- Sphera traces its roots back to the 1970s.
- Sphera is composed of several companies focused on Operational Risk, Product Stewardship and Environmental, Health & Safety that have been combined through several acquisitions.
- Since 2017, Sphera has acquired five companies: Rivo Software, sparesFinder, Petrotechnics, SiteHawk and thinkstep.
Tracing an established company’s history can sometimes be something of a DNA test; in the comic world, it would be called an “origin story.” What exactly is flowing through an organization’s bloodstream can sometimes be elusive.
Sphera is no different.
If you followed our blog series recapping highlights from Sphera’s first three years, you know that the organization formed in 2016. But to paraphrase the tagline from the popular musical “Wicked”: So much happened before Sphera dropped in on the market.
So as the Talking Heads’ David Byrne might say: You may ask yourself, well, how did we get here?
To get you up-to-speed on what makes Sphera, you know, Sphera, we’re going to take a quick stroll down memory lane to tell Sphera’s story of how we came to be.
Thankfully, we have the Internet Wayback Machine to help us recap the journey. (By the way, if you’ve never gone on the website, you’re really missing out; being able to revisit those ‘90s websites in particular are a blast-from-the-past treat.)
The ’70s and ’80s
1974: Meeting Essential Needs
In 1974, a Rockville, Maryland-based company named EIS International Corp. was the first full-service provider of environmental and emergency management software and services. EIS created crisis management systems, including “the new EIS/GEM InfoBook,” which were the “proven standard for emergency planning and response in all levels of government, the military and the private sector.” That said, the former CEO of that company’s LinkedIn profile explains that he created the “first commercial software for incident management”—called EIS, the Emergency Information System—in 1981.
Then, in 1991, a company called EnviroMetrics from Delaware was ready to play a big role in the environmental space. The EnviroMetrics product offered Environmental Health & Safety data management solutions for the manufacturing, utility and government sectors.
In 1997, EIS and EnvironMetrics merged to form Essential Technologies and thereby brought the Essential product into the fold—ESS’s CEO told the Boston Business Journal that the Essential deal was “part of the consolidation in this industry that we started a while back by acquiring our biggest competitor in 1997, a company called EnviroMetrics in Delaware.”
The one thing we can say for certain is that this line from the EnviroMetrics news release still makes sense today: “And both [companies] understand that today’s information tools must not only facilitate regulatory compliance on time and on budget, but also help improve overall environmental processes in order to make users more competitive in their own businesses.”
In fact, the company became so popular so fast that it would be acquired just six years later by a Tempe, Arizona-based organization called Environmental Support Solutions (ESS), which, itself, would be acquired by IHS in 2009.
Because of global warming especially, the environment makes the news quite a bit these days, but environmental hazards are just one of the many potential dangers companies face on a day-to-day basis. There are potential hazards throughout organizations if proper steps and technology are not applied to help avoid them, and the next company in the Sphera family tree had something to say about that—a lot to say about that actually.
You can learn more about Sphera’s entire line of Environmental software.
1978: A Welcome Mat for Intermat
Our journey continues in 1978, which was the year the video game “Space Invaders” beamed its way into pop culture lore while Christopher Reeve became a household name portraying the Action Comics superhero extraordinaire, Superman, whose own origin story from Planet Krypton was created by Clevelanders Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel in the 1930s. In ’78, however, a company called Intermat Inc. was born, and so our super tale of Sphera’s origin story continued to move faster than a LOPA on a locomotive.
In 1997, the Intermat website stated—again, thanks Wayback Machine—“Intermat is the pioneer and the industry leader in the field of MRO materials cataloging. We will help you restructure and redefine your inventory catalog so you can realize the benefits of organized, accurate and accessible information. With Intermat’s assistance, you will enjoy greater productivity, better informed decision-making and more efficient management.”
When looking over Intermat’s software offerings at the time, some familiar names pop up, like Struxure and Standard Modifier Dictionary. The website even offered a box to learn more about Intermat’s asbestos-related services.
In 2004, IHS Markit would acquire the company. A news release explained: “The integration of Intermat’s MRO software tools and services will enable IHS to market the broadest suite of parts management products and solutions to customers in aviation and aerospace, architecture/engineering/construction, automotive, electronics and electrical, government and military, petrochemical and energy, telecommunications, utilities and other manufacturing industries.”
IHS renamed the Intermat MRO business as Struxure and that name carried over into Sphera.
You can learn more about Sphera’s latest MRO software products.
1989: Atrion Activated
In 1989, the price of a U.S. stamp was a quarter and Japanese company Nintendo released the first Game Boy that year, which was the must-have hand-held video game device at the time. In Canada—St. Laurent, Quebec, to be precise—an innovative software company called Atrion International was created to help companies stay in compliance in Product Stewardship areas such as Chemicals, Petroleum, Flavors & Fragrances and more with its Materials Compliance Solution consisting of four components: Content, Materials Compliance Suite, Compliance Engine and a Global Regulatory Network.
The following year, Atrion introduced the first version of CHEMMATE featuring Intelligent Authoring (IA)—an intelligent algorithm engine used to assess hazardous properties of substances and mixtures, and apply embedded rules to generate and manage Safety Data Sheets and other safety documents compliant with Canadian regulations.
A decade later, as the company grew, it would begin making some deals. The first would occur in 1998 when Atrion acquired a software product called Rosetta, which was one of the first programs to be able to produce Safety Data Sheets in multiple languages, from Netherlands-based Royal Haskoning. The next deal also had a European connection as Atrion would buy ChemWare, a leading U.K.-based provider of EH&S and Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS) software solutions. Then, a couple of years later, Atrion would acquire Chemtox, a collection of chemical and regulatory information, and rebrand it as RegDBOnLine.
As the Atrion website explained in 2004, the company offered the “[o]nly one-stop platform provider (content, rules and applications) for global material compliance.”
Six years later, in October 2010, IHS would acquire Atrion along with Syntex Management Systems Inc. (more on that in Part Two). As the news release said: “By seamlessly integrating its solutions with customers’ existing work processes and systems, Atrion improves efficiency while delivering accurate and compliant output. At the heart of Atrion’s product compliance solutions is regulatory content covering more than 50 countries in 44 languages with more than 300,000 chemicals, 15,000 regulatory phrases, 5,000-plus proprietary algorithms and more than 100 regulatory forms.”
All of that is definitely speaking our “language” at Sphera.
Check back tomorrow for a summary of Sphera’s history from the 1990s and 2000s.