E-Z-MRP - Materials Requirements Planning Software

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Dissatisfied with complicated material requirements planning (MRP) systems that were out of reach for most small manufacturers, Rocky Smolin took a dramatic step. The president and owner of Beach Access Software (Del Mar, CA) locked himself up in a Las Vegas, NV, resort, and schemed to free industry from the shackles of high-cost material requirements planning. He emerged nearly a week later—armed with a different kind of program.

Sketch of Rocky Smolin

"I had this idea, having implemented and written from scratch both mainframe- and mini-based MRP systems, that if you could write a package that would run on a single-user PC — that would be comprehensible by people without APICS certification or a degree in the subject—that you could go after the half a million small manufacturers in the country who need MRP but can't afford it," says Smolin. "It was something that everybody looked at and said, ‘That can’t be done.’ So I figured, Well, I'll take a try at that; it’s going to be interesting. I wanted to prove the point that you could demystify MRP. You see, in my judgment, MRP is a real simple problem and everybody who runs their business in a reasonably organized way does MRP. They just don't use the vocabulary."

And so he made it easy — E-Z-MRP, that is.

E-Z-MRP is an MRP program designed for the discrete manufacturing industry. It runs on any Windows based network and features a bill of materials module, complete inventory control, production planning, and sales order, purchase order and work order functions. Its key feature, however, is cost. Smolin designed the system specifically for small to medium-size

businesses that can't afford the $20,000 to $100,000 that he says a traditional MRP system can run. E-Z-MRP has a price of $3,495 for the full version, which handles unlimited parts, and $1,495 for the junior model, which holds 500 parts.

Smolin calls the system down-to-earth and straightforward, adjectives that also fit the man and his philosophy on MRP systems.

"Everybody who runs their business in a reasonably organized way does MRP. They just don't use the vocabulary."

"People all day long are trying to figure out what to make and what to buy, and when to make it and when to buy it,” he says. “Those are the four questions everyone’s always trying to answer in manufacturing. And the faster and easier they can get those answers, the happier they're going to be."

Hence the birth of a system that uses jargon-free vocabulary, simple instructions, and a tutorial and manual to replace on-site training. For example, instead of a ‘time phased procurement schedule’ like that of most MRP systems, E-Z-MRP has a Buy Report. And instead of requiring the entire company to be trained in its use, the program is specifically designed to be run by a single operator, although the system is network ready and has no limit on the number of users.

"By the time MRP is implemented in most companies, people are so sick of it that it takes almost 100% turnover before it's successful," Smolin says emphatically. "When you want to put an MRP system in, the first thing you do is put the new system on their work station and say, ‘Now we want you to do twice as much work as you're doing. Do your regular work and then also do it in this system.  And then when we run the system parallel for a long enough time, well cut over to it’. Well, you

know how that goes over in purchasing and every other department that it happens in. They work and work and work, and they get nothing back for that work except the system fails three or four times, and they have to do all that work over again.

"So, by the time they're ready to cut over, everybody well and truly hates any idea of MRP or automated systems. That's the biggest stumbling block for manufacturing systems," continues the 44-year-old self-proclaimed computer enthusiast "What I tried to do was eliminate that whole management problem. E-Z-MRP can be run by one person on one machine. And everybody gets free output. So, the first exposure they have to manufacturing systems is a benefit."

A 1970 graduate of Bradley University (Peoria, IL) with a B.S. in business administration, Smolin also earned an MBA from San Diego State University (San Diego, CA) in 1974. He then did what any self-respecting MBA would do—he went to work as the manager of manufacturing information systems at a large manufacturing firm. In 1978, he implemented the Manman MRP system from ASK Computer Systems (Mountain View, CA) for a San Diego, CA, company that manufactured underwater exploration devices. But his heart wasn't in the corporate environment, and he and a fellow employee left to start their own computer firm.

"We pretended to do productive things for America, while we were really goofing off and playing with personal computers," he says with a laugh. After a short time as San Diego Business Systems, Smolin began his own firm in 1981. His wife, Marsha Sutton, now handles marketing communications as a partner in the firm. It was as C.R. Smolin Inc. that they released the first version of E-Z-MRP in 1985.

Nearly 11 software versions later, Smolin's philosophy on MRP systems remains the same: "First, you give them dessert, and then you make them eat their vegetables." -MA



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