ROI's Blueprint Addresses a Need for Speed

ROI Systems, Inc. (Minneapolis) has announced the development of a technology blueprint for use with its MANAGE 2000 ERP system. The blueprint is a compilation of more than 20 years of practices for utilizing MANAGE 2000 as a tool to capacitate Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM).

Ken Boyd, industry marketing manager for ROI, describes the blueprint as "a rigorous consulting strategy for achieving QRM." QRM is a lead-time reduction system that aims to subjugate time-to-market by eliminating waste in every aspect of the production process.

Though its origins stem from the textile industry in the late 1980s, QRM has experienced a recent rebirth as a methodology due to the efficiency demands heaved upon the manufacturing industry in the wake of the e-business movement. As e-business continues to establish its viability, production schedules have grown more ambitious, resulting in a widespread need among manufacturers for lead-time reduction. ROI's blueprint, according to Boyd, is an attempt to address this need.

Boyd explains that while QRM has always been a goal for MANAGE 2000, and while all of the blueprint's components have been in use by ROI for many years, ROI has never before formulated a clear-cut, all-encompassing strategy for alleviating unnecessary processes in the production cycle. "They've always been there," says Boyd of the theories on which the blueprint is based. "But they've never been organized—[the blueprint] tells you not just what you need to do systemwise, but businesswise as well."

Urban Wemmerlöv, professor of operations and information management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Business and director of the Erdman Center for Manufacturing and Technology Management, says that while the blueprint is self-promotional in a lot of ways, "It does have value—it has some substance to it."

If ROI can place MANAGE 2000 in the larger framework of QRM in such a way that it portrays itself as knowing something that other ERP vendors do not, says Wemmerlöv, "Then they have a leg up on the competition." Getting a leg up on the competition, however, is not the only positive Wemmerlöv associates with framing MANAGE 2000 in the bigger picture of QRM. He applauds ROI's attempt to approach the issue of lead-time reduction from a specific angle, calling it "quite honest," and "good for industry."

Boyd, referring to the blueprint as "QRM a la carte," explains that it "allows you to pull out the pieces that are relevant to a particular strategy," so the unique characteristics of a manufacturer can be considered independently. Equipped with a host of if-then variables, Boyd says the blueprint provides a consultant attempting to implement a strategy with a definitive approach for each situation that arises.

The blueprint, says Boyd, also has a variety of tools for determining the efficiency of each segment of the production cycle. He offers the tools as a necessity, saying, "You can't conduct QRM without some pretty rigorous measurements."

By using the measurement tools, which constitute the sixth part of the blueprint's overall strategy, Boyd says a manufacturer can better pinpoint problem areas, allowing: 1) process steps to be reduced or combined; 2) resources to be made more available and accessible; and 3) lead-time reduction measurements to be formulated.

Boyd differentiates between QRM strategies and traditional flow manufacturing techniques, saying, "A lot of people confuse QRM and flow manufacturing—flow manufacturing is only a piece. QRM addresses every aspect of the production process, from the time a product is conceived to the time it is shipped." Citing recent statistics, Boyd claims manufacturing only accounts for 5 percent or less of overall product cycle time. New product introduction, quoting and estimating, sales and ordering, shipping, and customer service are some of the other phases of the product cycle that Boyd explains are addressed by QRM, but often not by flow manufacturing.

Wemmerlöv reiterates this belief. He explains that the real advantage of the blueprint is that it approaches not only manufacturing procedures, but administrative procedures as well. "A lot of customer-response time is taken up in administrative processes—at least as much, if not more than manufacturing," says Wemmerlöv. Thus, Wemmerlöv continues, to truly reduce lead time, the administrative side of the business must be paid an equal amount of attention as the manufacturing side.

The theories driving the blueprint, says Boyd, are not "about creating more work to be faster, but how do we figure out how to work smarter and better by eliminating waste in all sorts of areas."

ROI's technology blueprint is part of the standard installation for the MANAGE 2000 ERP System.

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