APICS 2009 Webcast Session 3: Lean for Materials Managers

In the forthcoming 2009 APICS International Conference and Expo, many educational tracks will be covered by industry leaders, and lean is one of them. Since we are in a global economic crisis where every manufacturer, supplier, and producer is trying to reduce cost and minimize waste while increasing production or throughput, I am particularly interested in the “lean” educational track to hear what the experts are saying. Recently, I had the privilege of attending the preview of “Lean for Materials Managers” by Bill Kerber, President of High Mix Lean.

In his presentation, Bill explained “Lean Material Planning and Control Charts” to guide us through the proper procedure when implementing lean material management. He also mentioned the process to further streamline material planning by using the Kaizen concept. Later in the presentation, he talked about the four important concepts for material managers: leveling production, flow, pull systems, and interval to determine lot sizes within production. Even though all four concepts are crucial in today’s economy, in my opinion it will be beneficial if each concept can be integrated within the software already used by organizations. This will bring the concepts, processes, and technology under one umbrella.

Bill talked about how leveling production can be achieved for small to large manufacturing organizations. He also provided his expert advice on waste types (Muri, Mura, and Muda) and their respective reduction concepts. Another important topic he covered was buffering strategies. In my opinion, many organizations do not understand the importance of buffering strategies and they are beneficial if applied accordingly. He also spoke briefly about the four types of buffering strategies: finished goods, back log, capacity, and hybrid. He provided relevant examples on how to use these strategies to maximize production while minimizing waste and delays. In my past experience, organizations using a combination of these strategies are making the most out of their lean/buffering strategies.

Later, he shared his knowledge about flow, an important concept for a lean production environment. He explained how the increase in flow will reduce lead time and waste while increasing production. He also shed some light on a pull system, and compared the old and new logic which helps us understand and implement lean processes. Some of the other important material management topics he covered were lot sizing and interval which also leads towards reducing waste. In my opinion, Mr.Kerber should have mentioned the benefits of using Six Sigma methodology and statistical data because it helps management drive lean concepts throughout the organization (not only in material management).

Even though this webinar was of an advanced level, Bill covered all the basis of material management in a lean environment and also provided comparison with traditional processes along with advantages and drawbacks. In my view, if you have a basic understanding of material management and planning you can benefit from this session.

Over all, the preview of “Lean for Materials Managers” is very informative and there is definitely more to learn. The preview provides just the tip of the iceberg and there is much to know and learn from Bill’s experience. One thing I would like to learn from this session is how these concepts can be integrated with existing ERP/SCM software. I am looking forward to attending the full session of “Lean for Materials Managers.”
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