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Manufacturing a plan to avoid Catch 3000

Knowing that your 3000 manufacturing application needs help doesn’t make you crazy

By Cortlandt Wilson
Cortlandt Software

“There was only one catch, and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy, and would have to fly more missions.”

— Joseph Heller, Catch-22


The decision-makers have already acted. Your current enterprise-wide management system on the HP 3000 needs to be replaced. Every time you ask for more investment in 3000 software, you underline the problems with the legacy applications. The very act of asking for investment in legacy technology also fuels the notion that you are part of the old guard, out of touch with the business.

On the other hand, if you say nothing, that fuels the same notions and shows that you won’t be part of the solution. The only politically correct option left is to get on the “MANMAN/MM 3000/fill-in-the-blank application-is-dead” bandwagon. It’s a no-win phenomena I call Catch-3000. Companies that scream about relatively modest investments on the HP 3000 seem willing to fork over truckloads for a magic future.

Last year I witnessed what happens when a company comes down with the Catch-3000 syndrome. A MANMAN user group meeting was treated to a presentation of the process used to select an ERP system to replace MANMAN. The presentation was well done and the process itself was impressive: a team of executives and managers were fully committed and involved in the evaluation. Experienced, neutral consultants and facilitators were brought in to support the process.

However, as consultants listening in the crowd on that day, we noticed something was missing. Keeping MANMAN was not on the list of options considered. MANMAN, in any combination of third-party or customizations, had already been rejected and deemed not feasible. That decision had already been made.

You have to wonder about the psychology of following an organized, rational process which ignores the obvious. Would an otherwise textbook process somehow act as a compensation for the cover up? The option of keeping the current system is as obvious as it gets.

Do logic-wielding computer professionals and dedicated practitioners of the bottom line such as MBAs and street-wise managers act consistently and persistently irrational? Yes we can, just as much as anyone else. These foibles of human nature sometimes take the form of a Catch-3000.

Reporting: the final nail?

Despite all the complexity and features of ERP systems, decision-makers interact with such software via reports. The stories they hear about applications often relate to the difficulties of getting data out of the system. In their minds, the reputation of the your “legacy” application is heavily determined by the ease-of-use and capability of your reporting tools. (Quiz does not qualify on these accounts.) Better tools are available on the market. Failure to install and support them may be the final nail in the coffins of too many HP 3000 platforms.

The philosophy of reporting tools on the HP 3000 has been a victim of the Catch-3000. Companies don’t want to invest in tools on a platform that they have already decided to drop. Again, the Catch-3000 phenomena blinds us to reports from the real world.

First, existing applications can’t be replaced overnight. Remember the company with the flawed system selection process? Just selecting the replacement system took several months. Management felt tired out by the process and needed to get back to other projects. When the company ran into patent problems the entire project was put on hold. The company is paying opportunity costs several times over.

Second, a lot of the software investment — and nearly all the technical know-how for supporting end-user reporting and/or data warehousing — is transferable. For instance, HP 3000 vendor Taurus Software offers a pre-built data warehouse for MANMAN. Taurus’s warehousing tools also run on NT and Unix, and work with several relational database systems, including Oracle.

Finally, reporting problems don’t automatically go away, no matter what ERP system you buy. Users of R/3 from ERP giant SAP are discovering that R/3 is not as wonderful as they thought it would be for reporting. Buying the new system is the beginning, not the end, of their problems. SAP and third-party vendors are responding with tools to help build R/3 data warehouses.

My bridging philosophy for ERP evolution proposes buying solutions now that will continue to work with the next generation of ERP software. If you will have to make the investment anyway, why not start reaping the benefits now and build the technical experience? Companies with the plans — and the truckloads of cash — to buy and implement new ERP or other major applications will find that the reporting tools they added to work with the HP 3000 come essentially for free.

As a consultant I am pessimistic about the market for the alternative-platform manufacturing products, given their costs. It may not make dollar sense, but when faced with significant spending to upgrade a legacy system, the response too often is either to take it as confirmation that the legacy system needs to be completely replaced — or do nothing and live with what you’ve got.

I believe the best business case often lies in the middle path between those two extremes. Is this idea hard to grasp, or am I failing to understand an important piece of the puzzle? Let me know at my Web site, or send me e-mail at

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

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