No time to waste!

No time to waste!

During the Working Without Waste conference at Avery Dennison’s European Headquarters today, Dr. Vincent Wiegel, Professor Lean at the HAN University (Netherlands), presented the concept of time-based competition. To the audience of Belgian and Dutch label printers he posed a number of “what if” questions:

  • What if you could send quotations for customer-specific labels within 24 hours?
  • What if you could reduce your label manufacturing lead time by 90%?

How would this impact on your competitive advantage? Imagine delivering your products before your competition has even sent a quotation!

Wiegel introduced the concept of Quick Response Management (QRM) as an extra feature of the “Lean” philosophy. QRM was developed by Professor Rajan Suri of the University of Wisconsin, USA, for companies that produce “customer-specific” or “engineering-to-order (ETO)” products. He explained that variety is not a burden, but a strategic advantage, if you manage it well. The idea is not to focus on costs, efficiency or quality, but on time only: if you reduce your lead times, a better efficiency and customer satisfaction will follow automatically.

Lead times of processes are much longer than the actual processing or “touch” time to do the actual work. The concept of Manufacturing Critical-path Time (MCT) has been introduced and is defined as the calendar time between order entry and delivery of the first item.

Wiegel explained how to make a simple MCT map of all the different process steps to deliver the order, using bars to depict each path of activities, with time along the x-axis. The bars are segmented by lines that mark each step of the process, including waiting time (shaded white) and processing time (grey). The process steps with the largest white-shaded width indicate where greatest focus for improvement should lie.

He also explained the four key components of QRM:

  1. Focus on time (lead time as driving factor for decision-making)
  2. Organisation (cells vs. functions, multiskilled vs. specialists, time instead of efficiency as performance indicator)
  3. System dynamics (lead time results from a complex interaction between men, materials and machines)
  4. Company-wide strategy (material supply, manufacturing, office)

The results achieved by QRM are amazing. These include lead time reductions of 90%, increased customer and employee satisfaction, creation of free capacity and lower organizational costs.

When Wiegel asked the attendants “Are you going to make a MCT map when you’re back at the office?”, about half of the audience raised their hands. To learn more about this interesting concept for the printing industry, you can find Vincent’s presentation on slideshare or check out Wikipedia. You can also contact the  HAN Lean QRM-Center in The Netherlands.