming waste. By utilizing the new Cloud platform with Kenesto, small- and medium-sized engineering firms can significantly simplify their environment, thus reducing expenses. These expenses could be in the area of IT or just in your overall business processes.”

Interview With Mike Payne, CEO of Kenesto, SOLIDWORKS World 2017

“Kenesto is aiming to deliver simple, yet powerful options for engineers and designers to store, share, view, update versions and collaborate with CAD and other documents on the cloud. For the first time, engineers have an alternative to consumer-oriented cloud storage solutions giving them the ability to access and share their CAD documents with anyone, anytime, anywhere. This brings confidence to engineers and management when working with outside suppliers that their current files will not be overridden or deleted inadvertently.”

Yes, the concept of a shared drive has been around for a long time, but the wider acceptance and adoption of the cloud as a means for doing much the same is a relatively recent development.

What Is a True Cloud Vault?

Recently, Kenesto introduced a new philosophy and spin on its time-tested cloud-based engineering PDM system as a true cloud vault –really, the next step up for PDM. What is it, and how is it different? For starters:

  1. Users can set any folder to vault.  Kenesto works with most applications (i.e. application agnostic), lock files for exclusive editing or turn a folder into vault for manual check out (locking) and check in (unlocking).
  2. Users that own folders can create a vault on the fly– click of an RMB turns a folder into a vaulted folder and back if the user chooses/ mobile app and drive you can turn a folder into a vault.
  3. Files and subfolders vaulted beneath the top folder are vaulting master files, not copies of files.
  4. A local cache stores data so future requests for that data can be served faster.
  5. The vault works with Web, Drive, mobile apps and add-ins, and is not specific to one feature. It’s all inclusive and part of Kenesto. Some competitors’ PDM products are not all inclusive, and some sell feature sets and offer varying levels of products.
  6. Sharing with contributors is included, these users can also check files out for editing if a folder’s owner gives permission to edit a file and upload more files to the vault.
  7. Kenesto includes unlimited storage as an integral part of its offering.
  8. Kenesto users can also run reports or lists of checked out files and dependent files.

The Future of Kenesto’s True Cloud Vault

Kenesto is well suited for companies that need centralized data management, but don’t want to be bogged down with the expense and effort of implementing a traditional on-site PDM system.

Priced at $25 per user per month with unlimited data storage, and free for users invited to collaborate on designs, Kenesto is affordable for all small- and medium-size businesses. Additionally, CAD-specific viewing and collaboration tools; greater control over that data in the context of engineering (such as the vaulted folders for revision control); and the potential to add in tasks, workflows, discussions, etc. make Kenesto very attractive as a comprehensive PDM solution.

Weld cell for auto body reinforcement (Photo courtesy of L&H Design Werks)

Based on his experience, Land said that Kenesto will help L&H Design Werks going forward, because Kenesto has been very open to suggestions to improve or make additions to its PDM System. “This can only help all of us to make this a better more flexible program going forward,” he said

Land concluded, “I like that they have been very personable when handling issues or questions with us. I am a strong believer in keeping your customer service as the most important part of your business. I believe they have achieved that. Keep that philosophy, going forward, and I see them becoming a bigger part of small- to medium-sized design companies.”

With Kenesto’s unique true cloud vault, we couldn’t agree more.

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