It has now been nearly 50 years since IT first came to MANN+HUMMEL. In terms of the development of information technology, this is an incredibly long time. I was tasked with setting up an IT department at MANN+HUMMEL in 1966, and a lot of memories have stayed with me to this day, particularly of those first few years.

I first came to MANN+HUMMEL in Ludwigsburg at the end of 1964 as an external consultant; I was to develop an IT concept for the material management process with expert operational staff. The goal was clear to all who laid eyes on the guidelines set out by Mr Mann: the IT system needed to help meet customer requirements faster and with greater efficiency than ever before. The idea was for production to be able to react to the market with greater flexibility. In the mid-1960s, data processing was still in its infancy. At that time, MANN+HUMMEL worked with an IBM punch-card system, which supported stock accounting, as well as salary and payroll accounting.

From the numerous, very open discussions with Mr Mauser, Mr Vögele and Mr Pfeiffer from the joint team, the framework for the company’s future IT department was gradually set out: the new department had to be structured in such a way, that it could take care of the monitoring, organisation, programming and practical operation of the future IT system.

We divided the New “Data Processing and System Analysis” (DS) department into three sub-units: “Organisation Programming“ (OP), “Organisation Software Revision“ (OR) and “Organisation Computing“ (OC). OC covered the perforator, mass production and list dispatch. Just as important was the formation of the future team of operators and programmers: well-trained specialists were hard to come by in the market at that time, and had a hefty price tag in terms of salary. This meant that we could only cover our growing demand through training our own, which later led to the establishment of the “Organisation-Fortbildung” (OF, organisation training) department. 

IT history

The first Honeywell comes online

In late January 1967, we received our new Honeywell system, with the administrative wing of the former textile factory “Pamina” made ready for its installation. This involved the daunting task of providing power and a raised floor for the entire hall for the purposes of exhaust air cabling. From a technical perspective, the new system was connected and ready for use three days after its delivery. Our still small team set about testing the newly developed program for wages. The goal was to take the results, which were previously run through the punch card system, and transfer them as quickly as possible into the IT system. This was also the aim for materials.

We soon began receiving new tasks. Production wanted to improve their adherence to delivery dates, while Planning wanted to optimise stock volumes. IT was to provide a technical solution for the permanent inventory that would be recognised by the State Tax Office as legally valid. Sales wanted faster generation of packing lists and invoicing for dispatch. This is how DS/OP’s sphere of activity slowly but surely began to spread throughout the business. It was not long before we were requested to train liaison officers from each department who would then act as multipliers. This helped the specialist departments to ease themselves into the growing number of IT applications.

computer-control MANN+HUMMEL

A lack of consistency in the world of IT

Something that made this work particularly hard was that, at that time, there were no IT standards or universal programming languages. Each time a new solution was installed, the technical problems of the department in question had to be taken into account within the program of the chosen computer system. And yet these software programs, which took so much time and effort to develop, were not compatible with other manufacturers’ mainframes. This was due to the different operating systems and non-standardised programming languages used.

In the 1970s, the old IBM punch card system was replaced by new data capture devices (OC). Removable disk drives became mass storage devices. Each of these devices was about the size of one of today’s washing machines and contained a heavy insert with ten magnetic disks. Because the legal data retention period was ten calendar years, it was necessary to store a greater number of tapes fully written with data. This required a climate-controlled room in the basement, as although at the time the tapes were physically sturdy, they were sensitive to atmospheric conditions. OR was in charge of data management.The next major organisation project was to record the parts lists belonging to construction drawings created by Construction (KL). Luckily for us, one of our team was familiar with the material and was happy to move to KL to work as a multiplier there.

IT history MANN+HUMMEL

A farewell warning

The end of the 1970s marked the retirement of the head of Central Purchasing – one of the longest-serving employees, having worked as senior department head and authorised representative for many years. On leaving his colleagues, he expressed concern about the future: “Beware of data processing, friends. If you aren’t careful, it will devour all your work and you with it.” This utterance was proof to me that many people had deep-rooted psychological reservations about stepping into the unknown. Back then, good reasons were required time and again to justify introducing an IT system.