Quick Response Manufacturing
As a manufacturer of a variety of products, we have always been in constant pursuit of continuous improvement. And like most manufacturers in today’s competitive environment, we’ve used standard industry improvement tools, such as lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, but we saw only incremental change. Once we heard about Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM), that all changed.
QRM focuses on lead-time reduction. After a review of our on-time delivery metrics, we realized that of the continuous improvement techniques we’ve used to that point, none had much influence on delivery time. When we began learning more about QRM and orienting ourselves to this new way of doing business, we’d look at each other and laugh. We were doing the exact opposite of what QRM recommended.
Since 2002, nearly all of our employees have learned about this business-changing process.
Because we focused all of our previous process-improvement efforts on production, we picked the office area for our first QRM project. Our office workers seemed disconnected from other operations, and it was taking too much time to process a new order. It also seemed logical to start here, as the office is the entry point for business. This is where our price quotations originate and orders undergo final engineering review.
The Quick Response Office Cell (Q-ROC) collocated people and brought together all functions relating to order entry. It includes a staff member from customer service, estimating, drafting, data entry and production control. The self-guided team defined the Q-ROC’s scope and desired outcomes. All were cross-trained for the ultimate in flexibility and efficiency; each member could respond at any time to any customer’s question.
It took just two weeks to see a noticeable difference. We reduced quoting and processing new orders from 10-to-12 days to an average of three-to-five days. After a month, extrusion-only orders were taking just a day or two, with three-to-five days for value-added parts.
We then linked the extrusion department to the Q-ROC. The QRM principle of establishing cells that would be “one-stop shops” for customers began to take hold.
The manufacturing floor was next. This meant moving equipment and people to create multiple cells. Because of this organizational change, we were able to reduce our lead times from four-to-six weeks to as little as five days.
QRM is not just about eliminating waste and making continuous improvements. It has enabled us to grow through acquisition or by developing new operations to complement and build on our core extrusion business. Between 2007 and 2012, we added precision machining, finishing, heat sinks, plastic injection and foam molding, welding and assembly – the operations that make up our seven divisions.
We continue to use QRM to identify markets that tend to be enticed by short lead-times. As a result, our customers can offer their customers shorter lead-times too, multiplying successes and strengthening relationships.
For a brief profile on our QRM story, visit The Center for Quick Response Manufacturing.