How To Forecast Material Demand To Limit Production Setbacks
Maintaining a product portfolio of over 200 advanced analytical instruments for a global manufacturer is no simple task; employees need guidance, standards need to be met, and perhaps most importantly, production needs to stay consistent. With thousands of moving parts going on behind the scenes, it’s easy to assume that tasks like forecasting material shortages and ordering additional resources for production, for example, are handled with the help of automation. However, that is not the case at the Petroleum Analyzer Company’s (PAC) Houston, Texas facility.
Functioning as the facility’s MRO Buyer, Rhonda Johnstone is responsible for placing intercompany purchase orders that support PAC’s manufacturing efforts. Nearly all of PAC’s manufacturing materials are supplied by one of the company’s many sister-sites—which span across twelve countries. Given the company’s global reach, procuring materials to support individual value streams requires more than just a push of a button; the company needs to plan out orders weeks—sometimes even months—in advance to avoid production setbacks. Finessing such a delicate dance begs for a thorough and well-thought inventory management system that’s concise and void of complication.
Rhonda and the rest of the team at PAC rely on a Kanban card system to help streamline the procurement process. The system utilizes home-brewed card folders and inserts—made with transparent business card holders, card stock, and Velcro tape strips— to highlight individual parts and materials as inventory levels change.
Initially, Rhonda organized the entirety of the Kanban system on a single dry-erase board. Individual card pockets masked the board from edge to edge, and material shortages fell under the radar; there was no breakdown of when specific items needed replenishment. A system that was, at its conception, designed to alleviate the stresses of intercompany purchases quickly became a problem of its own devices.
A few months ago, Rhonda contacted the Magnatag Visible Systems team to find a better way to organize her Kanban system. Together, both Rhonda and Magnatag set out to design a Kanban system that could break down intercompany material orders on a week-by-week layout. With the help of Magnatag’s 5-sided RotoCube® bulletin towers, Rhonda found the perfect tool for the job.
Rotocube bulletin towers are four (or five)-sided rotating kiosks that consolidate traditional, wall mounted, whiteboards into a small 27” (or 31”) footprint. Each side of the tower displays one of thirty-seven 17” x 47” dry-erase and cork display surfaces, with custom-board options also available.
For Rhonda’s Kanban system, she ordered each side of the RotoCube with standard dry-erase panels. Using the same materials from her initial prototype, Rhonda distributed the Velcro folders evenly on each side of the tower. The thought behind this practice is that each panel represents an individual week’s worth of orders.
“The normal whiteboard we were using before didn’t work for weekly Kanban. We now use one panel of the RotoCube to represent one week of orders, so four panels cover an entire month. We use the leftover fifth panel to plan for the month ahead”, Rhonda explained.
With the RotoCube now located in PAC’s shop floor, Rhonda and the rest of the manufacturing team have an always up-to-date Kanban system that clearly emphasizes material inventory levels throughout the month.
For over fifty years, Magnatag Visible Systems has developed high-quality printed magnetic dry-erase boards. If you’re looking to bring a personal and motivational approach to your production efforts, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at (800) 624-4154.