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

New Surround strategy takes center stage at CAMUS manufacturing conference

A Brief History of the MK Group

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 (, 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 well 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.

Copyright 1998 The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved