I saw a note on LinkedIn the other day that promoted implementation of a Kaizen structured approach to problem solving.

Harnessing the power of a group to tackle problems is a wonderful way to drive improvement within an organisation.

I wondered about another article that also questioned the value of running Kaizen problem solving groups. I suspect that these groups solved lots of non-important problems very well.

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A lot has been written about the problems of using material requirements planning (MRP) for scheduling. The primary problems that arise are usually:

  1. That MRP ignores capacity availability when determining start and due dates of planned orders.
  2. That MRP uses fixed lead times.
  3. That the MRP output does not dictate sequence of activities required in a day.
  4. And more
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The chances are you’ve experienced “social loafing” – you know when you walk around the factory, you sometimes get the feeling that that things are running slowly? The guy with the clipboard seems suspect… Well, you may be onto something. There could be more “social loafing” happening than you think possible. 

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Many companies aren’t aware that that they can remove the need for a stock take if they deploy a shop floor tracking solution.

We regularly visit companies that set time aside monthly, half yearly or annually to complete a stock take.

When this happens, all production stops, stock take systems are deployed, and time and effort is spent reconciling the stock count figures against system theoretical values.

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If you ask manufacturing systems users, consultants, etc. where the product route is kept, they will tell you that it is kept in the ERP solution.

I would like to propose an alternative home for the routing information. Bear with me while I tell you why.

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You are, I am sure, aware of Moore’s law. But just in case you aren’t, this law describes both the increasing density of transistors per square millimeter in a computer chip and the resulting cost reduction that occurs.

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The other day I saw a comment by an Excel fan that the cost to develop a scheduling solution in Excel was much lower than purchasing an off-the-shelf solution.

Here are my thoughts about that comment.

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Production scheduling for food products with a short shelf life provides an interesting challenge when making product to stock is often not a viable option. Here we will look at an example of a food production company, the challenges in scheduling, and the solutions.

The example environment

Let’s use a company that provides salad / vegetable packs to retail chains.

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We recently engaged with a company that wanted to take the journey towards improving operations.

We will describe this company as primarily a job shop but with repeat products, +/-70 production resources, and a product process flow of between 9 – 15 processes per part number for the sector they operate in. Demand mix changes result in floating bottlenecks.

As they had yet to start on their journey there was some confusion and uncertainty about what to do first.

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Measuring customer service in manufacturing industries can be a complex task. If you are lucky and can ship from finished goods, the frequently used customer service measure of OTIF (On Time In Full) is easy to understand and measure.

However, if you must manufacture or assemble the product before you can ship it, the gap between the receipt of the customer order and shipment opens a window in which things may change.

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