Catching up with…Nessis Inc. President Kathleen Niles


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When I checked in on one of my old PCB sales associates recently, he told me that he had a new gig selling the latest and greatest new productivity software tools. He spoke so highly about Nessis Inc. and what their tools could do for companies, especially PCB shops, that I decided to learn more. I arranged to talk with Kathleen Niles, the co-founder and president of Nessis Inc. Here is a portion of that conversation.

Dan: Kathleen, tell me a little bit about the background of Nessis Inc.

Kathleen: The company was started by me and Chris Niles in 2000. Our plan was to create visual work instructions to improve production and eliminate waste. Our mission was to add more visuals to allow for better comprehension of tasks and less mistakes. We wanted to improve the overall ROI for the customer to ensure we remain competitive and keep some of our jobs in North America. When we looked at operations, we found that in many cases—most cases—operators were inconsistent in methods and creating defects because they didn’t have the information they needed to do the job right the first time. Notices of issues came too late and product continued to be built wrong. We saw a need for better communications, better visualization and frankly just a better way to do things, so we developed our own set of tools.

Dan: Very good. Can you tell me about these tools you developed?

Kathleen: Nessis has a suite of software products, which address the most important things within your company, which is providing improvement solutions for quality, productivity, communication, procurement, and training. Our suite can even connect seamlessly into your ERP and MRP systems. Integrated software creates a holistic approach to any business, whether used individually or as a package. With employees and customers as your top priority, Nessis streamlines and manages all the things that help run your business, at an affordable cost.

We have a complete suite of tools so I’ll just go through them one by one. There are five in total: The software packages are VWI, an operational management/SOP tool; SkillTrac, a skill management tool; Alltrac, for continuous improvement and issue tracking; RSM, which holds ISO and other standards your company may have; and Bidtrac, which manages suppliers’ RFPs.

Today, let’s go over VWI—our flagship software. VWI delivers real-time work instructions (WI) to operators on the manufacturing floor. Most SOP/WI are just created to comply with ISO or some standards requirement. They are only really reviewed yearly, just before an audit. The rest of the year people are doing their own thing, making changes with initials and verbal instructions. The cost of maintaining an ineffective system is huge. In the circuit board industry, change needed to happen right away. We only had 24−48 hours to deliver the product but it took 2−3 weeks to put through a change. The VWI was built to handle media-rich WI in real time. Anywhere, anytime, it can make a change, publish and you’re good to go.

Dan: What kind of companies will use these tools?

Kathleen: They are built primarily for manufacturing of products, but methods can be applied to any industry.

Dan: Tell me exactly how they are used. What are the specific capabilities?

Kathleen: Nessis manages tasks at the detail level versus a document management system. SOPs and WI can be viewed on a mobile device as easily as a desktop.

Dan: And how can a company save time and money by using these tools? 

Kathleen: In several ways. By using our tools a company Leans out waste, reduces training time and collaborates all the information requirements in one place, connecting to MRP/ERP systems. The tools also show operations’ bottleneck areas and allow for operator time management. BOMs and schedules become part of the overall WI. It takes the SOP/WI off the shelf and puts it to work in real time.

Dan: How easy is it to learn and implement?

Kathleen: Operators can be taught in less than 10 minutes. People producing the “How To’s” can be trained in four hours.

Dan: Let’s talk about a complete installation. From beginning to fully functional, what will that encompass?

Kathleen: The base system—just a WI system installation—is four hours, plus four hours of training. The fully Integrated to ERP/MRP with schedules, BOM, engineering drawings, quality alerts, that’s a typical installation of 3−4 months. The issue becomes more about getting the information from the stored locations versus the software. Our team helps work with the company’s different departments to speed up the process.

Dan: Can you give me an example of how a company is using it?

Kathleen: SpencerARL, a logistics and assemblies company, uses the software as an operations executions system running sub-assemblies for a major bus company who they connect with real time. This project alone saved nine paper-based document handlers and allowed them to be used as expeditors to resolve company issues with product. SpencerARL has grown from using our software in one manufacturing facility to five, in a few years, not including containment services. What is important to know is that our software and services allow companies to expand their markets, train their staff quickly and manage issues and changes right away.

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