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History

The concept of sales and operations planning evolved in several steps as part of the larger development of MRP and MRP II/ERP. 

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s, some leading manufacturing companies like J I Case, Twin Disc, Black and Decker and others had developed a new method for replenishing and managing inventory – essentially a method based on projecting component shortages and ordering in anticipation of those shortages (launching orders to produce more for some specific date in the future).  Later it was extended to encompass priority planning for material (keeping due dates on those replenishment orders valid as demand changed), capacity planning for labor and equipment (projecting how much capacity was needed and when and then trying to adjust capacity to meet the requirements), and then to priority control (shop floor control) and capacity control. 

By the mid-1970s, Ollie Wight, already the leading consultant in the field, was writing in his book Production and Inventory Management in the Computer Age, of an important concept needed to engage executives in material and capacity management.  He called the concept of looking at future production volumes (as opposed to looking at the detailed schedules or mix of products needed) “production planning”.  He identified this concept, focused primarily on supply and production resources, as a key ingredient in effective management, and in a later book (MRP II: Unlocking America’s Productivity Potential), said that it was one of several essential ideas that distinguished MRP II from the earlier MRP approach. 

Production planning became an important concept promoted by the Oliver Wight Companies in their books, software research, education offerings, and most importantly in their consulting.  And as more companies implemented production planning, it became apparent that production volumes could not be well managed without equal attention being paid to demand. 

Dick Ling, an Oliver Wight Associate and a pioneer on important concepts like master scheduling and two level master scheduling as well as forecast consumption, was the first to articulate this refinement of production planning.  He coined the term “sales and operations planning – S&OP” to describe it and started using it in 1987.  The name change, which Ling proposed to a meeting of the world-wide Oliver Wight Associates in early 1987, was immediately and widely accepted, since it much better described what made the process of managing volumes successful.  Ling’s book, Orchestrating Success, which he co-authored with Walter Goddard, was the first explanation of this concept as well as how to make it work.  It is still considered a classic in the field.   

Many of the Oliver Wight associates present in the 1987 meeting went on to make important contributions to the body of knowledge on effective S&OP:   

And naturally there were even more contributors who were not writers, but who communicated – through their classes and consulting – and extended the concepts of S&OP.