Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Glass half-full perspective

Times like this, I can appreciate the intellectual challenge of my work. About 3000 unique parts on a BOM 5 levels deep on 58 assemblies and a dozen end-items, with a ton of commonality at the component AND subassembly level, with non-linear independent demands, with on-hand quantities located in 20 subinventory locations in about 300,000 sq ft.

Oh yeah, all the work is done inside lead time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I can handle variance when I have the right tools to quickly see the impact

One of the parts of material planning that can be frustrating is dealing with imperfect information. There can so many variables it can be impossible to stop variance, but it is possible to control and reduce  variation.

Developing rough-cut planning models helps me do this. I need to quickly meld ERP data with observed data and enable intelligent decision-making, so that is the focus of the tools. Once I can model the data, I can drill into the causes of the variance and start down the path toward control.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

There's a reason fundamental skills are called "Fundamental"

Just proved the wisdom of data tracking and trend analysis again.
Variation isn’t something that can be avoided, however, but as a professional I need to be diligent about controlling those factors under my control... Primarily, I use pivot tables in MSExcel in this process. I track demands over time, supply exceptions over time, excess/obsolete over time… well, you notice “over time” is the critical factor.

Ghandi was half right | Tim Lovelock.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Excel functions I use daily


  • IF



  • YEAR



My favorite function mashup is to combine IF, ISERROR, and VLOOKUP to return either a value from another table, or 0 (or blank, if you prefer). Here's how to do it:

=IF(ISERROR(VLOOKUP([Std vlookup formula])),0,(VLOOKUP([Std vlookup formula])))

Here's the logic: If the Vlookup returns an error (i.e., the value of the referenced cell does not exist in the lookup range), then return a value of Zero, else return the value found in the lookup range.

Why? It gets rid of those nasty "#N/A" errors.

Maybe if I try this: #fb

Microblogging | Tim Lovelock.

Wonder if I can push it to Facebook?

Microblogging | Tim Lovelock.


I don't tweet a whole lot because it irks me to create content for someone else when I already have my own blog. I get the value of Twitter in bringing people to my site that would not otherwise find me, but I wanted to store my content on my domain in a way that permitted it to indexed and found more directly than having a searcher go through Google. But I also recognize that a lot of people aren't going to be interested in consuming more Tim, so I wanted to keep the quick-hitter stuff off the home page so it doesn't bury the more valuable posts that I work for many hours to craft.

So, I thought I'd try an experiment after reading this article:
How to Create Micro Blogs Within WordPress « Weblog Tools Collection.

This post is the first big test.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Master Scheduler's Role in Maximizing Inventory Turns

Just taking a break from the drama surrounding my new program to report that I was informed my old program hit 12 inventory turns before I left. Combined with 100% on time delivery and excess & obsolete  below 0.5% of material cost of goods sold, I'm going out on a limb and claiming it as a textbook performance.

Which is funny because oftentimes when management makes a push to improve metrics there are always a cadre of homegrown materials people armed with excuses why the textbook approach won't work in the real world.

The secret: The fastest way to reduce inventory on-hand balances is to ship it.

maximize inventory turns
With regard to production scheduling, it is critical to know capacity and lead time. Many companies simply schedule to maximize revenue or achieve the customer's need date regardless of what it means for operational excellence. Knowing capacity means you can assess and manage risk when outside forces require production schedules in excess of capacity. Contingency plans can be made to increase capacity and buy material inside lead time. With regard to our schedule, we were several months late starting due to redesigns from our customer. This required our manufacturing and test engineers to get creative and solve some capacity issues.

As far as material availability, I managed my "A" items tightly - super-tight. But I didn't worry about the "B" and "C" items beyond ensuring I had enough on hand to build the schedule. That's the whole point of inventory stratification: focus where the dollars lie. After that, it's all about execution from the team: purchasing managing the supplier deliveries, and production control getting the material to manufacturing with enough lead time to build and ship quality product. In a prior post I stated:

As a Master Scheduler, I control much of the front-end of the manufacturing process – any variation on my part bullwhips through the organization. Variation isn’t something that can be avoided, however, but as a professional I need to be diligent about controlling those factors under my control... I track demands over time, supply exceptions over time, excess/obsolete over time… well, you notice “over time” is the critical factor. After each MRP run (we run weekly), I export all of my data and review several critical factors: has my backlog changed, is my planned order report correct, has my excess/obsolete moved unexpectedly in either direction, and has the exception report changed positively or negatively. There are many other items I track, but I start with these and use them to uncover issues and troubleshoot them prior to someone else asking me that dreaded question, “What happened?

So, by focusing on demand stability and material availability over time in a structured and disciplined manner, I did my part as Master Scheduler to maximize inventory turnover. When a team maximizes the inventory going out the front door, good things happen.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The best laid plans of mice & men: Putting the challenge into perspective

I know I said I would "live-blog" the process I go through when taking responsibility for materials management on a program, but I took a detour that will wind up being incredibly valuable. Someday.

Among my career experiences I was fortunate to work in marketing for a period of time when a new VP was hired to bring organizational leadership to the business development process. The first thing he did was hunker down in his office with several members of his staff, dissecting the business development status of the company. After a couple weeks he emerged from his office to give a presentation to the staff, explaining that the first thing he does when he takes on new responsibilities is to put the challenge into perspective.

As I mentioned, this is a mature program with significant challenges. Taking my cue from this former manager, I pulled my usual post-MRP-run reports: Backlog, Planned Orders, Open Orders, On-Hand Inventory. I normally lay the data out in Excel and do the math: how many units have to be built, how many units are on-hand, how many units are being built in the open orders, and how many units remain to be built. Simply put, the way production scheduling and MRP work is: