(First published in the March 1998 issue of The HP 3000 NewsWire)

Is there still life left in the old MAN(MAN)?

New Surround strategy takes center stage at CAMUS manufacturing conference

By Cortlandt Wilson

Is there still life in 25-year-old, so-called legacy software? Many users of the HP 3000 version of the MANMAN manufacturing business system say there is. In MANMAN’s heyday the key technology for manufacturing systems was manufacturing resources planning (MRP) – a class of algorithm for matching available inventory and purchasing decisions to manufacturing demand. As MRP matured it became more integrated with advanced concepts for forecasting, planning, and shop floor scheduling, among others. Advanced concepts for integrating and coordinating business activity such as supply chain management led to the concept of enterprise resource planning (ERP). Today’s MANMAN advocates are faced with pressure to move off so-called legacy technology and onto the advanced functionality of newer ERP systems. Many companies seem willing to pay the costs and shoulder the risks of implementing new systems, in order to get the added functionality and flexibility which the new technologies and applications promise.

While MANMAN lacks many of the advanced features of some ERP systems, it was always an enterprise-wide management system. The “core four” modules that are what most users think of as MANMAN are: manufacturing (MRP), OMAR (Order Management/AR), accounts payable and general ledger. The challenge for MANMAN advocates is to make the business case that a MANMAN-based solution provides the critical benefits of the competitive ERP systems at a notably lower cost and level of risk. MANMAN consultants and vendors have responded to this challenge with a diverse and expanding offering of tactical and strategic after-market solutions. These solutions supplement and surround the existing backbone of MANMAN functionality. This surround strategy extends the useful life of existing investments without sacrificing the business requirements for additional capabilities. “Bridging” is what I call a surround strategy that brings best-of-breed solutions to MANMAN today that are already being used by leading “next generation” applications from the BOPS manufacturing providers (Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP).

The case for the surround strategies is fulfilling business requirements for advanced functionality and flexibility without the high expense and risk of ripping out and completely replacing existing applications and technologies. Several years ago I predicted the growth and emergence of a new kind of after-market products and markets for MANMAN. Reality has exceeded my expectations, and even a brief summary of all the offerings would exceed the scope of this article. Two lists of MANMAN-compatible products are available: a printed catalog for members of the CAMUS International users group and an online catalog hosted at my Web site. The surround strategy and interfacing new technology was a recurring theme of user talks and vendor presentations at this year’s CAMUS International conference, held in February in Austin, Texas. On the exhibition floor, for instance, attendees could see demonstrations from three of the five vendors of MANMAN-compatible, client-server sales order entry systems. (If you knew where to look, all five of these vendors were represented at HP World ‘97.) One of those order entry systems vendors was MANMAN itself, in the form of the MK Group (www.mkgroup.org), the independent business unit of Computer Associates which now owns MANMAN. Opal is a client-server development technology owned by Computer Associates that uses a “screen scraping” technology along with ODBC on its back end. At the MK Group’s instigation Opal now can understands HP 700 terminal protocols for character and block mode screens. On the front end Opal provides your choice of either a windows client-server interface or a web-enabled interface. The MK Group has developed Opal versions of a few key MANMAN screens. MK’s VP of Software Development Jeff Straw says that the MANMAN/Opal screens will be in beta test at a customer site in March.

The MK Group’s newest strategic Surround partner, Austin-based Trilogy Development Group, was at CAMUS in force. Trilogy’s first product was a product configurator – an implementation of a type of artificial intelligence that ensures complex products are sold with all the right pieces and at the right price. Today, Trilogy sells a suite of integrated modules that support and automate the sales and marketing process.

The MK/Trilogy partnership is so new that, as of late February, the partners were still working out pricing to better fit the midrange manufacturing system market. For its strategic partnerships with complementary products, the MK Group acts as primary integrator with responsibility for first-level support. For its preferred solution relationships, it only recommends and provides some visibility for the third- party products.

The MK Group’s family of complementary solutions includes Trilogy and solutions for product data management (part, BOM, and engineering document control), advanced planning and scheduling, plant maintenance, sales tax, end user reporting, and OLAP (analytical processing/data warehousing). MK’s Straw said MK is creating additional strategic partnerships.

The MK Group is a relative newcomer to the complementary products
market. For the past few years long time third-party vendors and
consultants have been offering a growing menu of “shrink-wrapped”
solutions ranging from host-based programs designed to look like
another MANMAN command to client server systems. Pricing on
many of the solutions is often very reasonable. Some of the solutions
are designed specifically to work with MANMAN. In other cases,
vendors provide interfaces to products that were designed to service a
business need such as service and repair, product data management,
advanced MRP, or data warehousing.

In many cases the MANMAN interfaces are created and supported
by experienced MANMAN consultants. In some cases the question is
not only whether to integrate a third party solution into MANMAN,
but which competing pre-integrated solution to buy. All this
competition means that MANMAN customers have a choice between
applications, types of integration (“shrink-wrapped” or “roll your
own”), and solution providers.

MANMAN customers at the CAMUS conference commended MK
for today’s improved level of support, when compared to a few years
ago. Many speak positively of a sense of guarded confidence in the
middle-level managers who have been showing up at such user groups
all over the US. Available functionality, strong support, and customer
confidence are critical success factors for a software company. For
CA, known for its tight, centralized management style, the success
formula may be to leave well enough alone.

Cortlandt Wilson is a software consultant specializing in MANMAN
on the HP 3000, and the co-chair of INTEREX SIGConsult and
serves on the board of SIG MANMAN/Choices.


Sidebar

A Brief History of MANMAN, ASK, and Manufacturing Knowledge (MK Group)

Over the years MANMAN has experienced highs and lows. At once
time ASK was a media darling – a successful high-tech company
founded and run by a woman. The MANMAN product itself has a
good reputation in the mid-sized manufacturing systems market. The
company, however, unsuccessfully tried to follow up its success with a
“next generation” solution based on a new technology infrastructure.
When I was with ASK in the late 1980s on several occasions I heard
the president and co founder of ASK say that “we are an applications
company, not a software tool company.” Unfortunately, the
companies now on top of the ERP market all developed their own
technology infrastructure. The search for a new technology
infrastructure led ASK to purchase Ingres for its relational DBMS and
tools.

ASK finally purchased a infrastructure and the basic application
software for a ERP system from a then little-known Dutch company
named Baan. (Today Baan is one of the “big four” ERP vendors). As
part of the sales agreement ASK modified significant amounts of the
functionality and called the application MANMAN/X. Strained by
development costs and weak sales, the company floundered. By 1994
ASK was facing a severe cash crisis. Looking for a financial angel or
a buyer, the board of directors finally recommended a buyout offer
from Computer Associates. Many ASK employees, however,
responded as to a hostile takeover and resigned. Ironically, news of
Computer Associates offer to buy Computer Sciences Corporation
broke during the CAMUS conference. Industry analysts’ concerns
about CA’s “ferocious reputation” and the loss of experienced staff
mirror the ASK takeover. Many MANMAN customers expressed
skepticism about CA’s ability to maintain the product, and the quality
of support noticeably dropped. The rate of management turnover
became a common subject of black humor.

By 1996 CA concluded that application software and services
shouldn’t be managed like software tools and utilities. CA spun off its
manufacturing products into an independent business unit to be named
the MK Group (MK for Manufacturing Knowledge). MANMAN/X
was renamed MK to reflect its marketing role as the flagship product.
Independence seems to be working. In the MK Group’s keynote
address to the conference, MK’s general manager Kurt Seibert
pointed out that this is his third consecutive CAMUS event – and
asserted that the MK Group has begun to prove stable and is
responding better to customer needs.

– Cortlandt Wilson


Copyright 1998, The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.
Copied by permission of publisher.

 

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