The influence of Quick Response Manufacturing

Table of Content


Today, organizations use computers for complex yet routine business tasks (Schragenheim & Ptak, 2004). Examples of such systems are ERP, APS and Shop Floor Data Collection. All these software have separate modules to assist companies with specific business functions. However, they can be integrated together to provide even greater benefits in the form of efficiency, accuracy and performance enhancement.

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Moreover, if a methodology to reduce lead times such as QRM is applied in an organization, these software can play a major role to complement it.

This paper will discuss the three mentioned technologies separately and identify their respective modules. Following this, the paper would analyze how they can be integrated together to gain maximum benefit. Moreover, this paper will highlight what Quick Response Manufacturing is, how it can be implemented and how it can be integrated with the three technologies. The potential benefits and roadblocks are also mentioned.

Enterprise Resource Planning Software – JD Edwards World A9.1

Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP is a software solution for organizations that allow them to integrate all the departments of the company so as to make information exchange and communication easy. It is different than software that were used earlier such as MRP in that it had relational databases, fourth generation languages, integrated computer aided engineering tools and open-system portability to integrate systems such as Advanced Planning and Schedule (APS) (Schragenheim & Ptak, 2004) software (as will be discussed in a later section). Organizations who adopt such solutions early on gain operational wnhancement, a competitive edge and new upgrade tools allows a lower overall cost.

One such ERP system is by Oracle, introduced in 2007 as Oracle’s JD Edwards World A9.1. This system provides over 1250 upgrades to gain operational excellence, enhance customers’ upgrade activities and minimize the cost and complexity that goes into integrations (TechNews, 2007).

Any ERP system has a number of modules that can be combined together considering the needs of the particular organization where it is being implemented. One module could be used for one functionality whereas another for a different functionality. These are then combined together to give an integrated package and hence, benefit. Some of these modules include (Glenn, 2008 pp. 74):

¨  Production Planning – Includes planning productions, capacity, forecasting and the availability of materials

¨  Inventory Control – Provides functions such as stock maintenance, moving finished goods and raw materials

¨  Sales Module – Facilitates with quotations, order entry, generating invoices, shipping, etc.

¨  Marketing Module – Generates leads, assists with marketing and maintains customer relationships

An example of module integration is that Production Planning can be integrated with Inventory Control. For instance, production planning will be carried out using information about the stock available.

Oracle’s JD Edwards World A9.1 solution additionally, in exception to existing modules, provides clients with Service and Warranty Management. This facilitates managing, identifying and implementing service and warranty contracts, enabling users to keep record of service contracts, take in returns for repair, carry out back or repair orders and effortlessly calculate the cost of these repairs and send it to the customer (TechNews, 2007).

There are some customers who wish to implement a service-oriented architecture (SOA) as an integration approach so that integration can be improved to create an adaptable Information Technology infrastructure. For such customers, Oracle’s JD Edwards A9.1 provides better extensibility and higher performance. Using this software, customers have a higher control over moving data between the solution itself and the many spreadsheets that an organization uses from sources such as APS or SDFC software.

The functionality mentioned above is especially useful in this scenario where this ERP solution by Oracle is to be integrated with two other software and ultimately with a Quick Response Manufacturing solution.

Advanced Planning and Scheduling Software – Preactor International

Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) software are solutions, as the name suggests, that facilitate planning tasks in all departments and devising production schedules. Such a solution typically comes with a number of software modules such as (Stadtler, 2008 pp. 110):

¨  Strategic Network Design – Assists with plant locations, new markets, etc

¨  Demand Planning – Allows estimations such as long-term demands or mid-term sales planning

¨  Demand Fulfillment – Allows short-term sales planning

¨  Master Planning – Synchronizes planning from all departments such as procurement, manufacturing, logistics on a mid-term planning level

¨  Production Planning – This may contain two different modules where one assists with lot-sizing and the second with manufacturing scheduling and shop floor control.

¨  Transport and Distribution Planning – Assists with short-term logistics planning

¨  Purchasing and Materials Requirements Planning – Helps with short-term procurement planning

All these modules are responsible for non-probabilistic planning. Planning tasks for different organizations may vary and according to their needs, specific modules are provided to them.

These modules may be called different names by different solution providers. Preactor International is the World Leader in Production Planning and Scheduling software used by a wide range of businesses. Case Studies show that the benefits that can be obtained after installation offer a return in investment measured in months, sometimes weeks (Preactor, 2010).

Preactor’s APS software called 400 APS has the added functionality to handle even more intricate scheduling issues and consider the restrictions that materials impose.  Orders for BoM (Bill of Material) will be created by most ERP systems.  It includes production orders and the bought-in materials.  These can be connected together using dedicated tools for it.  These connections are then used in the scheduling process in such a way that manufacturing orders that are dependent on certain materials are not scheduled till eery material they need acquired by the producing orders. For every material, there are plots available so that the timing of shortages that halt the manufacturing process can be identified (Preactor, 2010).

Preactor 400 APS provides other enhancements also that can be customized in the form of ‘rules’. For example, regular dispatching rules include rules that reduce the time to setup, minimize delayed orders, allow a desirable sequence, schedules bottlenecks and helps with campaigns (Preactor, 2010).

Preactor is created in such a way that it cam be easily integrated with other solutions such as ERP and Data Collections, etc.

Shop Floor Data Collection Software – RFgen Wireless Data Collection

A Shop Floor Data Collection software is responsible for collecting data regarding employees and products right off the shops. It requires lesser input than a manual system and helps with real time prioritization, correct job costing, real time status of the job and gathering information regarding payroll hours.

Specific to RFgen, the Relevant RF Data Collection Module makes use of the DataMAX’s RFgen program to collect data from both RF and non-RF devices and send to Relevant rapidly and flexibly through wireless communication. Moreover, the accuracy of the data is that of bar-code scanners. This module provides all the necessary support to validate order numbers, status and quantities. It formats records, and gives warning messages such as confirmation or error to the distant device.

The functions provided by this technology include Data Collection of Inventory, Purchase Order Receipts and Back Orders, Radio-frequency Input to maximize speed and flexibility, Bar-code Input for accuracy and Output (TechTarget, 2010) .

This product has some general features of Shop Floor Data Collection. In addition to this wireless Radio Frequency devices are provided by the software. It allows online updating of the databases, background processing, RF collection continuous during down time, validating data during import, provision of error and logic for reversals (TechTarget, 2010).

The RFgen’s Connectivity Suite allows easy integration with software such as World and Preactor.

Integration of Software

The modules for all the three technologies identified above can and should be integrated to make the most of them. They can be integrated so that they meet their clients’ requirements and organizational needs in the best possible fashion. All three World, Preactor and RFgen can be integrated to provide customized support for the client in question.

ERP and APS can be integrated so that users have the ability of working simultaneously using both solutions via two separate interfaces and a single database (Perrson & Olhager, 2007 pp. 181). When both these solutions are combined, the architecture in Figure 1 is what the integration of ERP and APS would look like.

Figure 1 Integration of ERP planning and transaction modules with APS (Source: Perrson & Olhager, 2007 )

This Figure shows that ERP planning and transaction modules can be integrated with the APS for improved planning techniques.  There are two separate interfaces, one for transaction and one for planning. The ERP planning module is linked with the APS planning module.

On the other hand, ERP integrated with the RFegn wireless Data Collection software is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2 RFgen integrated with ERP (Source: DataMAX, 2009)

RFgen takes advantage of the strong networking procedures and tools of JD Edwards to integrate technologies in such a way that they are most competent, dependable, and cost-effective solutions for JD Edwards data collection. It is built using JDE/Net and JDE/Fat Client components, supports all data types, tables and structures. No additional third party middleware or server side code is required to integrate them (DataMAX, 2009).

Data collected regarding inventory from RFgen on the shop floor can be integrated with World’s Inventory Module to provide that module with real time information on how inventory data is changing on the shop floor. Sales, procurement and other decisions may be made according to this updated information available due to connection of the two software. On the other hand, data collected through RFgen regarding sales order shipments may be used to send information to the Transportation Module of APS to plan logistics of the goods.

Some may think that the functionality provided by Preactor or even RFgenn may overlap with that of an ERP system. This is not the case – the aim of integration is to further enhance performance. Generally ERP systems such as JD Edwards World provide functionality to facilitate the production process for MRP or material planning in the long run. In contrast and integration, Preactor is responsible for organizing production cycles thoroughly by planning the production/factory work load on a routine basis. As a result, production plans are spawned keeping in mind the limitations so that production efficiency can be maximized whereas re-order lead time can be minimized (Open Data, n.d.).

Moreover, many ERP systems wish to collaborate with a powerful and flexible tool like Preactor instead of developing their own APS solution (Open Data, n.d.). However, this is not the case for a powerful ERP system such as JD Edwards. It has its own Planning module available. However, it can be integrated with Preactor to enhance the planning tasks and other related processes.

APS Integration with products such as Preactor also supports real-time transactions between the APS products and other J.D. Edwards via the extended Process Integration (XPI) architecture (Klee Associates, 2004). This kind of integration is critical for ensuring that APS contains updated and dynamic data elements and that World is updated with planning task messages while they are being accepted and published in APS (Klee Associates, 2004).

One kind of integration is Outbound Integration (Klee Assciates, 2004). This flows from JDE World to the APS such as Preactor capturing data elements such as Sales orders, Purchase orders, Work orders, Inventory balance adjustments, etc.

World sends a notification in real time when one of the ERP processes generates a transaction by, lets say, changing a sales order. When integrated with APS, this ultimately results in the Preactor software receiving this new information.

Another kind of integration is Inbound Integration (Klee Associates, 2004). In this, integration goes from APS to World and flows are managed through the progress of planning messages (Klee Associates, 2004). In general, the adapter at Preactor end send these messages to the XPI Broker, which then sends it forward to the World adapter. These events are then translated into business function calls by the adapter (Klee Associates, 2004).

Quick Response Manufacturing

QRM or Quick response manufacturing is a company-wide approach that attempts to minimize lead times (Suri, 1998). It modifies the basic structure of an organization’s manufacturing work in significant procedures to reduce the inefficient use of time. Quick response manufacturing supports a persistent and constant focus on lead-time reduction. It meets and answers customers’ needs by quicker designs and manufacturing processes and products specialized for those customers and their needs, and minimizing lead-times in every aspect of a company by eliminating waste (Stalk and Hout, 1990 and Suri, 1998). The purpose of QRM is to get the right product to the right place at the right time  and at the right price (Epicor, 2004).

In order to reduce lead time reductions, a number of activities are carried out namely developing product-oriented work cells that contain cross-trained workers responsible for controlling cell activity. Moreover, production must be done in smaller lot sizes of product and smaller batches of information also. A thorough analysis of processes from time-to-time must be carried out to identify any waste in the processe. Also, the time taken to carry out activities must be shortened in all the other departments also except manufacturing. A detailed bill-of-materials (BOMs) must be developed for better material requirements planning. Reduced variability in manufacturing processes also leads to shorter lead times. A combination of push and pull strategies for production must be utilized to the maximum. Most important, the mind-set of the entire company needs to be changed of lead times are to be managed.

Implementation Process of QRM

There are a number of principles according to Suri (1998) that would lead to the successful implementation of QRM. Some of these principles, as taken from his book, are as follows:

MRP must be used to plan and organize materials. The manufacturing organization must be rescheduled into less complex product-oriented cells. This should be complemented with a new materials control approach that gives the best combination of push and pull strategies.

Most ERP solutions today come with a Materials Module which plays the same role as an MRP. Therefore, QRM can be easily integrated with ERP, and in this case, with JDE World to take advantages of the planning and coordination of materials that such modules provide. It can also be integrated with an APS software such as Preactor for better planning tasks of materials and procurement.

Also when cells are created for separate teams, communication and integration will be needed between them of some sort. This is where integration with ERP will play a critical role. Shop Floor Data Collection by RfGen will also provide these teams with the accurate and speedy data they require to make decisions.

Suppliers must be motivated to implement the technique. This will ultimately lead to better quality and shorter lead times.

Items must be purchased in larger amounts to motivate suppliers. Placing such critical purchase orders can be achieved through better planning. Modules from an APS software such as Master Planning, Purchasing and Materials Requirements Planning will be useful.

Customers must also be informed and educated about the QRM program. They must be informed that they will receive smaller lot sizes at better prices.

Strategic partnerships need to be developed with partners in the supply chain to put this principle into effect. This will show them how they will get smaller orders at reasonable prices. This could be done through better communication with key partners by using the communication and information exchange tools that JDE World provides.

Functional boundaries must be crossed by creating a response office cell which will be responsible for taking feedback. Therefore, this should be closed-loop, multifunctional and must have a well-trained team in multiple areas. It should also have decision making powers.

In order to allow these office cells greater decision making power, they must be equipped with effective planning tools. This is when Data Collection and APS come in the picture to provide them with relevant data and powerful planning tools.

The reason for implementing QRM must be kept in mind; to come to a “lean and mean company with a secure future”.

A lean and a mean company can be achieved by eliminating waste by using methods such as JIT and the like. These methods can be applied only when forecasting is reliable and demand planning is effective. Therefore, in this respect, QRM could benefit from the APS software that will provide it with the necessary modules.

The biggest challenge in implementation would be reluctance of people to adopt this technique. Therefore, this mind-set must be fought with to create a new one. Companies must be engaged in lead time reductions. This could be done by adopting new technologies such as CAD/CAM and rapid prototyping.

However, the education and awareness of employees must precede such technologies. Their minds need to be changed about the implementation of something new and efficient. This could be done through training.

Benefits from implementation of QRM together with the existing software are as follows:

? Overall lead-times will be reduced

? Speed to market will be higher meaning that newer products will be brought to the market relatively more rapidly

? Those who implement this technique together with effective technologies would have a competitive edge over their competitors

? Rework and scrap on reversals or back orders will be reduced and made easier

? Total costs of ownership of software will be lowered

? It could put the company in a position to price their products using premium pricing since they will be of higher quality with shorter lead times

? As mentioned earlier, quality of the manufactured goods will be improved also.

? All of this would ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Potential roadblocks to implementing QRM with effective technologies would be the increased upfront cost in the form of initial investment. Moreover, reluctance of the company people would be a major obstacle which would need to be fought with smartly. All in all, the benefits that the customers and the organizations experience will be greater than the challenges.


In conclusion, the purpose of integration between software is to provide “out of the box” (Klee Associates, 2004) support to different business processes that cover the APS, ERP and SFDC systems. Integration configuration may require heavy initial investments but it leads to a lower total cost of ownership for organizations. For the purpose of achieving this goal, JD Edwards has developed a variety of integration components that allow clients to increase their process efficiencies, complementary solutions, speed up implementations and reduce the maintenance and continuous “firefighting” (Klee Associates, 2004). To get the most out of software investments, it is best to configure these technologies to the best of their utilization.


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