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The concept of "plan for every part" (PFEP) describes an effort "to create the DNA of your manufacturing operation," says Tim Conrad, director of operational excellence with Gates Corp. It defines all of the characteristics of a manufacturing facility, including the type and number of components, frequency of deliveries and quantity per container. Conrad says its critical to understand how various product families and mixes are deployed to assemble components and finished goods.
Still in its infancy, PFEP can be seen on the shop floor but is rarely used to achieve a wider supply-chain perspective, Conrad says. When attempting to manage their inventories, companies become overly reliant on existing systems such as enterprise resource planning and materials requirement planning applications. PFEP augments those tools to help manufacturers identify the right part, right quantity and right time for use.
PFEP can also be a vital tool for understanding vendors' capabilities. Gates buys chemicals in large quantities; PFEP helps it to structure lead times for reordering based on individual suppliers' capacities.
The underlying goal, says Conrad, is to ensure the availability of the right parts while shortening supply-chain cycle times, thereby reducing excess inventory. Gates's own efforts in that direction - its "Lean journey," in Conrad's words - began in 2001, when the company began putting into place the foundational elements. It began implementing the PFEP concept in 2007.
"If you can reduce the complexity of your manufacturing process," Conrad explains, "you can drive lead time out of manufacturing cycles. You're not going to make trucks go faster or reduce distances between facilities and distribution outlets. You can reduce the time it takes for information to flow into your factory, and product to flow out.
"PFEP actually will simplify your supply-chain cycles," he adds. "It gives you greater visibility."
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