This is Part 4 of a 9 Part Series on the History of ERP.
1970s: MRP Software Industry
In 1970, Orlicky presented “Requirements Planning Systems: Cinderella’s Bright Prospects for the Future” at the 13th International APICS conference in Cincinnati, OH.
Thomas said that another former IBM employee from the 1960s, Dick Ling, went on to develop some of the earliest Master Production Scheduling (MPS) software at Arista which later became Xerox Computer Services or XCS in 1970 and Glovia in the 1980s. Ling was a key figure in the development of sales and operations planning (S&OP). Glovia is currently marketed by Fujitsu who acquired the product in 2000. Glovia is currently to this day but predominantly into automotive manufacturing companies and it’s not the force it once was in the industry.
Thomas is surely a source of so much information that we could have talked for hours. His blog mentions so many more early systems including PIOS by Rath and Strong which Thomas said had fully-pegged requirements planning. Rath & Strong is no longer involved in the software industry but continues a a major force in six sigma and lean manufacturing theory. I happened upon an early document from NASA evaluating PIOS, Martin Marietta MAS-E, and Univac Unis 1100 from Sperry. Sperry was a smaller (yet not insignificant) competitor to IBM at the time. Sperry acquired competitor Burroughs in 1968. Founded in 1910, pieces of Sperry Rand live on today as part of Unisys and Honeywell. Burroughs was also a player in the early days of MRP but never really caught on.
IBM introduces COPICS, Communication-Oriented Production Information and Control System around 1972 which appeared in 12 chapters in 8 volumes printed documentation representing a combination of documented processes and loose collection of systems that was not a finished or complete software application but rather a conceptual system for implementing the processes with tailored application software. COPICS was in turn handed over to former IBM employees who formed System Analysis and Program Development (better known as SAP) in 1972. COPICS was the high-end system of the day with PICS RPS (which became MAPICS) pegged as the more affordable, low-cost option on the market.
Joseph Orlicky published Material Requirements Planning in March of 1975 marking the first and most comprehensive documented description of MRP. It is estimated that as many as 700 companies were using MRP sytems at the time growing to about 8,000 by 1981. Other sources state that as few as 150 companies were using MRP in 1975. Regardless of the number, the fact is that MRP was gaining traction even before the landmark publication of Orlicky’s book in 1975.
Many future MRP innovators launched in the 1970s including JD Edwards, Ask Group (ManMan) by Sandra Kurtzig and DataWorks (to name just a few). It’s worth mentioning that Kurtig continues working in ERP today with her new company Kenandy and DataWorks products are still in use as part of Epicor’s extensive ERP portfolio.
Technology continued to advance signficantly on UNIX-based platforms introduced initially in the 1960s but developed further into through the 1970s and 1980s paving the way for the next generation of ERP applications. An interesting chart on the history of UNIX is available on Wikimedia Commons.
The burgeoning MRP software market was certainly growing fast but things were just about to change dramatically and again, it was IBM that was going to stir things up again.
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