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Operations/Production Management
- Speed , Reliability, and Capacity

If your business suffers from . . .

  • Poor on-time performance
  • Long production lead-times
  • High WIP and/or finished goods inventory
  • High overtime
  • Lots of expediting and rescheduling
  • Wandering or stationary bottlenecks
  • Reluctance to take on new business

. . . then chances are good that your organization's constraint is the way that production (or a production-like operation) is managed.

If this is the case, then you will benefit from investigating and implementing a constraint-based method of production management.

Marching to the Beat of the Bottleneck Drummer

Like the larger organization, the production operation also has its constraint - its bottleneck(s). In a production environment, the plant's constraint must be the driving factor in how it is managed. In production, the productivity of the constraint is the productivity of the entire plant.

First introduced in the long-time business best-seller by Eli Goldratt-THE GOAL, a proven approach to managing production through the constraint is known as "Drum-Buffer-Rope" and "Buffer Management."

  • Drum - The constraint(s), linked to market demand, is the drumbeat for the entire plant.
  • Buffer - Time/inventory that ensures that the constraint(s) is protected from disturbances occurring in the system.
  • Rope - Material release is "tied" to the rate of the constraint(s).

The drum, buffer, and rope provide the basis for building a production schedule that is highly immune to disruption, avoids creating excess inventory, and uses small batches to minimize overall lead time.

But even with "Drum-Buffer-Rope," occasionally disruptions occur that require special attention. "Buffer Management" is used to mitigate and often prevent those disruptions.

Implementations of "Drum-Buffer-Rope" and "Buffer Management" typically result in "lean," low-inventory production operations capable of consistently 95% (or better) on-time delivery, lead-time reduction of 35-50%, and inventory reduction of 50%, as well as significantly reduced need for expediting and rescheduling.

Find the essence of each situation, like a logger clearing a log jam. The pro climbs a tall tree and locates the key log, and blows it, and lets the stream do the rest. An amateur would start at the edge of the jam and move all the logs, eventually moving the key log. Both approaches work, but the essence concept saves time and effort. Almost all problems have a key log if we learn to find it. - Fred Smith

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