Fifty years ago, Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon and Woodstock revelers aimed to go even higher than that.
Right here in Pittsburgh, Jim Leib, Elliot Greenman and Alan Colker founded Applied Systems Associates (aSa) in the East Office Complex of Monroeville Mall. Prior to cofounding aSa, Leib worked at U.S. Steel where he developed a rebar shearing algorithm.
Over a five-decade journey, aSa has gone from keypunch cards to the cloud to develop software for the concrete reinforcing steel (rebar) industry.
The technology started on mainframe computers that used punch cards to store data. Customers would handwrite orders and mail them to aSa, where staff would input orders on punch cards. Using Leib’s algorithm, the mainframe computer then produced shearing instructions, reports and bundle tags: to automate and organize the production of reinforcing steel construction and increase efficiency.
Now, aSa provides integrated rebar software solutions to clients across the globe. The company also offers hardware and IT services, training, consulting and supplies. aSa’s modular software system allows clients to select the solutions they need and add new modules as their own projects or businesses grow. aSa has solutions for every step, from estimating and bidding projects, to 3D CAD modeling, production, tracking, field placing and invoicing.
Leib’s sons, Scott and Mitch, are now leading aSa into its next half century. Scott Leib, President/CEO, and Mitch Leib, Vice President of Operations, both started their careers as programmers in the company in the 1980s.
Scott and Mitch credit their father and mother, Miriam, for building a solid foundation for aSa.
“They created a great work atmosphere,” said Scott. “From early on, we had excellent health benefits, profit sharing and a 401k. We made it feel like family here.”
Many of aSa employees have been with the company for 30-40 years. “Many of us who started as programmers have transitioned to management and leadership roles,” said Mitch.
The brothers agree that they can’t imagine running aSa without each other. “We have similar views on the most important things. We worked together as programmers,” said Mitch. “That helps a lot. Scott would have an idea. I would make it work. And then he would improve it and make it better. Scott is more visionary and innovative and I’m a little more grounded and practical. We make a great team.”
To keep aSa on a growth track, the brothers said the basic concept is still the same: “We have to understand our customers.”
aSa holds a forum every other year for its customers and clients to participate in hands-on software workshops and learn about upcoming software features. Forums typically draw more than 100 clients from around the world, including clients that go back to its founding in 1969.
“A company our size has to keep up with technology innovation,” said Scott. “We have to be careful about what new technologies we apply to our products. It’s a balancing act.” As technology changes, aSa constantly re-evaluates potential applications.
aSa has grown on a steady diet of technology evolution. Over the last five decades, it has seen five distinct technology generations. The company started on keypunch cards and then evolved to minicomputers with terminals. They moved to DOS with PC networks, which then were replaced with Microsoft Windows. Now they are releasing aSa.Studio, a completely redesigned web-based product suite.
As aSa heads past its fifth decade, the Leib brothers said the software and underlying technology will evolve to meet customers’ needs, and the company will always hold true to their parents’ founding principles.