Mark Lilly to present Protected Flow Manufacturing™ at MANTEC Business Growth Conference

We’re very pleased to announce that Mark Lilly will present Protected Flow Manufacturing™ at the 5th annual MANTEC Business Growth Conference on March 30, 2017 in Manheim, Pennsylvania.

Click here for more info and to register.

Click here for more info on Protected Flow Manufacturing™

Click here to download the Protected Flow Manufacturing™ datasheet

Session Title: Powerful Shop Floor Scheduling Made Simple

Session Description:

“Why do manufacturers struggle to meet their promises for delivering to their customers on time? We examine the major causes of this, and then introduce a new approach to solve this issue. Protected Flow Manufacturing combines LEAN/TOC principles to simplify shop floor execution and planning, while at the same time ensuring that orders get to your customers on-time, in less time, every time.


Learn the 3 major misperceptions that cause poor delivery performance, and the 2 main concepts from LEAN and TOC that provide a new perception that increase flow.

Learn how Protected Flow Manufacturing leverages these concepts to reduce leadtimes and improve delivery performance while simplifying shop floor scheduling (execution and planning).

Walk through a simulation of Protected Flow Manufacturing to see how it works in a real custom manufacturing shop.

Understanding Your Potential for Better Scheduling

Written by Mark Lilly

One of the main struggles manufacturing companies experience today is delivering to their customers on-time. In spite of the excellent scheduling tools available within ERP, or as standalone applications, on-time delivery percentages often have a hard time getting to 80 or above on a consistent basis.

The problem may not lie in the planning tool, but rather in the execution methodology of the company using it. By ‘execution methodology’, I mean how and when does material get released to production, and when it does, how is it prioritized once there?

What we often find is that jobs and workorders are released as soon as material is available. The thinking, which seems rather intuitive, is “the faster we get material out to the shop floor, the sooner it will come out the other side as finished product, right?” There is also a prevalent metric of “utilization” that drives the immediate release of available material to the shop floor so that all resources – people, machines, tools – stay as busy and ‘productive’ as possible.  Sometimes, if things aren’t busy enough, material is procured for the sake of keeping resources busy, thus driving a higher “utilization percentage”.

Another effect we have seen on occasion is that if a company is frequently late on a six to eight week leadtime job, then we better back it off and release material even sooner, maybe even nine or ten weeks in advance to ensure that it will finish for on-time delivery to the customer.

Unfortunately the effect of these actions is exactly the opposite of the desired result.

Here’s why:

John Little studied Mathematical Queue Theory at MIT. And he proved this seemingly simple, dare I say ‘intuitive’ theory, so now it’s a law:  Little’s Law.  And here it is:  N = cT.  Really all this says is that N, the number of things, items, people in a ‘system’ (think a bank or grocery store for example), is directly related (c, a constant), to T, the length of time that any one of those things, items, people remain in the ‘system’.

Seems kind of obvious, doesn’t it? The more people that enter a bank, the longer any one of those people is going to be in the bank.  A couple of neat things about this:

  1. Little’s Law is directly applicable to Manufacturing shop floor, and
  2. The inverse of the above example is also true, meaning, the fewer people in the bank, the shorter period of time any one of those people will be in the bank.

So Little’s Law tells us, the more stuff we put into production, the shop floor, into Work in process (WIP), the longer any one of those workorders/jobs is going to be in WIP. And the exciting part:  the less we release to WIP, the faster any one of the jobs/workorders is going to get through WIP.  Less is Faster.

Does your company have the potential to use Little’s Law to schedule better and improve on-time delivery? Try these two questions to find out:

  1. What is the average leadtime sales quotes to a customer or prospect for an ‘average’ job in your plant? A common leadtime in a custom manufacturing company is “six to eight weeks”.
  2. What is the actual touch time of that ‘average’ job/product? Meaning, if you have all the material you need, and nothing else is using any machines or tools needed, and all personnel are at the ready (very little if any ‘wait time’ between operations), how long would it actually take to manufacture that part?

For a six to eight week leadtime, we often hear “a week or two”, sometimes “a few days”, sometimes even “hours”.  Take the ratio between your responses to question one over question two.  What is your Little’s Law Potential Factor?

3 or more – you probably have some opportunity to speed flow and improve your on-time delivery with better manufacturing execution and scheduling.

10 or more – you have significant opportunity to speed flow and improve your on-time delivery with better manufacturing execution and scheduling.

20 or more – you should be able to dramatically improve your flow and achieve much better on-time delivery with better manufacturing execution and scheduling!


Feel overwhelmed by everything you see in the Scheduling Window?

Written by Greg Miller

Get to know the Throughput Window and build efficiency into your production scheduling process.

Users who are new to VISUAL’s scheduling toolset are both intrigued and overwhelmed by VISUAL’s Scheduling Window presentation. Although the Scheduling Window does provide valuable at-a-glance information relative to lateness, scheduling gaps and overall resource backlog, successful VISUAL scheduling professionals have found VISUAL’s Throughput Window to be the hub for high-level and detailed schedule analysis.

The Throughput Window provides the following quantitative measurement tools:

  1. Customer Service Impact- A metric which quantifies the number of days late and associated dollar values for Past-due and Anticipated Customer Order Lateness.
  2. Contention- Provides a measurable indicator for current and upcoming shop resource bottlenecks by capturing the number of times and associated severity (number of delay days) that the scheduler encountered a scheduling conflict at a particular shop resource.
  3. Material Constraint- Do you ever wish that you had a Pareto chart showing the top “x” (count of) materials that are causing the greatest scheduling impact? The Material Constraints button provides that.  As with all charts in the Throughput Window, you can double-click the particular bar to open up a hyperlinked grid which gives you all of the details (Part ID, Work Order ID, Severity, etc..) to dig in deeper.
  4. Actual and Expected Throughput- This tool quantifies the business’ actual and expected throughput values. Throughput is defined as Selling Price – Raw Materials-Purchased Parts- Service costs. This is a great place to validate your overall schedule against weekly or monthly production targets.  “What-If” schedules can be created to simulate the throughput impact of adding capacity to a bottleneck resource. Does the increased capacity add more to the company’s bottom line or just create a downstream bottleneck?

The next time you are faced with answering difficult scheduling questions from upper management, open up the Throughput Window, analyze the information, create a simulated schedule and compare the results using the above tools. You will quickly get quantitative measurements that will help validate your assumptions and allow you to manage the routine scheduling challenges with confidence in an efficient manner.

Have questions or require assistance? Please contact us. We are at your service!






Check out Mark Lilly’s Lean Scheduling article in the NTMA’s Newsletter!

Synergy’s Mark Lilly, Partner and Director of Sales & Marketing wrote the article, LEAN Scheduling: How to Apply Key LEAN Concepts to Improve On-Time Delivery. It is featured in the March issue of NTMA’s monthly newsletter, The RECORD. Please click here and go to page 25 to read the full article!



How Can Shop Floor Scheduling Be So EASY?

Written by Darryl Walker of Synergy

Oh how time flies when you’re having fun. I’ve been working with VISUAL for over 22 years now, the last 15 as a Consultant focusing on helping companies maximize their Throughput given their current reality. I have developed a strong desire to keep things as simple as possible while providing clear focus toward driving results.

My favorite tool to provide results with relative simplicity has been VISUAL Easy Lean. There are only 2 planning policies in Easy Lean, Make (or Buy) to Stock, and Make (or Buy) to Order. For MTS items the user need only define a Replenishment Level and a Leadtime. A Replenishment Level is the amount of inventory you anticipate consuming over the leadtime it takes to make or buy more of the item with an additional buffer to cover for the unforeseen demand or supply issues. Easy Lean will generate Work Orders for make items and Planned Purchase Orders for buy items that are designed to replenish inventory for items that have dropped below their Replenishment Levels.

While stocked items rely on a Replenishment level as their demand, Make (or Buy) to Order items have a demand order with a due date that is the demand trigger. These items are managed to a Leadtime Buffer. A Leadtime Buffer is a time buffer that is the sum of the touch time and queue time that an item is likely to experience in the supply chain. Whether the supply is a factory floor, or a vendor. Easy Lean will generate Work Orders for make items and Planned Purchase Order for buy items to match the time requirements of the demand for these items.

Part of the real power of Easy Lean is in the manner by which Work Orders are prioritized through production. For a MTS (Stocked) Work Order, it is assigned a Buffer Status which is simply: That percentage of your Replenishment Level that is not currently on hand. For example, if Part A has a Replenishment Level of 250 and a current on hand balance of 75, the Work Order on the floor producing Part A would have a Buffer Status = (250 – 75)/250 or 70%, meaning 70% of the Replenishment Buffer has been consumed. For a MTO (Non-Stocked) Work Order the Buffer Status is time based. What percentage of the time the job was given to complete has already passed. For example, if Part B has a 10 day Buffer and today is 6 days into that Buffer, Part B would have a Buffer Status = 6/10 or 60%. If a given Shop Resource has these two jobs in front of it to be worked, the order would be Part A at 70% first and then the Part B order at 60%.

There are tools to measure load vs capacity, analyze your buffers for proper sizing, etc… But the real meat is the simple manner in which your production floor is managed. You need not worry about spending time moving jobs in or out, simply run them in order. If you have long setups despite your best Setup Reduction efforts you can allow your operators to start at the top of their list of jobs and run that job and any other job on their list together to save the setup time. Then return to the top of the list and repeat with the next highest priority job.

If you’ve struggled with the complexity of the Concurrent Scheduler in VISUAL, you should take a little time to learn about Easy Lean and see if it would be a good fit for your company.

Two Key Implementation Steps to Avoid

Written by Greg Miller of Synergy Resources

Scheduling Complexity – Less is Better!

Is your current ERP scheduling system not delivering credible results?  Do you find yourself creating the “real schedule” outside of your ERP system?  If so, you’re not alone.  Many companies are currently faced with inaccurate and ineffective ERP system-generated production schedules due to common mistakes made during implementation.  Today’s ERP scheduling engines are built to be flexible and able to handle complex scheduling environments.  As a result, clients are inclined to want to use all of the features designed for complex environments even if their scheduling climate is low-to-moderate complexity.  Overly complex scheduling set-up configurations can be a leading cause of inaccurate and unreliable schedules.  Synergy Resources has proven Scheduling implementation methods to match the demands of your production environments, give us a call today 866-896-6347 to bring credibility back to your production schedules!

 ERP Self-Implementation – What’s the Real Cost?

Are you contemplating implementing a new ERP system?  Does Corporate support the idea but allocate only a fraction of the implementation costs in your annual budget?  If so, proceed with caution.  Your company is investing in new technology, presenting an opportunity to streamline your business processes and expects to see improvement results.  Don’t sell yourself short by trying to “save” the company money by taking on the entire ERP implementation yourself.  As ERP implementation professionals, we see the results of these short-sighted decisions all too often.  We are frequently asked to assist a customer who had gone this route and cannot achieve the desired company results with the new system.   The total cost to engage an ERP professional post-implementation to repair the environment and get results, can far exceed the initial cost of doing it right the first time.  Ask yourself “What’s this decision to self-implement really going to cost us?  What’s the real risk and potential reward?”  Partner with an ERP expert on your upcoming implementation if you are looking for least-cost results!