Quick Response Manufacturing or QRM has grown rapidly in the Belgian manufacturing industry in recent years. But what does it stand for and what are the benefits for companies now? How is it that remarkable growth in business results is seen? And what makes QRM such a valuable process within an organization? We interviewed Pascal Pollet, an expert in lean manufacturing and the implementation of self-driving systems.
A piece of history
The concept of Quick Response Manufacturing was developed in the 1990s by the American professor Rajan Suri from the University of Wisconsin. “Time is money, so QRM delivers pure profit,” said Suri. In 1993 he founded the Center for Quick Response Manufacturing together with several companies. The institute is engaged in developing and implementing QRM principles in the industry, such as at John Deere and some of its suppliers. The results of these projects were amazing. Lead times could be reduced by an average of 80 percent, while costs were reduced by 25 percent.
How do you describe QRM?
Quick Response Manufacturing focuses on shortening turnaround times throughout your company, ranging from order entry and engineering through production to shipping.
Who is QRM suitable for?
The strategy was developed specifically for high-mix-low-volume companies. QRM allows products to be brought to market faster and improves competitiveness by reducing costs and improving delivery performance and quality. Where lean manufacturing is ideal for high-volume, repetitive environments, QRM is the answer for environments with highly customized products in smaller volumes.
QRM focuses specifically on managers and executives, internal supervisors of improvement projects and external consultants.
QRM versus lean manufacturing?
Both QRM and lean manufacturing strive to shorten lead times, so that both methods are compatible with each other. Lean strives to create the perfect flow by eliminating all disturbances and standardizing work. This makes it possible to organize the work with a fixed cadence and to realize a short lead time on the work floor. A short lead time on the work floor therefore does not mean a fast delivery time for the customer. A good example of this is the automotive industry. The car is only on the assembly line in the factory for one day, but the customer often has to wait several months for his vehicle.
QRM does not strive to create a perfect flow without disruptions. This is hopeless in markets with low volumes and many customer-specific products. QRM is therefore strongly committed to increasing the flexibility of the organization so that disruptions and short delivery times for the customer can nevertheless go together. QRM therefore focuses on creating flexible production cells that have a lot of autonomy and sufficient capacity.
How can QRM improve your business?
QRM embraces a set of proven principles, methods and tools to shorten lead times throughout the organization. In addition to a faster turnaround time, QRM offers a number of additional benefits:
lower production cost; better customer service; shorter delivery time; higher product quality; faster introduction of new products; reduction of rework; revenue growth through a competitive market position.
It is a strategy that allows organizations to work faster, more flexible and more decisively. However, the implementation of QRM requires perseverance and willpower. QRM asks not only to think differently, but also to work differently.
QRM is based on four key concepts:
Time thinking encourages employees to focus on the lost time between the production steps, thereby promoting cooperation between the various departments, thereby reducing indirect costs. Work with teams on one order instead of having one person work on one order. Let them switch and multitask between projects.
QRM is different organization and leadership
Start creating work cells or teams, explain the authority of the products to that specific cell for that group of employees. Move away from hierarchy to actually give employees responsibility. As a manager it is important to act here as a “people manager” and to let go of the control piece step by step.
It is important that there are as few orders as possible in the system at the same time. Because the fewer orders, the better the flow will be. An order must be handled as smoothly as possible without losing valuable time. Because the busier it is, the longer everything takes. The planning paradox is also important. If the need for a planning system is highest, planning tools will perform the least. So in other words, do not look for the optimal planning tool, but make sure that you have to plan less than you have a much higher chance that your planning will simply run correctly.
Company-wide deployment of QRM
QRM is a company-wide strategy. This means that not only the lead time is shortened in production, but also in suppliers, R&D and especially in-house office processes. The own office is often responsible for one third to half of the turnaround time. By applying the QRM principles to the office, a big leap can often be made.
What skills do you need to implement QRM?
As we have already indicated, the human aspect is central to QRM. The intention is to let teams work as autonomously as possible. Managers must let go of the strings so that employees can take matters into their own hands. One must have soft skills (or people skills).
Soft skills always have to do with people. How they function themselves and with each other in the workplace.
Can you just get started with the integration of QRM?
Before you start working with QRM there is the possibility to participate in a ten-part training series organized by Sirris, QRIS and the QRM Institute.
During the training, a lot of attention is paid to the “soft skills” and to change management. This allows the participants after the training to independently initiate a QRM project, carry out the analysis phase of a QRM implementation and support the implementation.
What role does Azumuta play in QRM?
Azumuta is an easy and practical tool that can be used during the QRM event. The software platform is easy to integrate into your factory and, on top of that, easy to link to existing integrations and programs. Digital work instructions, operator feedback, audits / checklists and training modules, etc. make it even easier for your teams to collaborate, communicate and follow training courses.
Training, as well as cross training, makes it possible for you to work clearly on the factory floor.
Training series around QRM?
Pascal supports companies in defining their technology strategy and aligning their business models, and examines the possibilities for lean product development. The training series on quick response manufacturing (QRM) is a ten-part training that enables you to independently initiate a QRM project, carry out the analysis phase and support the implementation.
The training consists of nine knowledge modules that are spread over 10 evening classes. The first half of the training focuses mainly on teaching the basic principles, methods and tools of QRM. The second half of the course focuses on practical application and implementation skills.
After the training, participants can, if desired, take the certification exam of the international QRM Institute and thus acquire the “QRM Institute Silver” degree.
Belgian companies get started with QRM
More and more Belgian companies are now adopting Quick Response Manufacturing. Read their stories here: Provan Sky Man Elaut Potteau Labo Esco Couplings M Design Production Dibo Houtbuigerij G. Desmet Parker
Sirris co-founded the QRM Institute in 2017. The QRM Institute is an international network of organizations that work together to spread Quick Response Manufacturing to as many companies and professionals as possible. The QRM Institute organizes workshops and conferences, provides training materials and certificates, conducts research and publishes articles. Visit their website for more information.