After my promotion to corporate systems analyst my first assignment was to assist the GI Plant in Toronto Canada. The actual time span for what you’re about to read it April 1983 to July 1984.
GI Toronto was where they manufactured the GI Cable TV box and hand held controller. I was to help them implement an IBM Material Requirements Planning (MRP) software package called MAPICS. Material Requirements Planning (MRP) is a methodology for determining material, parts and assembly requirments by time period they are required. With a functioning system it can help build anything from peanut vending machines to Boeing 747″s.
MAPICS (Pronounced MAY-PICKS) – An acronym for
Manufacturing Accounting Production Information Control System.
It was IBM’s most successful MRP software package, to date, for small to medium sized manufacturing companies. It was eventually installed in more than 16,000 companies around the world and ran on the IBM System 34 at that time.
The problem was made a bit difficult for me because they had already purchased MAPICS and I had never heard of it. I knew MRP from a conceptual and users point and that was a bit of an advantage for me. By that I mean I could learn the IBM way really quick.
Corporate GI wanted to know if they should install MAPICS at all their manufacturing facilities and I was to learn it and become the corporate expert. They sent me to MAPICS school, in fact this was their plan all along once I had proven myself at the Nogales Mexico Plant.
I only had about two weeks to get to know people at GI Toronto before I was scheduled to go to Atlanta to learn the MAPICS Inventory Management (IM) Module, a four and a half day class.
On the first day, I arrived to GI Toronto a corporate IT rep and I went across the street to meet the Materials Manager and I met his secretary. She was a cute little 20-year-old who I instantly had to get to know. In fact, on the way back to the hotel, I told the IT guy, “I’m going to marry that little gal.”
He had a really good laugh at that, she was 20 and I was 45, fat chance, right? Every young good looking guy in Toronto was after her. What chance would I have? Oh well.
The plan was, upon my return we would implement the inventory portion of MAPICS, converting the GI inventory from a manual system to a brand spanking new computer system that would solve all the problems. Uh huh.
A company named GMD International was the largest third party company in the country in support of MAPICS. They had courses for each of the primary MAPICS modules and taught them mostly in Atlanta GA. More below.
I returned to Toronto understanding the Inventory Management, (IM) module, but I knew I still had to review what the inventory accuracy problems at Toronto were while planning the implementation.
The easiest way to find out if there are any problems with an existing manual inventory system is to find out its accuracy. I asked the Director there if he knew what the inventory accuracy was and he said, “Yeah,,, About 85%”
I asked him how he knew that and his answer was, ” We just know that around here.” That immediately set off alarm bells with me and I continued with my investigation. The only reason he could get away with that answer was he was a Director, but I knew he was full of crap.
I found the typical lack of appropriate manual systems and procedures, but I had to prove a point. On the weekend, they chose to load and convert to the MAPICS IM module we had to load all the master files and transfer the quantities on hand of all parts and raw material. That was done by copying the manual record and entering it to the new system.
During that week end I cycle counted about 100 different items three different times. A cycle count is a procedure to continually count a set number of parts selected at random to compare the actual quantity in stock to the inventory record.
When I cycle counted the parts I found that instead of an 85% accuracy, it was actually 27% accurate.
On the following Monday morning, we had a staff meeting and I reported we had completed the transfer of all inventory records to the new computer file in MAPICS. The General Manager and his staff were really happy to hear that.
Then I reported the result of the three cycle counts I had made and how bad it really was. This made them a bit nervous, but glad about their decision to automate the inventory until I said:
“On Friday, you had a 27% accurate “manual” inventory system. Today, you have a 27% accurate “computer” inventory system. We haven’t fixed anything.”
That’s when they came to acknowledge the problem was in the manual systems and procedures, even the organizational chart, ergo management policy. They saw the light and gave me the green light to lead the effort to fix the problems. Over the next year we did just that.
While I was going to Toronto every Monday morning and returning to Tucson on Friday evening, I also traveled extensively around the US. To review other MRP packages that were on the market. The Director of MIS and I often traveled together and we became good friends.
I crossed the USA many times in the years between 1983 and 1984. I also earned a ton of miles, because I always flew first class.
More importantly, it offered a chance for me to learn about the competition that was out there against MAPICS. During that last year something else that was very very disturbing happened to me.
On weekends at home I was out every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. I was still single and had an active single man’s life. In another version of this book, I have a more detailed description of that life, but this is the PG version.
I would always fly on Monday morning to where ever I was going, so Sunday night was an early night out for me. On one Sunday evening I left my hangout Smuggler’s Inn at about 10:00 PM. I left out the front door and turned left outside. The parking lot was around the building to the left.
As I walked around the building to my car all of a sudden, my head exploded. When I say, it exploded, I mean just that, it exploded! There is no other description.
I do remember my last thought, the only thought I had as I felt myself going unconscious on my way to the ground.
It was, “Oh NO!” That’s all I remember, Oh No!
Someone had sneaked up behind me and hit me with a baseball bat. Yep, a baseball bat.
Coincidentally, two off duty police officers were coming out Smuggler’s front door when they heard what they said, was a gun shot from the parking lot around the corner. They actually thought it was a gunshot! It was that loud! They immediately ran around the corner.
As they approached me they didn’t see any one to give chase but they did report that I was on my back and apparently tried to sit up once before I fell back. They later told me I was in a puddle of blood when the ambulance arrived.
I came to a couple days later and the doctor who stitched me up, about twenty stiches, said the guy who hit me, made contact at the thickest point of my skull. He said if I would have been hit a half inch higher or lower and I would have been dead.
The police concluded it wasn’t a robbery attempt because whoever did it didn’t take the time to steal anything. He just wacked me and ran. So they came to the conclusion that someone actually tried to kill me.
I racked my brain trying to figure out who would want to kill me. I wasn’t screwing any married women, that I knew of. I hadn’t screwed someone else’s girlfriend, that I knew of. So who was it?
I finally concluded I didn’t want to find out who because if I did, I’d have to do something about it and I’m never ready to go to jail for anyone or any reason.
I took the following week off and was happily on my way back to Toronto. I was also a lot more cautious when I walked anywhere.
Back at work and while I was working with most of the other GI companies I was sent to seven MAPICS classes to learn how to understand the various MAPICS modules. Having had a ground level manufacturing management as well as a systems design background, I was already considered an “expert” in my field as a manufacturing systems analyst. Learning MAPICS was just another notch on my consulting belt.
On my first performance review, they gave me a really outstanding report and a much better than average pay increase.
When I was promoted, the Corporate MIS Director asked me if I had ever done much commercial flying. I hadn’t and he then told I would be flying my ass off. He meant it.
Besides flying to GI locations I was tasked with reviewing all the top ten MRP systems on the market. Each visit was about a two day overview and because these companies thought they were in the running for a large corporate contract they treated me like a king.
This slide shows you how many software companies were selling MRP Systems during the 1980’s
The map below shows the flights I took in sixteen months in support of everything from the GI facilities, schooling and MRP reviews. I always flew first class and there were many times that came in handy.
As a pilot I’ve always enjoyed flying, but on one occasion, I think the winter of 83/84 it got so cold the airlines were hours behind schedule. We sat in the plane for over two hours before we pulled back from the gate in Toronto en route to Chicago.
When we landed in Chicago we sat on the tarmac waiting for a gate to open for another two hours. The plane to Tucson was about six hours late and we sat in that one for about two hours when we got on before they pulled back from the gate. This time all the first-class passengers were more inclined to have a few drinks and we all got loaded.
So loaded, the people in the back started complaining because we were keeping them up. When I finally got home I slept for a few hours and was playing golf that afternoon.
Back to MAPICS school
During the classes, it became obvious that I knew more about the applications place in a manufacturing environment than the teachers did. This made me quite popular with some and very unpopular with a few.
What I mean by knowing more is, I had more experience in manufacturing than the teachers and the students. In didn’t know how MAPICS handled a requirement, but I knew why it was needed and where. As a “user” and a manager of users I was ahead of the curve in every class. Hell I had reversed engineered an MRP system back at Burgmaster and sold my own version with Production Data Systems 15 years before.
Because MAPICS was installed in so many manufacturing companies around the world made it a great market for third party vendors, programming houses and software developers to get in on the action. It made a great market for consulting too. Hmmmm.
I was getting my confidence back after being in the bar and car business. While I enjoyed both they had taken a toll, but now I had been promoted out of GI Nogales, made the primary corporate manufacturing systems guy and I was going to the MAPICS schools. That got me thinking about getting out on my own. I knew I was in a special position because of my previous experience and the schooling GI was putting me through. I felt I needed to take advantage of that. Hmmm, what to do?
GMD International was the leading third party software company, in support of MAPICS, and a leading MAPICS consulting company. It had a group of about nineteen contracted consultants that represented GMD across the USA and a couple in Europe.
A contracted consultant was a consultant that was not an employee of GMD, but a free-lance consultant with a contract for a designated area as a GMD representative.
These consultants were considered the best of the best when it came to MAPICS, but most of them had an IT background and didn’t know squat about manufacturing.
To me there are three kinds of consultants:
- Can tell you what the problem is.
- Can tell you what the problem is and how to fix it.
- Can tell you what the problem is and how to fix it and insure success by doing what you can’t do until you can do it.
I’m a three.
By early 1984 the president of GMD and I were having lunch together each time I showed up in Atlanta. We would meet to discuss ideas and how the teachers could improve their presentations. He would always throw in the fact that they were looking for a really qualified person for the crèam of the crop location, Southern California.
I just kept listening until one day he approached me and asked if I would be interested in becoming an agent consultant. They wanted me for Southern California. That was quite an honor.
The only problem was it would require I move back to Los Angeles and I hated the thought of leaving Tucson. That really would be a sacrifice.
I liked the idea of being able to help my clients my way. I had had a lot of experience in a manufacturing environment and while MAPICS was the primary software I would be representing, I would concentrate on the importance of the manual systems and procedures. More on that later.
I negotiated a larger territory with GMD that included Arizona, New Mexico and Southern Nevada, so I gave a month’s notice, that was the least I could do. In the picture below I had already acquired the St Louis area. besides Area 10. If you click on the picture you can make it out a bit better. Sorry, this is the best I could do.
My boss, the Director of corporate MIS, wasn’t mad at me for leaving at all. In fact, he invested $10,000 in my company with a handshake agreement. He felt he wanted to be part of whatever I was going to do.
I moved to Los Angeles on July 4, 1984 and incorporated MDE Systems Inc. (MDE).
The night before I left Toronto for the last time I asked that 20-year-old secretary I mentioned earlier to marry me. We had been dating secretly for a few months. She accepted, she was now 21.
I wasn’t there when she went to work with the engagement ring on and did the big reveal. People were in shock and the word got around the company like the shot heard around the world. My reputation went through the roof. The other reputation.
Up next: 1984 – MDE Systems Inc.