By Michael Lilly, VP for Product Management, LillyWorks, Inc.
Every manufacturing company has a meeting that is never fun. It is held at least weekly but usually more often. It involves at least three people but often many more, depending on the size of the company. People from the purchasing, production control, and sales departments participate, as do people from upper management and perhaps from company ownership. This is not a short meeting. This is the meeting at which current statuses of important production orders are reviewed and at which negotiations take place and decisions are made about production order priorities, about which promises to customers are going to be kept and, sadly, about which promises to customers are going to be broken.
Its name varies from company to company. You may recognize yours in this list:
- The production meeting
- The scheduling meeting
- the sales meeting
- the bosses meeting
- the managers meeting
- the morning meeting
- the daily meeting
Whatever this meeting is called at your company, it is never fun. No one comes away from the meeting completely happy about what has taken place. It’s particularly not fun for the person who must communicate to the customer that a date is going to be missed. No one likes having to disappoint customers but that’s just life in manufacturing. It’s always been this way and it’s always going to be this way, right?
Maybe there is a way to quickly see the orders that are currently in trouble. Maybe there is a way to protect yourself from having to break promises to customers. Maybe there is a reliable and trustworthy method for predicting that a promise is in danger of being broken whole there is still time to act and prevent lateness. Maybe there is a way to know the actions which can prevent that future lateness. Maybe there is a systematic way of doing these things which would transform the long and never fun meeting into a much shorter meeting, one from which everyone emerges confident that they know what to do and that all promises to customers will be kept. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Protected Flow Manufacturing (PFM) is the name of a methodology and of a software tool that makes it easy to put the methodology into practice. You begin by assigning protection to each date you’ve promised to a customer. The software makes it easy to develop standard amounts of protection that it will automatically apply for you as new orders come in.
Once work is released into production, PFM directs resources that have completed their portion of a production order to work next on the one which has the lowest percentage of its protection remaining at that moment. Of all the orders that might be worked on next, that is the one which can least afford to wait longer. In this method, no order waits too long.
The PFM software provides a bird’s eye view of all production orders which is always current and which compares for each order the rate at which work is getting done versus the rate at which the budgeted promise date protection is eroding. This makes it quick and easy to see orders as they approach the danger zone and for which management are needed. All other orders can be routinely worked on and delivered on time without management intervention.
To take this methodology to the next level, PFM software runs a simulation that uses as a foundation the fact that resources are executing in production by giving highest priority to orders that have the least promise protection remaining. In addition to keeping track of the actual capacity of each resource, the simulation considers the availability of materials when predicting when each operation will take place in the future. Production orders that are predicted to finish too close to the date promised are flagged while details are revealed about which materials and/or resources are likely to be the causes of production orders approaching the danger zone in the future. These details empower purchasing and production control to act today to avoid future danger.
With PFM, the never fun meeting is shorter, purposeful, and inspiring. A quick review of the bird’s eye view results in an action plan to keep promises for the orders that are approaching the danger zone. A review of the simulation results in an action plan that will prevent orders from approaching the danger zone in the future. Everyone leaves the meeting fresh and confident that the company’s reputation for on time delivery and customer service will be protected and enhanced.
How’s that for a transformation?
Click here to learn more about Protected Flow Manufacturing.
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