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.

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