On the 40th anniversary of DRI’s founding, I sat down with Bill Titus, DRI’s President, to discuss the company’s first 40 years and gather a little insight into what the future may hold.
Wendy Levine, Marketing Director
You first started with DRI when you were in High School – is that correct?
While I was in high school, in 1977, I worked for Mark Wolk and Associates, a Pittsburgh-based accounting firm. Mark had just acquired an Altair 8800 computer – the first micro-computer that you could program directly – and they hired me to create programs to help analyze multiple scenarios within the context of financial analysis and planning. Those programs, by the way, were written in Altair Basic, which was developed by Bill Gates and which later became the founding product of Microsoft. In 1978 Decision Resources was founded to continue this work. After graduating from college in 1981, I returned to DRI to lead the business.
With the advent of spreadsheets, the need for the financial analysis applications we were developing diminished and we focused on developing custom business software in COBOL. We began working with a manufacturing add-on to the Real World accounting system called MCS3. It was during this time that DRI made a strategic decision to focus on manufacturing industries. We had sold about six MCS3 systems when MMS International, the company developing MCS3, put their resources into a new application called Syman, written in Progress. At this point we had a decision to make. If we wanted to work with the Syman system, we needed to purchase a new Unix computer and acquire new skills – both significant investments. We made another significant strategic decision and invested in the new technology. We sold our first Syman system in 1986. Syman soon became SYMIX and later SyteLine, and today it is the Infor application known as CloudSuite Industrial. Decision Resources has been a leading provider of these systems since that first sale in 1986.
Note: We couldn’t find a picture of Bill Titus with DRI’s first Altair – but check out this vintage video of another Bill with his Altair 8800!
Who was DRI’s first customer?
We sold Syman 2.2b to Vista Metals in 1986. Vista was, and primarily still is, a custom job shop manufacturer. They are devoted to providing their customers with high-quality, fast turn-around, cost-effective custom engineered tungsten carbide preforms. Our new application gave them many of the features they needed along with the flexibility to create additional functionality. The knowledge we gained working with Vista Metals was the basis of a strong core set of expertise specific to custom job shop facilities that we still have. I am very proud that Vista Metals has remained a client to this day.
If you had to pick one or two things that DRI has done to remain successful over the past 40 years, what would they be?
I would point to two equally important items – our unique market focus and our employees.
We have always focused on being experts at the intersection of technology and business. This means that we understand our clients’ business AND the technology that we are helping them implement. Our team understands how to use technology effectively to run a business and works closely with our clients to put in place effective systems that truly solve problems and create competitive advantages. We have been successful for so many years because we understand more than the theory of the latest best-practices, but we also provide our clients systems that allow them to implement these practices in their businesses.
Equally important is the knowledge and hard work of our employees. We are focused on bringing in the right people who can deliver success for our clients. As we have grown, and technology and business practices have advanced, we have brought on board experts in many different fields. People who work at DRI are passionately curious to learn new things, but are also singularly committed to the success of our clients. I am very proud of the service our employees provide to our clients. Our tag line is “Results. No Surprises.” and that is truly what each and every one of our people aims to deliver.
Modern ERP applications are complete business systems that have grown tremendously from the early MRP software of decades ago. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the MRP/ERP marketplace over the last 40 years?
I would point to 3 major areas of change over the last 40 years:
- Our customers’ supply chains have become much more complex. DRI’s early customers were primarily sourcing locally and selling finished goods directly to another manufacturer or end user. Today, most of our clients source and sell across the globe through multiple business locations. Our clients are also frequently selling direct to consumers, which is not something that manufacturers typically did a decade ago. All of this means that we are now installing software in multiple languages, integrating to online consumer stores, and providing tools that allow our clients to analyze data and trends across their entire organization.
- Our clients are expecting more out of their business systems. Not surprisingly, as technology has advanced, so have our clients’ expectations. We were successful early on because we got the basics right – inventory added up, costs were correct, and the right products were being produced. While we still need to keep in mind that spending time getting the basics right is important – this is just a starting point for us today. We are integrating to machines on the shop floor, providing real-time data to users across the world, and using the mobile and online applications that users expect. Our clients have adapted to fill niches where they can offer high value-added products and services – and they expect their systems to support their requirements in meeting the needs of their customers. This means having tools to manage interactions with customers, allowing customers and suppliers to access information directly online, and providing sophisticated business intelligence tools.
- Our clients are more than manufacturers, and in fact today, we serve a diverse mix of business models. For at least the first half of our existence, our clients manufactured products – period. Today many of our clients are also distributors – they have sophisticated distribution operations and supply chains through which they sell products. In addition, many of our clients now provide services and service contracts alongside their manufactured products. Other clients engineer, design, and sell products, while outsourcing many of the production activities they used to handle internally. This means that DRI must understand the many ways in which our clients are selling, and the many different touch points that they have with their customers – including a much greater reliance on digital supply chain tools. I expect that the lines between manufacturers, distributors, service businesses, and retailers will continue to blur.
In your opinion, what is the next advancement in technology that will have the greatest impact on the manufacturing sector?
I think that there are a few areas that have already been identified, such as IOT, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and our ability to take full advantage of the Cloud and Big Data. Ten to twenty years from now our clients will be spending significantly more on technology, but not in the same areas that they are spending their money now. DRI’s job is to stay on top of these trends, and to continue seeking ways that these new concepts and technologies can be practically used by our clients. For example, we were the first Infor partner in the manufacturing space to fully embrace the move to Cloud solutions. As a result, we have the unique expertise required to implement customers on a multi-tenant SaaS platform, and to advise existing and new customers on the multiple deployment options available today.
We are celebrating our 40th Anniversary this year, and our mission is to stay relevant for the next 40 years and help our clients take full advantage of new technology as it becomes available and applicable to the manufacturing sector.
Bill Titus is the President, CEO, and owner of Decision Resources, Inc. He resides in Pittsburgh and has overseen the growth of the company from a single location technology firm – to a national consulting organization with offices in Pittsburgh, Austin, Wichita, and Chicago. Bill has an A.B. in mathematics from Harvard University.